New Identity for WVU Offense?
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — It’s funny, almost comical in a strange way — but on the day West Virginia’s offense had its lowest output of the season it well may have had its best game and through it may have discovered its real personality.
True, the offensive game plan they put together was built more to counter Iowa State’s defensive strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses, the long week after the Oklahoma State debacle having been one which stressed toughness and patience.
What they came up with wasn’t frantic tempo and crazed throw it here, there and everywhere approach that had come to symbolize the team, a team that beat the daylight out of bad teams but could not beat the good teams.
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital discussed the approach that was used in this week’s 20-16 victory.
“If you had a lot of mistakes they were going to capitalize on it, so we minimized the mistakes. I was very pleased and proud of how they competed. It was definitely an issue to be more aggressive. They went out with a sense of aggression,” he said.
“We wanted to run the ball and get those running backs as many touches as possible. They started mixing up their fronts and moving in and out of three and four man fronts and being a little more aggressive with the back end.
“I thought we all communicated well. I thought me and Will were on the same page when to take shots down the field and when to run the ball and get it on the perimeter.”
Will, of course, was Will Grier, who went from crazed gunslinger to more of a Tom Brady approach, right from the beginning on a play that changed the game and may have changed the season.
That, of course, is the now infamous touchdown that wasn’t, a deep chuck to wide receiver Ka’Raun White that went to the end zone, but that turned into a blooper reel when he somehow managed to step out of the bounds at the 10 with no one near him.
In this case, though, the play was the thing, a play that showed that finally White and Grier were suddenly on the same page of the same playbook and that only big thigs are now in store out of that.
The game’s first two plays had gone nowhere setting up third and long. A short pass had been called but Grier was flushed out of the pocket and began scanning the horizon for a receiver. He came upon White.
“He saw some space and ran to it. The line gave me plenty of time. We both kind of saw that hole and ran to it. He made a hell of a play,” Grier said before adding with a giggle, “I can’t believe he stepped out of bounds.”
No one could.
“I already told him he didn’t trust his feet on that,” younger brother, Kyzir, said. “He shouldn’t have even looked back. He should have kept running.”
Ka’Raun sensed someone coming, peeked back and veered to his right a step, thinking the defender might dive at his ankles.
After going into the end zone he began celebrating, only to have the ball placed at the 10.
One play later, though, Grier hit David Sills for the 16th time this year with a TD and WVU had overcome the stutter step.
Had they failed to score or settled for a field goal the game might have changed, so fragile has been WVU.
What else was crucial was that Grier had confidence enough in White to keep going to him, hitting him deep with a 55-yard touchdown pass to start the second quarter and finishing the day by throwing to him four times for a career high 167 yards.
But the patience and the running game really were where it was at in this one.
“We stressed you had to be patiently and take what they gave us. It wasn’t how we normally play in a lot of ways, but we stayed the course,” Grier emphasized.
“We kept an eye on that closely and wanted to have fresh backs in the game,” Spavital said. “I told them to be patient. Even with me. I wanted to be patient with my play calling. I wanted them to be patient with their gains.
“Iowa State keeps everything in front, so you have to be happy with those four and five and six-yard gains. Line back up and compete on the next play. Play the game one play at a time.”
That’s what got Justin Crawford beyond 100 rushing yards after compiling just 122 over the past three weeks, and allowed him to turn the game over to fresh legs and Kennedy McKoy toward the end.
It was McKoy, perhaps, who saved the game by turning a fourth and 17 draw play into the first down that allowed WVU to run out the clock.
“It was a great play call and great play by Kennedy to find the hole and break to the outside and know where the sticks were. He really tried to stay in bounds,” Grier said. “He had a great game.”