CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Picking a standout wide receiver in the Baylor-West Virginia matchup is like putting a basket of candy in front of trick-or-treaters and telling them to choose one. Only one.
Not going to happen.
On Saturday, No. 4 Baylor (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) will bring a talented receiving corps against a group from West Virginia (4-2, 2-1) that boasts the nation’s leader pass catcher and a capable supporting cast.
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For the Bears, it starts with freshman K.D. Cannon. Or Corey Coleman. Or Jay Lee, Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood.
Not to be outdone, West Virginia’s Kevin White leads the nation with 888 receiving yards – a football-field length more than anyone else. He has five straight 100-yard games and five TDs. But Baylor can’t leave open Mario Alford or Jordan Thompson, who have combined for six scores.
Both teams have six different players with at least 10 catches. West Virginia counts running backs Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell among the leaders.
While White is the go-to guy for the Mountaineers, four different Baylor receivers have led the team in catches. Seven have scored touchdowns. Quality at the position can be expected from a program that has seen five wide receivers drafted by the NFL since 2010.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Baylor has ”probably as deep of a receiving corps as I’ve seen in college football.”
The Bears’ needed reinforcements while Norwood missed three games with a wrist injury earlier this season. Neither Coleman (hamstring) nor Goodley (quadriceps) had a catch in Baylor’s first three games as they worked back from injuries.
That left plenty of work for players like Cannon, a freshman who leads Baylor with 30 catches for 651 yards. He already has three 100-yard games and is averaging nearly 22 yards per catch. Another contributing freshman is Davion Hall, who has 14 catches for 200 yards.
The injuries for Baylor ”didn’t slow them down one bit,” Holgorsen said.
Both defenses will be challenged to keep receivers in check, or else it could turn into another high-scoring game in the short series.
”Everyone has to do their job,” said West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley. ”That could be the simplest way to say it, but that’s truly what we have to do. Everyone has to do what they have to do, all 11 players have to be in tune.”
Two years ago in Morgantown, the teams combined for 13 touchdown passes and West Virginia won 70-63. Goodley caught one, while Norwood had a small role along with Thompson from West Virginia. Coleman redshirted that season.
”Morgantown was crazy,” Coleman said. ”Their fans are just really into it. They were scoring. We were scoring – didn’t like the outcome of it.”
Baylor got redemption at home a year ago, 73-42, with Goodley piling up 170 receiving yards, including a 61-yard scoring reception in the first minute of a game in which the Bears amassed a Big 12-record 864 yards of offense.
Baylor will draw on what it learned in last week’s wild 61-58 win over TCU as well as the 2012 trip to West Virginia as the Bears prepare for their third conference road game in four weeks. Goodley, Coleman and Cannon each had 100-yard receiving games against TCU as the Bears overcame a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
”You can’t ever, ever give up on anything,” Norwood said. ”We’re getting into a rhythm, which is always good, especially this time of year.”
West Virginia also overcame a double-digit deficit last week, in part because Texas Tech double-covered White and Alford, giving the Mountaineers room to run the ball with success.
Whatever happens Saturday, the offenses for Baylor and West Virginia should provide plenty of entertainment.
”We’re going to match them,” Alford said. ”Whatever they do, we’re going to do it.”
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.