No Hangover As West Virginia’s Offense Anchors Win Over Pirates
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Any worries about a hangover were cured early and emphatically by West Virginia’s offense on Saturday.
The Mountaineers not only rolled up 619 yards in a lopsided 56-20 win, but managed to put up a 350-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 150-yard receiver. It was an inarguable answer to question as to whether West Virginia would impress off the loss to Virginia Tech, or merely get by in managing an overwhelmed foe.
It was the former, as Will Grier completed 19-of-25 passes for 352 yards and five touchdowns. On the heels of a 371-yard performance in the opening loss, Grier’s five scores tie for the fourth-most in school history, and showcase the elite level that seems more than attainable game-in and -out. Grier, in fact, became just the seventh Mountaineer all-time to throw five touchdown passes in a game, joining the likes of Geno Smith and Marc Bulger, both NFL quarterbacks, and WVU legend Pat White.
“We talked about it last week after the game, wanted to come out and start fast,” said Grier, who had already thrown four touchdowns by halftime. “I thought we did that. Guys made plays.”
In particular David Sills. The junior caught seven passes for 153 yards, including three scores. One came on a beautiful read by both, when Grier pump faked a screen, then threw to a wide open Sills down the sideline. Sills snatched the ball in stride and raced the remainder of the 75 yards, putting the Mountaineers ahead 49-3 at the half. WVU took possession with just 1:49 remaining and could have simply ran the clock out. But when one has the big play ability for the knockout, you might as well throw the haymaker.
“The work we have done showed,” said Sills, who has five touchdown catches in the first two games. “The timing and chemistry with Will, and the running backs and all the receivers. It’s the group of us. The offense is at a great point right now and we are coming together.”
And seemingly going places together as well. A week after missing a true vertical speed threat against Virginia Tech, suspended freshman receiver Marcus Simms splashed back onto the scene, catching a 52-yard touchdown from Grier in which he sprinted past a stunned secondary and cleared the safety by five yards. Grier stepped into the throw, which traveled more than 60 yards in the air, hitting Simms just as he crossed the goal line. That pushed WVU’s lead to 28-3 less than five minutes into the second quarter, and the rout was on.
“That speed, he’s extremely fast,” Grier said. “He’s got a different gear. It certainly adds an element. Having Marcus back is going to be good for the team.”
Even with as understated as Grier is in his answers, that was a vast understatement. With Simms working the outside, and the ability to mix and match Sills, Ka’Raun White and Gary Jennings inside and out, West Virginia’s passing game can be lethal. Grier wasn’t sacked in the win, and in fact has been dropped behind the line just twice over the 171 offensive plays ran by the Mountaineers thus far. With the stout pass protection, and Grier’s own ability to freelance and escape pressure, getting to one of the best pure passers in the game will prove difficult.
East Carolina nearly found out the hard way even when Grier made a mistake. After dropping a first half snap, Grier calmly picked up the loose ball, backpedaled a step and then whipped an off-balance laser 50 yards downfield. The ball hit Simms directly in the hands right at the sideline, but the freshman juggled the pass and couldn’t come up with the play. Still, it showed Grier’s pocket-passer ability, and how imposing his skill set and fortitude can be to opposing teams.
“I had a tough time handling the snap, and I look up and there’s a guy in my face,” Grier said. “I knew the rout concept I had and I had some space and I threw it to where he could catch it or it was going to be incomplete. He almost made a play. But we are all one. We make each other better. I pick them up and they pick me up. It’s a team effort. I look forward to keep building off this. It’s a process and we will get better every week.”
West Virginia’s running game was also productive, racking up 216 yards, including 118 by Justin Crawford. Crawford scored twice, opening the game with a five-yard touchdown run and closing any meaningful action with a 41-yard scoring run to put WVU ahead 42-3 in the second quarter. It was elementary from there, as most simply sat back and enjoyed Grier’s show.
“Awesome fans, awesome atmosphere,” Grier said. “It’s gotta be one of the best atmospheres in the country. I can’t wait to do it again and keep putting on shows for these fans.”