Holgorsen On TCU, Will Grier & Schedule Adjustments
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Now it’s football season.
After a three-week hiatus in scheduling that saw West Virginia play a struggling East Carolina team, lowly FCS program in Delaware State and Big 12 bottom dweller Kansas, the Mountaineers have a badly needed open week before traveling to No. 11 TCU on Oct. 7.
The Horned Frogs made a statement Saturday, beating then-No. 6 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, and doing so in solid fashion. Reserve running back Daruis Anderson ran for three touchdowns and a career-best 160 yards – including a game-clinching 42-yard score with 2:37 remaining – and the defense forced four turnovers to back quarterback Kenny Hill’s 22-for-33 passing for 228 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
West Virginia, meanwhile, was mediocre in getting past Kansas, and enters the bye with significant injuries on defense. The Mountaineers were minus six players in the two deep late in the contest, and announced Monday that reserve middle linebacker Brendan Ferns will miss portions or all of the rest of the season after shoulder surgery. The injuries and inexperience, even with the open date, make TCU more than a formidable foe, and the game serves as point of reference as to where WVU rates in the Big 12 this season.
“They are really good,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “They are doing a lot of good things. I haven’t watched anything other than the Oklahoma State game right now, and I really dissected that one earlier. We are on a bye week and have more time. They looked really good. That was a good win for them. It’s hard to win in Stillwater, and they did that convincingly.
“They look the same on defense as they always are. Their offense is clicking, and getting (Kyle) Hicks back is going to be problematic for us. Extremely solid on special teams. It looks like a top 10 team to me. It’s going to be fun to prepare for them for a couple weeks and we are going to need all the time we got.”
Besides Virginia Tech, TCU is the lone ranked team West Virginia is likely to play in the first seven games of the season. The Mountaineers face Texas Tech at home and Baylor on the road following the trip to Fort Worth, then get Oklahoma State in Morgantown on Oct. 28.
Holgorsen said he’s pleased with the play of quarterback Will Grier thus far. There’s little wonder, with Grier living up to the hype by completing 94 of 144 passes (65.3 percent) for 1,374 yards on an offense averaging more than 48 points per game. Grier has 13 touchdowns against three interceptions, and his yardage total ranks sixth in the FBS this season, while his TDs are third.
But there is an area for improvement, which actually stems more from concern.
“I identified something that we need to work on after this past week,” Holgorsen said when asked to address Grier’s play. “He does a really good job in the pocket of avoiding the rush and not getting sacked. When taking off and scrambling, he needs to go sideline to sideline and so more with his am. He’s not a good slider. He goes vertical a lot and he jukes guys and he’s not very good at sliding which means he’s going to get hit a lot more and his ball security is not very good. Other than that, if that’s what I’m worried about I think we are fine.”
True on all counts. Grier is operating at an elite level, and the concern is justified. If the junior sustains an injury, the drop off to Chris Chugunov is significant, as is the idea that aspects of the timing and chemistry of the offense would lessen.
West Virginia finishes with nine consecutive games after this weekend’s open date. That caught the eye – and ire – of many fans, but it’ll be a common occurrence within the Big 12 as long as the conference holds a championship game on the final weekend of the season. That negates a potential game weekend, and forces schools to play 12 games over 13 weeks, and thus the lone open date. Some schools, like Kansas State, held the bye this past weekend and play nine consecutive league games.
Holgorsen said he would like to make the schedule more uniform, and play four games, have an open date, then repeat the process. That leaves a 4-4-4 block of games over 14 weeks with two bye weeks. Teams would play a maximum of five games in a row, and that only if they reached the conference championship game.
“Player (off) time is a big thing,” Holgorsen said. “That gives them another bye week. That would help, then the value of being able to go recruit. We are always looking for opportunities to go recruit and evaluate high school players and be present. You have two bye weeks, play four games, have a bye, play four more and then hopefully you’re playing in the championship game. But we don’t sit here and worry about that stuff. We see the schedule and attack it.”