It would not have been more shocking if Superman had lost his cape.
It was as difficult to imagine as Geno Auriemma and his Connecticut women losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, as Ted Williams striking out with the bases loaded to end a World Series, as Jerry West, “Mr. Clutch,” missing two free throws with his team down a point in the final second of the NBA Finals at the height of his career.
It couldn’t happen … yet it did.
Stedman Bailey dropped a pass.
Not one, but passes.
And one of them was in the end zone.
“He’s human,” said Dana Holgorsen, the coach at West Virginia University.
Until those moments, there was some doubt to that.
He had caught everything thrown in the same area code in which he was running his pattern, even in last week’s three-point loss to Louisville.
Oh, he did have the drops, but he caught eight other passes for 118 yards, his sixth 100-yard performance of the season, some of the catches bordering on incredible.
“He made two catches in the game that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Holgorsen said.
And a week earlier, in the cold and wet and snow at Rutgers, he gone high in the air in double coverage, reached up with one hand and tapped the ball to himself so he could gather it in just before falling out of the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
As they say, stuff happens.
“He dropped two that were given to him, but overall, he’s playing pretty well,” Holgorsen said. “He needs to make those plays, but it just happens sometimes. Justin Blackmon is the best receiver in college football, and he dropped it on the goal line. Is he human? I didn’t think he was, but he’s shown that everybody is.”
Blackmon is the defending Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver from Oklahoma State, a receiver Holgorsen molded into that award winner in his one season as offensive coordinator at the school.
Bailey, just a sophomore, has a chance to be all that Blackmon is and more. His season has been nothing short of incredible. While Tavon Austin, the slot receiver on his side, has caught more passes, ranking 17th in the nation with 7 a game, Bailey is averaging more yardage, 103.67 per game to rank 15th in the country while his total yards, 933, are 13th.
So what happens? How does a glue-fingered, athletic receiver like Bailey miss the easiest passes he has thrown to him?
He explained it on Wednesday as he and his teammates prepared for the showdown on the Ohio River against the league-leading Cincinnati Bearcats at noon Saturday.
“I think it’s just a matter of concentration. I kind of just lost concentration. It was like they were too easy and I relaxed and it slipped through my hands,” he said.
“Nobody felt worse than he did about the dropped passes,” Holgorsen said.
In some ways it’s part of the game. You can’t appreciate how good you are until you realize just how hard it is to make plays, even sometimes the simplest of plays.
Certainly, it does not detract from what he has accomplished to date.
“For the most part, I’ve done what I set out to do,” he said. “In the beginning of the season, I knew what I was capable of. With the opportunities here in this dynamic offense, I felt I would be able to do something big. It was just a matter of staying healthy.”
He’s done that and figures this week against Cincinnati to go beyond 1,000 receiving yards, needing just 67 to reach the four-figure plateau.
That would seem to be well within his grasp as Cincinnati, while finding ways to win games, has not found any ways to stop a strong passing attack like WVU’s, ranking 105th in the nation in pass defense.
WVU enters the game with the nation’s seventh-best passing attack and geared up for a game they have to win to keep their slim BCS bid alive. It is a challenge unlike any other they have faced.
“We kind of have a bad taste in our mouth from losing to Louisville and know Cincinnati is a pretty good team. We have to come out and give them our best game without making the mistakes we’ve made in the past,” Bailey said.
“We have something to prove. We still have faith and think we can win the Big East. We have to win out.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.
Sophomore receiver has caught almost everything thrown his way
It would not have been more shocking if Superman had lost his cape.
- WVU Sports
HERTZEL COLUMN: Huggins just wants WVU to compete
In the end, with Bob Huggins, they count victories and losses, and he has always been one to pile up the victories while keeping the losses to a minimum, at least until the last two seasons at West Virginia University.
And, in the end, when he tries to analyze why the losses have come rather than the victories, he comes to understand that he just doesn’t have the manpower to compete.
Carey, Bussie headline Big 12 awards
To the victors go the spoils, and West Virginia University’s newly crowned Big 12 women’s basketball regular-season co-champions certainly took down their share of the conference’s post-season awards, headed by coach Mike Carey and senior center Asya Bussie.
FURFARI COLUMN: Women’s finale fitting as all-time Coliseum great
If you weren’t among the thrilled, extremely vocal 5,502 fans at the WVU Coliseum last Tuesday night, you missed one of the most memorable sports events in that 44-year-old arena’s history.
The No. 7 nationally ranked West Virginia University women’s basketball team’s capture of the Big 12 Conference regular-season co-championship beating Kansas 67-60 on Senior Night was followed by a wild, wonderful celebration.
Carey named Big 12 Coach of the Year
In only his second season in the Big 12 Conference, West Virginia University women’s basketball coach Mike Carey has been named the Big 12 Coach of the Year.
Oklahoma pulls away from WVU, 72-62
Reality hit West Virginia University in the gut Wednesday as No. 23 Oklahoma showed the Mountaineers almost every reason why they are not an NCAA Tournament team this year, pulling away in the second half to a 72-62 victory in Norman.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Lady Mountaineers will always remember their senior season
Taylor Palmer was following a much-traveled path when she packed up her gym shoes four years ago and left Mount Vernon, N.Y., for Morgantown to play basketball.
Lowes Moore and Kevin Jones had both done the same thing and become two of the greatest players West Virginia University had ever produced, each not only playing the game the way it should be played but living life the way it should be lived.
Bradley to give everyone a chance
A day after snubbing the local media by not talking to them on an evening set aside for interviews with assistant coaches, West Virginia University’s latest defensive savior Tom Bradley found 14 minutes to talk to IMG Sports, which possesses the rights to West Virginia sports.
FURFARI COLUMN: Ex-WVU star loves coaching at FSU
Joe Mazzulla, a native of the Providence, R.I., area, now is in his first year as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Fairmont State University.
He had made his coaching debut during a two-year hitch as a member of the staff at Glenville State.
Former WVU player sues NCAA, five conferences
Former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston sued the NCAA and five major conferences Wednesday, saying they violated antitrust laws by agreeing to cap the value of an athletic scholarship at less than the actual cost of attending school.
WVU women clinch share of Big 12 title
West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team had just defeated Kansas, 67-60, to lay claim to a share of the Big 12 championship with Baylor on Tuesday night in the Coliseum, and someone had to sum up the feeling for the five seniors who had made the program grow to championship status.
That someone was Christal Caldwell.
- More WVU Sports Headlines
- HERTZEL COLUMN: Huggins just wants WVU to compete