Baylor Survival Sets Up ABC QB Showdown

Baylor Survival Sets Up ABC QB Showdown


MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Somewhere in the midst of the third quarter of West Virginia’s Saturday night game with Baylor, the Mountaineers having things in full control and with their superstar quarterback Will Grier and wide receiver David Sills V putting on a spectacular show, it was announced that Saturday’s showdown with Oklahoma State would be showed nationally on ABC.

It looked like a marquee matchup worthy not only of network exposure but of a better time slot than noon. Then by the time the game ended with the Mountaineers clinging to a life raft as they survived, 38-36, after giving up 23 fourth-quarter points, they seemed to be more fit for the Cartoon Network.

True, this was a team that they had never beaten in Waco on its home field, a team that had scared the daylights out of Oklahoma when it had come to town earlier this season, but it was also a team that would fall to 0-7 with this loss, hardly prime time stuff for the Mountaineers or ABC.

But there, in the midst of that third quarter, the suits on Madison Avenue got together and reckoned that it would be best served showing West Virginia hosting Oklahoma State … a quarterback duel between Will Grier and Mason Rudolph.

As the season wears on, it’s apparent that beyond Lamar Jackson of Louisville, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the elite quarterbacks are right here in the Big 12 with Rudolph, Grier and Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek.

So, ABC has itself a showcase for next weekend.

Or does it?

No one is going to doubt the credentials of the individuals involved, all of them heading for the NFL and probably far too soon in the case of Grier and Sills, who each have another year of eligibility but could opt to go in the draft.

But this past Saturday against Texas, that high powered Oklahoma State offense had only 10 regulation points in a 13-10 overtime win, while WVU’s offense went into a fourth quarter shell against Baylor and almost blew a lead that would have led to an unthinkable loss.

The fact is about the WVU offense — while it looks god on paper, the quality of the competition has been … well, not top notch.

Think of this way, WVU has faced two good defensive teams in Virginia Tech and TCU and scored just 24 points in both. What they have done is beat up on what probably has been the worst group of defensive teams anyone could ever schedule.

WVU has played Kansas, 115th in total defense out of 129 FBS schools; Baylor, 125th and East Carolina, 129th and last, to say nothing of FCS opponent Delaware State, which ranks 104 in total defense in the FCS classification.

That involves total yards allowed. They are even worse in defending against scoring, Baylor ranking 123rd with Kansas and East Carolina giving up more points that anyone else in football to rank Nos. 128 and 129.

And Delaware State stands at No 102 in the FCS.

Those four opponents represent four of the Mountaineers’ five wins.

Most recently, WVU has had great difficulty running the ball against Texas Tech and Baylor, two teams who normally leak yardage on the ground, which has coach Dana Holgorsen quite concerned.

When, in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers wanted to run time off the clock, they couldn’t turn to the run game and wound up with two consecutive three-and-out series in which they were forced to throw the ball.

“I expect more. (Kennedy) McKoy and (Martell) Pettaway, I was happy how they went in there and ran the ball,” Holgorsen said.

It was a different story with his stud, Justin Crawrord, who came into the game No. 2 in rushing in the Big 12, but coming off a subpar performance against Texas Tech after five straight 100-yard games.

“You know Justin, I don’t know if he’s hit a wall. He’s a little banged up. He was good for five games, took a step back a week ago and I don’t know if he was himself tonight,” Holgorsen said.

Crawford is maybe feeling a little bit of the heat, for he tweeted on Sunday morning:

”One minute they love you, the next they hate you”

Such is life in the public eye and until the athlete learns to enjoy the good and allow the bad to slide off his back, the sooner his life will be more enjoyable for no one can be great every day, except maybe for those two children of his who can provide him with a place to escape to at moments like these.

The fact is, WVU’s performance against Baylor was totally to be expected. The Mountaineers went down there and established who was boss, then may have looked ahead to that ABC date with Oklahoma State, even if they didn’t realize they were.

A vibrant new quarterback trying to win a job came forward and gave Baylor a spark just as the fire was doused within the Mountaineers.

“Part of it was getting complacent,” Grier said after the game. “We were taking turns hurting ourselves. We didn’t feel anything they were doing was stopping us. We were stopping ourselves,which is really frustrating.

“When you take turns doing stuff like that it starts playing off each other.”

How good are the Mountaineers?

Tune in at noon Saturday on ABC.