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West Virginia’s special teams wouldn’t fall for North Texas’ trick play

By Alex Hickey

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia players saw the highlight of North Texas punt returner Keegan Brewer pulling off the craziest, gutsiest fake-out in special-teams history. Brewer nonchalantly acted as if he made a fair catch at his own 10-yard line before jetting off for a 90-yard touchdown while the Arkansas punt unit mostly headed back toward the sideline.

Of course Brewer never signaled for a fair catch, and thus the play was never whistled dead, thanks to Mean Green coaches alerting game officials that they would use the trick play.

The touchdown gave North Texas a 14-0 lead that snowballed into a 37-17 mashing of the Hogs, but there was massive risk involved for Brewer. Had any Arkansas tackler actually realized what was happening, the returner might have been obliterated into the upper deck.

And that’s exactly what would have happened had he been playing West Virginia, says Mountaineers safety Toyous Avery.

“Knowing one of our players, we probably would have hit him,” Avery said. “I can just see Jovanni Stewart just rocking him and going, ‘What? I didn’t hear a whistle.’ I don’t think that would have happened to us.”

Avery said that the way the Mountaineers play on special teams makes it highly unlikely such a play would work on them.

“We’ve got people on our team who think ‘If we don’t hear a whistle, we’re not stopping,’” Avery said. “We get in trouble for being too aggressive sometimes.”

Though nearly everything in football is mimicked, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen doesn’t expect the Mean Green punt return fake-out to be one of those things. He’ll be surprised if it even survives the offseason.

“I guarantee that play will be illegal going forward,” Holgorsen said on his Monday night radio show, drawing on past trick plays that have been banned. “You can’t do deceiving trick plays. You can’t fumblerooski. This will be the next one to go away.”

Watching instead of playing

Because scheduled bye weeks are spent on the recruiting trail, WVU’s unscheduled bye allowed Holgorsen to do something he’s not all that used to – watch games as a fan. Sort of. He also sprinkled in a bit of scouting against Big 12 opponents.

“You can get irritated trying to scout it on TV, because you just can’t see everything,” Holgorsen said. “I probably do it a little bit more as a fan.”

He said there is benefit in having a copy of the game with commentary included, though.

“From a knowing-who-their-people-are, personnel-wise, the TV copy is pretty beneficial,” he said.

Senior tight end Trevon Wesco said it’s been a long time since he watched so many games with a remote in his hand. It got old quickly.

“I hadn’t watched a game since like 2013,” Wesco said. “I enjoyed watching on Saturday. But I’d rather be playing any day of the week.”

Defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow was probably more annoyed than most that the Mountaineers couldn’t play NC State. He’s already missed two full seasons of his college career due to injuries, so another week off was just another annoyance.

“I’m not going to lie — I was really disappointed, because looking at them on film that was a talented team,” Bigelow said. “That quarterback could throw that ball and that offensive line was older.”

Robinson has eyes for QB

West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson still takes grief from teammates over an interception from last year’s Kansas State game.

In theory, they should be highly appreciative of Robinson’s critical fourth-quarter pick at the Kansas State 13-yard line, which salvaged the Mountaineers’ 28-23 lead. Instead, they tease Robinson because Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson chased him down around midfield to prevnt a pick-six.

“They were on me all week, saying ‘You got caught by the quarterback,’” Robinson said. “I still hear about it even now.”

If he gets his hands on another Thompson pass, he vows the outcome will be different.

“If I get one this year, he’s not catching me.”