Skyler Howard went for the deep ball on Saturday against Iowa State. It was there a few times, like on a 60-yard touchdown pass to Shelton Gibson. Other times, it wasn’t. Like when Howard tried to find Gibson in the end zone two more times, on tosses of more than 30 yards. Gibson dropped one, after a diving attempt, and caught the other, but he was out of bounds.
Howard finished the day with 202 passing yards and 148 were gains by Gibson.
"“We can throw deep balls,” Holgorsen said. “We’re not really making as many plays as we have in the past. But the pass protection’s got to improve. The quarterback’s got to improve. The intermediate passing has got to improve. Receivers being where they need to be has got to improve. There are a lot of things that have got to improve. I’ve got to improve and get more confident in it”"
After beginning the season with just one turnover through three games, Howard threw an interception in the third quarter against Iowa State – his 12th of the season. He has thrown at least one pick in nine straight games. In West Virginia’s four-game losing streak in October, he threw six interceptions in losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU.
Those four teams, the best in the Big 12, feature strong quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), Seth Russell (Baylor) and Trevone Boykin (TCU). Howard has potential to be in those ranks, and he is mentioned in the same breath as those elite players.
Howard is No. 31 in the country in passing touchdowns and No. 50 in passing yards per game. His best start of the season was the first game against Georgia Southern, when he tossed for 359 yards. His performance against Iowa State was the first time in four games that he had gone over the 200-yard passing mark. So, things were looking up, but not to Holgorsen’s standards.
Howard has been playing through a right hand injury for most of the year, and he makes sure to protect it first when sliding or drawing contact with a defender. But, unlike Mayfield, Russell and Boykin, Howard has not missed any time this year due to injury.
“He has been banged up,” Holgorsen said of Howard. “In the last couple of weeks, he hasn’t had a whole lot of practice opportunities.”
With only two games left, Howard should be able to hold up and then enjoy an offseason break. Last year, Howard got starts in the Mountaineers final two games due to Clint Trickett’s concussion symptoms.