For the early part of the 2020 season, the West Virginia pass offense was a work in progress with receivers failing to find consistency.
In the past few games, the WVU receivers have found a boost in their play and a familiar face has risen back to his productive level. Redshirt senior wide receiver T.J. Simmons started the season in an awkward way when he was suspended for the season opener against Eastern Kentucky, but now he is slowing getting back to statistical prominence for the Mountaineers.
For the year, Simmons has 15 receptions for 309 yards and two touchdowns in six appearances. Following a 455 yard, four touchdown season in 2019, Simmons was named to the Big 12 Preseason All-Big 12 Second Team. However, it has taken the majority of 2020 for the senior wideout to show why he earned that recognition early on.
In the last two games, Simmons has been on a tear. He's had eight catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Against TCU, Simmons caught both touchdowns which earned him Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week.
The Alabama native hasn’t changed his preparation through the season and has focused on staying ready for when his name is called.
“Nothing has really been different,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to stay focused because it’s coming down to the last games of your college career and you want to make a statement on what your legacy is going to be. I’m just trying to play hard and be on time so I can make those plays when my number is called.”
In its final two games of the season, West Virginia is facing the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners and the No. 13 Iowa State Cyclones. Despite the high rankings nationally, neither team has an exceptional pass defense in the Big 12. The Sooners rank No. 6 in the conference, allowing 231 passing yards per game while the Cyclones rank No. 5 with an average of 230 passing yards allowed.
“Their defense does a great job, they play hard and play really physical,” Simmons said on the OU defense. “It’s going to be time for the receivers to make some plays and we’re going to put in the work this week in practice to be able to make those plays this weekend.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, the NCAA’s decision to allow fall athletes another year of eligibility affects seniors more than anyone else on the team. Against Oklahoma, the Mountaineers will be celebrating Senior Day, but Simmons hasn’t had time to think about anything when it comes to festivities.
“I don’t think we’re really thinking about that right now,” Simmons said. “It being game week, we’re not really thinking about what is going to happen next year. We’re just trying to finish these last two up so this 2020 team can finish out strong.”