MORGANTOWN — It does not take that long after tuning into a WVU football game to notice the fire that burns within quarterback Garrett Greene.
Greene, the Mountaineers’ junior signal-caller, plays the game like every snap is the most important of the game, if not his life.
“He’s a ball of energy,” head coach Neal Brown said Monday. “That’s his greatest strength, he does a really good job of being that energy guy all the time.”
That urgency helps keep the Mountaineers’ offense moving forward, even when things aren’t going their way. When WVU receivers dropped three passes early on Saturday against Duquesne — two would-be touchdowns and a first down — Greene wasn’t affected.
“He handled it better than I did,” Brown admitted. “He’s probably handled that as good or better than any quarterback I’ve ever had. … We had four legitimate drops in the game but it didn’t phase him one bit. Totally unsolicited, he’s over there talking to the guys who didn’t make the catches. He didn’t let it affect him.”
Greene started the game just 2-of-7 passing but finished 10-of-18 with 240 yards and four touchdowns.
“The biggest thing was just me getting on page with the wideouts,” Greene said Saturday. “We had a couple of drops early, a couple of missed throws, but it all comes back to me. I’ve got to get the guys going, I’ve got to get them started faster.”
“He did a phenomenal job of handling that,” offensive coordinator Chad Scott said. “He didn’t sulk, he didn’t hang his head, he came on the sideline and told those guys, ‘We’ll get the next one.’ I thought that was a great response by him.”
However, the energy Greene plays with, his greatest strength according to Brown, can also be his biggest weakness.
“That probably works against him a little bit at the start of games because he is so amped up,” Brown said. “We’ve got to figure out a way as a staff — everything from our sports psychology people to strength and sports science — to get him to calm down a little bit where he can execute a little bit higher.”
Greene had a similarly slow start in WVU’s opener against Penn State, where he started 5-of-11 passing and finished 16-of-27.
“When he gets really excited, that ball comes out (of his hand) hot and those balls are hard to catch sometimes,” Brown said. “He knows this and he’s conscious of it, but it hurts him a little bit early in the game. He’ll get better at it — it’s just handling those emotions.”
It affects Greene’s ability to make the “layup” throws, as Brown calls them. Through two games, Greene is 14-for-18 on passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Brown thinks he should be perfect on such throws.
“I think it’s not taking them for granted,” Greene said. “A five-yard pass really shouldn’t be too difficult, but when you get lazy and your mechanics get out of whack, they can become difficult throws. Really, I think it’s just attention to details and focus more so than anything.”
Greene has done a great job of settling into both games this season. After the slow starts, Greene has completed 70.4% of his passes (19-of-27). Being able to get him into that groove earlier on has become a focus for WVU’s coaches.
“The best way to do it is to get him involved early, whether that’s a quarterback-called run play or him having the opportunity to scramble and get himself hit,” Scott said. “We’ve got to find a way to get him an easy completion, a quarterback-called run just to knock the jitters out of him.
“We’re going to need him to have that same energy and keep that energy.”
This could also just be a byproduct of inexperience for Greene. Despite being in his fourth season with WVU, Greene will be making just his fifth career start this Saturday against Pitt (7:30 p.m., ABC). As he logs more and more playing time, Greene might be able to better manage his energy early in games.
“(Saturday) was really the first game where, off the bat, I felt comfortable in the pocket. Hopefully, I can continue that for next week,” Greene said. “If we prepare like we have been, I think we’re in for a good one on Saturday. But it all comes down to me getting the guys going and getting the guys started fast on offense.”