Journey To Season Finale; QB Duel on Minds Of WVU, Oklahoma
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Normally, Monday is a rehash day of the weekend’s football games but neither Dana Holgorsen, whose West Virginia Mountaineers were upset by Oklahoma State last week, nor Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, who survived against Kansas, were thinking about anything but their Friday night date in Milan Puskar Stadium.
Asked about the journey to this moment, Holgorsen admitted that it has been something special.
“It’s been a lot of fun this season. We’re having a good time playing ball,” Holgorsen said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “Obviously we’re disappointed with how things ended the other night. But what a Big 12 game. What a college football game.
“We’ve got another exciting one this weekend. We’re in a position where this game matters and we couldn’t be more excited about it. We know this game matters. If we win, we’ve accomplished our goal.”
“A lot of people have been looking forward to this one since the beginning of the year,” Riley said at his weekly press conference in Norman, Oklahoma. “We knew both teams had a chance to be strong teams and that this one would be a meaningful game.”
Holgorsen doesn’t believe that last loss at Oklahoma State, when Grier’s final pass was batted away in the end zone, will affect his team with all that is still at stake.
And Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray agrees, not expecting any kind of letdown for WVU his week.
“I’m sure that loss hurt for them, but when Oklahoma comes to town it’s a big game for anyone. So I know they’ll be ready, just like we’ll be ready,’ he said.
This kind of game somewhere along the line is an annual exercise for Oklahoma, one of the nation’s elite programs, while West Virginia has to cherish such chances when they come along.
“I get excited for every game,” said Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, who is probably now one of two frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy with Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
But he this week will be going eyeball to eyeball with another Heisman candidate, WVU’s Will Grier, in the showdown game of the season.
“Showdown? If that’s what it is, that’s what it is,” said Murray. “We’ve been in many since I’ve been here. I think we know the formula for that.”
Oklahoma does. Two years ago it got left of the CFP playoffs and last year managed to work its way in.
“We’re sitting right where we were last year,” Riley said. “It feels no different to me.”
That quarterback showdown is an interesting one, with many similarities between Grier and Murray, including a connection to WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
“He was the main reason I went to A&M.” Murray said, having started his career there when Spavital was offensive coordinator. “The relationship is still there. I don’t talk to him as much, obviously, but he was really good to me and my family.”
Grier, of course, has grown close to Spavital over the past three years.
“It’s a two-way street. Its a mutual respect and understanding,” he explained. “We have a really healthy relationship, talking back and forth. He’s comfortable being critical with me and I’m comfortable being honest about what I see and what I feel good about and what I don’t feel good about.
“At this point, it’s about winning and we are both going after that same goal.”
Riley admits that he has known Grier from back in Grier’s high school days when Riley was coaching at East Carolina.
“I have a lot of respect for him. I’m happy for him and all the things he has overcome. He’s had a great career,” Riley said.