Tempo Signalled Change in WVU’s Offensive Fortunes
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The scoreboard at Milan Puskar Stadium was telling a tale of woe on Saturday afternoon.
It was the second quarter of West Virginia’s game with TCU, a game between the Big 12 leader and a down edition of the Horned Frogs, but you could not tell that from the scoreboard, which registered at 3-3 with 6:32 left in the half.
The last time WVU had the ball, quarterback Will Grier had thrown an interception down in the scoring zone and now, after a punt, WVU took over at its own 24.
Something had to change.
“I thought we did a good job changing our mindset offensively toward the end of the second quarter. We started using some different tempos with them, which I thought was good on Jake Spavital’s part,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said moments after he pocketed a 47-10 victory over TCU before 60,007 fans.
As fast as you can say Ridwn Issahaku, who had pulled off the interception of Grier, the entire game changed and West Virginia scored 30 points in just more than seven minutes of play.
“We’ve just got to get into a rhythm,” Holgorsen explained. “We all in this room understand that uptempo can be detrimental to your team if not done properly. I believe in mixing that. It is a way of sparking us, so to speak.”
Once upon a time Holgorsen was bent on playing the game as fast as he could, as if there were a National Geographic special on PBS that he wanted to get home to see on television.
More recently, he has opted to go more for efficiency rather than playing helter-skelter.
“I think last year we probably did it too much,” he said of the uptempo approach. “This year, we’re going about it right. We’ve just got to vary it more than anything. I think it’s a good change up. If you’re sputtering a bit, changing things up is good.”
Grier appreciated the change of pace.
“I have a lot of respect for that defense, but changing the tempo is huge,” the quarterback said. “It helps in a lot of ways.”
It certainly changed things in this one. Moments after getting into a rhythm, running back Kennedy McKoy broke loose on a 33-yard touchdown run.
The flood gates were open.
TCU fumbled the kickoff and reserve linebacker Exree Loe, who is becoming a force to reckon with, recovered at the TCU 17.
That’s just giving points away and a minute and 22-seconds later Martell Pettaway powered into the end zone.
After the defense, which would smother TCU’s running game all day, holding it to minus seven yards, the first time it had held any opponent to negative yardage in eight years, forced a punt, Grier took advantage of good field position once again. This time, Grier went back to a play earlier in the game when he hit Tevin Bush for a big game on a swing pass. This time Bush ran the same route but tight end Trevon Wesco, who caught five passes for a team high 89 yards, ran a deeper route.
Grier did a little head fake looking toward Bush, then gazed in Wesco’s direction and saw him completely wide open, lofting the ball to the 27-pound tight end, who took it and waltzed into the end zone.
“I just saw this little black dot coming my way and I caught and ran with it,” Wesco said.
That allowed WVU to take a 24-3 lead. TCU was still reeling when it came out of the locker room and WVU’s defense kept it that way. The defense adding two points to the Mountaineer total as TCU quarterback Mike Collins, who was under pressure all day, drew a flag for intentional grounding in the end zone, which brings a safety with it.
WVU took full advantage of getting the resulting free kick in good field position. Grier hit Marcus Simms, who made a diving catch 53 yards down field, which set up a couple McKoy runs for his second TD and a 33-3 lead.
The rout was now on and the last two scores, one on a pass to Gary Jennings from Grier — helped no small bit by Wesco’s route rubbing off a defender — and another TD to David Sills, his 12th of the season and 32nd of his career, just cemented things.
WVU now turns its attention to next week’s game in Stillwater against Oklahoma State before the regular season finale against Oklahoma that could be for the regular season championship.