WVU football: Shorts hopes to go long against K-State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Daikiel Shorts leads the West Virginia football team in receptions with 28. All but two of those have come in the cozy confines of Mountaineer Field.
Could that be a harbinger of what's to come this Saturday, when WVU (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12) travels to Kansas State (2-4, 0-3) for a 3:45 p.m. game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium?
"It's just opportunity," WVU receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said. "The biggest thing for him is opportunity."
Shorts, a 6-foot, 201-pound true freshman from Clayton, N.J., should get more of that after his nine-catch performance against Texas Tech last Saturday.
"Every time I have a good week of practice I do pretty well in the game," said Shorts, who led the Mountaineers in receptions and yards (78). "I'm not saying I had a good game, but production-wise people thought I did."
The home-road splits, however, are unusual. Shorts had seven catches for 63 yards in the season opener against William & Mary, five receptions for 88 yards against Georgia State and five for 32 in the win over then-No. 11 Oklahoma State before the breakout versus Texas Tech.
In three road games, Shorts has two receptions for 35 yards. Both of those came in a 31-point loss to Baylor. He didn't catch a pass in losses to Oklahoma and Maryland, games in which WVU combined to score seven points in eight quarters.
"I think that's got to just be a coincidence," WVU teammate Cody Clay said.
It could also be Shorts' still-developing rapport with quarterback Clint Trickett, who is set to make his fourth consecutive start this Saturday. Shorts has a reception in every game Trickett has started.
Before Trickett took over as the QB, Shorts averaged three catches for 37.8 yards per game. In the past three games, Shorts is averaging 5.3 receptions and 48.3 yards.
"There is a little bit of a connection," Trickett said. "He's starting to make plays. If the ball is ball is not perfect he is still going to get it, and obviously I need that because it's not going to be perfect every time.
"As a true freshman, that's remarkable."
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SHORTS IS ONE of eight skill-position newcomers on the Mountaineers' depth chart. He, like receivers Ronald Carswell, Mario Alford, Kevin White, Clint Trickett, Charles Sims, Wendell Smallwood and Dreamius Smith, didn't play for WVU last season.
"The things that help you win is experience and kids playing together," WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "There's a certain amount of trust that gets built over time, and we might not have that built right now because we haven't been together that long.
"The more we play, the more we practice and the more we play games, that will obviously happen. There are so many new faces, talking about skill guys. There's a lot of hurdles and barriers, but they're all excuses."
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THE MOUNTAINEERS' average starting field position on kickoff returns was the 21-yard line against Texas Tech. The second and third kickoff return tries resulted in WVU starting at its own 11.
West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen tried to explain what happened on those ill-fated returns.
"Tech did a good job of pinning it," he said. "If they pin it, you can go (forward) and you're going to get to the 20 or 25 ... What you try to do is, is when they pin you, you try to fan back to the field. There's about four guys back there that got to get their blocks, and if one of those four miss their blocks there's a free guy that can get you.
"If you make that block, you got a chance to score. We tried it once, got pinned. We tried it twice, got pinned. That's when we made the decision to just go straight with it and get it to the 20 or 25 and be happy with that."
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.