WVU football: Clay to be primary target on more routes
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A significant change in the direction of West Virginia's offense in recent weeks is the expanded use of tight ends and the almost complete disappearance of four- and five-receiver sets.
The Mountaineers have used former George Washington High School football star Cody Clay extensively on the line of scrimmage, as well as in the backfield with another running back, and he's become a target on more passing plays than ever before.
"I'm going to be the first read pretty much any time I go out on a route," Clay said.
That included an 11-yard reception against the Horned Frogs that turned into Clay's first career touchdown. WVU ran a play-action pass and Clay slipped out to the right and fought his way up the sideline and dove over the goal line to give WVU a 20-17 lead in the third quarter after trailing 17-3 in the second quarter.
"He came up a yard short earlier in the year on the same play," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "It was a good play call and a good play and he got in the end zone. He learned from his mistake several weeks ago."
Holgorsen, like seemingly everyone else on the team, likes to have fun with Clay. It was four games earlier when Clay's number was called in a similar situation against Oklahoma State and Clay couldn't stay in bounds as he forced his way toward the end zone.
"I didn't slip this time," Clay said. "I guess I wanted it more. I knew it would be my only chance and if I didn't get it now this time, I might not get it again."
Teammates hurried to the corner of the end zone to celebrate with Clay. Players from offense, defense and special teams stopped by to congratulate Clay as he sat on the bench and waited for a review to confirm his touchdown.
"The way he attacked the end zone was awesome. He really went after it," WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.
Clay's main job remains blocking and that's one reason he's been used so much on the line of scrimmage and not as a slot receiver. Then against TCU, WVU debuted a set with seven offensive linemen and no receivers. Clay and fullback Garrett Hope were on each side of quarterback Clint Trickett and Dreamius Smith was the running back.
"His job is tough, but his mentality is just awesome," Dawson said. "We're trying to be more physical on offense and he's a big part of that. He's that guy for us. In practice, he's funny. He's got a good sense of humor. He attracts people around him. Everyone is happy to see him do well."
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SOPHOMORE RECEIVER Ronald Carswell is suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, Holgorsen confirmed Monday. The 6-foot, 180-pounder from Macon, Ga., was on the dress list but did not play in WVU's win at TCU.
Carswell is fourth on the team in receptions (20) and second in yards (413) in eight games. He has scored twice.
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WEST VIRGINIA'S Josh Lambert was named the Big 12's special teams player of the week Monday. The redshirt freshman placekicker made all three of his field goal attempts in Saturday's 30-27 win at TCU.
Lambert won the game with a 34-yard field goal in overtime. He also made kicks from 24 and 42 yards.
"He's done it in practice," Holgorsen said. "He's a good player. We've seen him do that in practice. You don't know if he can do it in a game in that pressure situation."
Lambert is 13-for-17 this season with misses coming from 55, 53, 50 and 34 yards. He started the season 6-for-10, but has made seven straight attempts.
He's the third WVU player to earn a weekly honor from the Big 12. Running back Charles Sims was the offensive player of the week and punter Nick O'Toole was the special teams player of the week for their role in the win against Oklahoma State.
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WVU (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) plays host to Texas (6-2, 5-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mountaineer Field. Fox will broadcast the game. Longhorns quarterback David Ash will again be out with symptoms from a concussion he suffered Sept. 7 against BYU. Ash sat out a loss to Ole Miss, returned Sept. 21 against Kansas State, but left in the second half and hasn't played since.
Senior Case McCoy, who was on a 10-week mission trip in Peru for most of the summer, is 4-2 as the starter with all of the wins coming in succession. He's completed 68 of 114 passes for 858 yards in the four starts, but has four touchdowns to five interceptions.
"Now that it's his team, you can see the kid is very well-liked and very well-respected and the players want to play around him," said Kansas Coach Charlie Weis, whose team intercepted McCoy twice in Saturday's loss.
"He has good running backs, a good offensive line and good receivers, but the bottom like is when you go back and forth between different quarterbacks, it's tough as the backup to assume a leadership role. It's pretty obvious he's been able to step up and assume that leadership role for his offense."
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WVU plays the Jayhawks Nov. 16 at Memorial Stadium. The Big 12 said Monday that game will kick off at noon and be televised by FSN.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.