WVU football: Clement’s big day earns receiver a promotion

It wasn’t exactly a secret that West Virginia University needed to find a breakout receiver for the 2023 football season to go well.
Its top four pass catchers from last fall — Sam James, Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Kaden Prather and Reese Smith — had all moved on, either taking their shot at the professional game or at another school.
Everyone who analyzed the offense agreed that someone was going to have to step up and give quarterback Garrett Greene a reliable target for the passing game to be effective and the offense to perform at peak efficiency.
But whom would it be?
Preston Fox, Jeremiah Aaron and Cortez Braham had played a little for the Mountaineers in the past. Maybe they would take their game to the next level.
Freshmen Rodney Gallagher and Traylon Ray were big-time prospects. Could they make an immediate impact?
N.C. State transfer Devin Carter came to Morgantown with a good deal of hype, and he made a statement in the season opener against Penn State, catching six passes for 90 yards to make his claim to be the go-to guy.
On Saturday against Duquesne, though, a new name entered the discussion.
With WVU trailing 7-0 midway through the opening quarter, Greene faked a handoff on a second-and-3 from the Dukes’ 14-yard line and found No. 84 slanting from the WVU sideline toward the end zone, the quarterback delivered the ball perfectly, and the receiver split a pair of defenders and ran into the end zone for the game-tying score.
Fans scrambled for their rosters to find No. 84 and learned it was a redshirt freshman named Hudson Clement who had pulled in his first career catch and took it for a touchdown.
A nice moment for a young player, they thought, and went back to their panic that the Mountaineers hadn’t mounted more of an advantage against the Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
Then came the long lightning delay that put the game on pause for two hours, and the discussion continued over how WVU was only up 14-10 with eight minutes to go before halftime.
It didn’t take long for the topic to change.
On a second-and-17 from the WVU 30-yard line, a little more than a minute after play resumed, Greene let loose on a bomb down the Mountaineer sideline toward the Puskar Center end of the stadium. There, streaking past his defender and under the football, was a wide-open receiver, who hauled in the pass and sprinted to the end zone for a 70-yard score. It was No. 84 once again.
“It was crazy,” said Clement of that second score. “I’m going out running that route, it’s a stutter-and-go. I stutter him, and once I take off, I feel like I got a few steps on him. I see Garrett get the ball up, and I appreciate him for trusting me out there and giving me a shot. I had to capitalize.”
Fans had barely had a chance to finish their Google search, which revealed that Clement didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. He won the Randy Moss Award as the best high school receiver in the state of West Virginia in 2021 when he caught 87 passes for 1,709 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Martinsburg High School.
Clement then struck again for a score.
This one came just a few ticks under the four-minute mark before halftime when a Duquesne defender bit on a fake screen, leaving Clement running free for a 46-yard catch-and-run and his third touchdown of the game.
“That’s the best feeling as a wide receiver,” Clement admitted. “It works perfectly, and you’re running down the field wide open. You see the ball come, and you know you’re going to score. It’s the best feeling.”
Well, among the best, as he would soon discover.
Clement finished the game with five catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns, all of that in just the first half. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t initially slated to be in the starting lineup when the game began.
He found his way onto the field because of an injury suffered by Carter in Wednesday’s practice.
The team’s leading receiver heading into the game was still expected to play, but he just didn’t look right in warm-ups, and head coach Neal Brown decided to make a change.
“I think we were coming out of the tunnel,” recalled Clement. “We had just done our little warm-up with [strength coach] Mike [Joseph] and coach [Bilal] Marshall, our receivers coach, told me, ‘Hey, you’re going to play Z.’ I said, ‘Sounds good, Coach.’ I think I liked it better that way. He didn’t tell me ahead of time. I think I would have thought about it a lot more and got in my head.
“I was a little nervous the first few snaps. After that, you get the groove of it and you start playing football. It feels like normal football out there.
“I have the utmost confidence in myself to perform at a high level, but three touchdowns, no one really expects going into their first football game.”
Count Brown among those who didn’t have those expectations, but also count him among those who were incredibly impressed with the young receiver’s performance.
“Life’s about opportunities,” the coach explained. “What do you do with your opportunities. What he did with his is he went out and had five catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s been really productive in practice. We were just waiting on him to do it in a game, and he broke out. I’m super happy for him.”
So happy, in fact, that Brown decided to recognize Clement with a “battlefield promotion.”
As the team celebrated its 56-17 victory in the postgame locker room, Brown announced that Clement, who came to WVU as a walk-on, was being rewarded with a scholarship.
“Those are probably some of the most special moments you have as a team,” said Greene. “Seeing how hard he busts his butt and all the work he’s put in, to see it finally get rewarded and him achieve a lifelong dream is super special. I couldn’t be more happy for him.”
“That’s something I knew when I came here I would have to grind for,” added Clement, who admitted that though the three touchdowns were special, the postgame scholarship announcement honor was the highlight of his day. “Every day, you’re sort of playing with that in your mind. That’s sort of the goal. Three touchdowns are obviously a crazy accomplishment, especially in the first game, but that scholarship is the biggest thing for me.
“I called [my parents] right after I got the news. Mom’s crying and everything. It was great.
“That was the No. 1 drive this past year and going into this year. I’m grinding for that scholarship. Now that I got it, it doesn’t mean the job’s done. But it’s obviously a great feeling.”
With the scholarship now in hand, Clement can focus his sights on the next goal, becoming one of those go-to receivers for which his team was searching when the season began. It’s a lofty objective for a walk-on in just his second year with the program, but Clement obviously has the credentials, as well as the belief from those around him.
“Hudson’s just a damn football player,” said Greene. “He’s been making one-handed catches since he first got on campus. I couldn’t be happier for the kid. He’s really busted his butt ever since he got here.”
“He’s not one of these guys that’s just going to be OK. He’s got a real chance,” Brown agreed. “He can run, and he’s really progressed over the last year.”
Perhaps the answer to one of WVU’s biggest questions was sitting right under its noses all along.

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