Grier Sizzles In Debut, Puts In Top 20 Passing Performance
LANDOVER, Md. – If there were any questions about Will Grier, they were soundly answered on Sunday night.
The heralded junior quarterback threw for 371 yards and three scores, breaking into West Virginia’s top 20 in school history for individual passing yardage in a single game. His three scores kept the Mountaineers close, and Grier nearly engineered what would have been a storied comeback if his last-gasp pass to David Sills wouldn’t have fallen through the receivers hands, despite a vaunted diving effort in the 31-24 loss.
Still, Grier connected on 31-of-53 passes, often hooking up with Sills and Ka’Raun White on the outside within an offense that put up four scores and became a major threat to a veteran Virginia Tech defense which returned seven starters – including their starting corners.
“I think there was a little bit of rust, some plays I want back,” Grier said afterward. “We need to start quicker. We have a lot of things to build on. This is the first time a lot of us have played together. We have a young team, a team that’s going to get better as we go. I’m proud of how we fought.”
Right to the bitter end. With just 1:55 left to play, Grier assumed the reins of an offense that had torched Tech’s secondary. The former Parade prep All-American drove WVU from its own 20-yard line to the Tech 22 with just 22 seconds left. Facing a third and four, Grier took off, picking up seven yards to the Hokies’ 15-yard line and securing a must-have first down.
One play later, Grier avoided early pressure and spied Sills running loose along the back line of the defense. He threw, the ball hitting a diving Sills in the hands and chest before falling away. That would have tied the score with the point-after, or given the Mountaineers the opportunity for the lead with a two-point try. Instead, WVU lined up one more time, still 15 yards out from the end zone.
This time, Grier’s desperation heave to Gary Jennings in the corner was incomplete, and the game – and the Black Diamond Trophy – belonged to Virginia Tech.
“You gotta give a lot of credit to (defensive coordinator) Bud Foster and his defense,” Grier said. “They played well, played a very solid game. At the end of the game I was trying to make play and move the ball. I thought we did well with two minute. It stalled toward the end. I want a couple of those plays back. Their defense was flying around. Have to give them credit. We earned every yard we got. Some stuff was there, some stuff wasn’t. They are a really good defense. I was trying to take what they gave me, and they didn’t give me a lot. Our receivers played lights out, fought and did really well.”
Grier said there were initial adjustments against the Hokies, whose back seven are considered among the best the Mountaineers will play this season. The offense started slow, scoring just seven points in the first half before wearing Tech out and racking up 17 over the third and fourth quarters.
“We didn’t know how they were going to play us,” Grier said. “They did some different things and I tried to take what they gave me, check into the right plays.”
In the end, Grier’s debut was one for the ages, the quarterback tying Geno Smith’s 371-yard effort against Norfolk State in 2011 for the 20th-best single game passing performance in school history.
“Unbelievable atmosphere,” Grier said. “Mountaineer Nation was awesome. It was awesome playing in front of them in a really good game against a good team. I had a lot of fun. I couldn’t play for better fans or a better group of guys. I’m excited to build on this.”