MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two years ago when West Virginia played at Kansas State, the Mountaineers had a thrilling touchdown on the last play of the first half thanks to a little improvising from quarterback Will Grier.
From the K-State 30-yard line with 10 seconds remaining, Grier took the snap, ran backward to the 44-yard line, rolled to his left, and fired the ball to the end zone into the waiting arms of a wide open Ka’Raun White to put the Mountaineers up 28-20.
That score ended up being the difference in a 28-23 win in 2017.
Fast-forward to Saturday between West Virginia and Kansas State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, new WVU quarterback Jarret Doege had his Grier moment on an eerily similar play.
Doege, making his first start with the Mountaineers, faced a 3rd and 22 from the 50-yard line with 11 1/2 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Taking the shotgun snap, he dropped back, stepped into the pocket, rolled left, and with defenders barrelling down on him, launched it downfield to a wide open Bryce Wheaton.
Wheaton didn’t have a defender within 10 yards of him as he caught the ball like a center fielder would at the 13-yard line as he waltzed into the end zone, scoring the go-ahead touchdown that would hold in WVU’s 24-20 upset win.
“I knew I was in a part of their coverage was no one saw me,” Wheaton said. “I was hoping Jarret saw me and just trusted me — he did and it worked.”
Wheaton wasn’t open the entire time. The Wildcats’ freshman safety, Wayne Jones, stayed with Wheaton on the back end of K-State’s defense, but when Doege stepped up and scrambled toward the line of scrimmage, Jones inexplicably left Wheaton all by himself to defend a route by WVU receiver George Campbell in the flat.
Doege was supposed to go through all of his progressions, but was forced out of the pocket early in the play. Luckily for Doege, his need to scramble is what made Wheaton that wide open.
“I saw Bryce just standing there wide open, and fortunately I got the ball out before I got hit,” Doege said. “I didn’t exactly know if he caught it or what happened until I looked up and he was in the end zone. When I was getting out of the pocket, I saw that there was no one behind him, so I just wanted to get it up there to give him a chance.”
Doege took a shot from Kansas State linebacker Khalid Duke just after he released the ball, which coach Neal Brown said is proof of Doege’s toughness that he was able to still deliver a perfect throw and get right back up. The same can be said for Wheaton, who got hurt earlier in the game.
“Bryce got banged up on the first punt of the game, so he was really limited,” Brown said. “They worked on him at halftime and he came out and played the second half.”
Wheaton’s had an up and down season as a redshirt freshman. Although he had 10 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown coming into the game, he nursed injuries and hasn’t quite been able to gain traction at the top of the rotation, but making the play of the game felt good for him moving forward.
“It really does feel good,” Wheaton said. “It wasn’t just me, it was everyone on the team. We really all had a part in this, even as low as the scout team, had a part in this.”
Oklahoma State time announced
The Big 12 announced that Sunday that WVU’s Nov. 23 home game against Oklahoma State will be played at noon and will be televised on ESPN2.
The Oklahoma State game will be Senior Day at Milan Puskar Stadium, and tickets do remain for the final home game of the season. For tickets, visit wvugame.com or call 1-800-WVU GAME.