MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Coach Mike Gundy and his Oklahoma State defense are getting ready for a visit from West Virginia’s low-diving circus act.
Mountaineer wide receivers Jovon Durante, Daikiel Shorts and Ka’Raun White all made difficult catches in traffic last week against TCU, and the Cowboys took notice.
“They were pretty impressive in the way they were able to catch the football,” Gundy said. “There’s a reason they’re undefeated. They’re playing really good football. You’ve got to be sound on defense and you’ve got to find ways to make plays.”
If West Virginia wide receivers coach Tyron Carrier was excited by what happened against TCU, he wasn’t showing it.
After studying film with his players, he asked them to rate their performances.
“They said, ‘Well, besides the good catches, coach, we didn’t do much,’ which is right on,” Carrier said. “Those guys are not satisfied with what they have been doing. They know there is a lot more football to be played and a lot more opportunities to prove that they are really good.”
The next one comes Saturday when No. 10 West Virginia (6-0, 3-0) plays at Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1).
Shorts got things going against TCU on West Virginia’s opening possession — not for a catch but for his effort afterward to bull through a defender into the end zone for a 10-yard score.
Two series later, Shorts turned around in time 38 yards downfield to make a one-handed grab against his chest between two defenders to set up another touchdown.
That was just the start.
Just before halftime, quarterback Skyler Howard threw 30 yards downfield where Durante dove in front of TCU’s Denzel Johnson and Nick Orr, pulled the ball just off the turf and flipped.
“It’s always been our mind set that if it’s not our ball, it’s nobody’s ball,” Durante said. “If it’s a hard catch, we’re going to make that catch.”
It was White’s turn in the third quarter.
The brother of Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White went high for a catch and tapped his toe along the sideline for a 24-yard gain.
Later Howard scrambled to his right and threw a 16-yard floating pass toward the end zone that came down at the intersection of four diving players, including White and teammate Devonte Mathis. White cradled the ball into his chest just above the ground. The TD was upheld upon review.
Howard said the TCU game was one of his sloppier ones and that his receivers “bailed me out. They really stepped it up.”
Not bad for a unit that was criticized for its sloppiness a year ago.
Shorts has a team-best 31 catches and White is next with 27. Neither is considered West Virginia’s best deep threat. That label goes to Shelton Gibson, who has a team-high 501 yards and an average of 20 yards per catch.
Durante has perhaps shown the greatest improvement from a year ago, when he had numerous drops and caught just six passes for 131 yards over the final seven regular-season games. He was academically ineligible for West Virginia’s bowl game and was subsequently suspended for the spring semester.
Moved to the inside slot position, Durante has 20 catches, almost as many as he had all of last season.
Howard has spread his 12 touchdown throws among seven receivers.
“They’ve got a bunch of explosive guys that we’re going to have to watch out for,” said Oklahoma State safety Jordan Sterns, who has three interceptions and a pair of pass breakups.