Playing The Percentages In Focus For WVU QB Will Grier
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It was a play that went from disaster to touchdown and won a ball game for Will Grier, but it’s one the West Virginia quarterback hopes you don’t have to see this year.
When I wrote about it that November night, I called it the greatest escape since Harry Houdini, who never really felt as much panic as Grier had on the one play that allowed West Virginia to beat Kansas State 28-23, in Manhattan, Kansas.
Now comes the rematch, Grier being a Heisman Trophy candidate in part because of the miracle he pulled off in that game, and he understands that as good as it turned out is as bad as it could have wound up.
Let us first set the stage.
WVU was clinging to a 21-20 first half lead as the clock was ticking off its final seconds. There was time for one play, a shot into the end zone, but everything went crazy.
Grier was in trouble and it seemed only bad could come from the play.
This was how I explained the play:
He rolled right, used a spin move to get away and then came back to the left. While falling backward he launched one into the end zone …
This is how he explained it on Tuesday at media interviews:
“We had play set up to take a shot in the end zone. It wasn’t there. I didn’t know what was going on behind me. I backed up, realized I had some space. I tried to find the clock. I couldn’t find it. I thought I don’t know how much time is left. I have to score a touchdown. I threw it, then I found the clock and thought he better catch that because if not I’m going to really get yelled at.”
See, there was an option, he explained.
“I was caught between making a play or throwing it away and kicking a field goal. My instincts were to make a play. It was probably low percentage. We talk now about making high percentage plays. But we made a play and that was great.”
Ka’Raun White caught the 30-yard touchdown and while it was the last score of the game for WVU, they made it stand up.
What was most amazing about the play was that it wasn’t the best play he made on the day.
A few minutes earlier he …. again, let’s look at how I wrote it:
Grier took the snap and it was supposed to be a deep throw but he was under pressure. He went right; he went left; he went everywhere, spinning and moving until he finally unleashed the ball down the field.
The pass may have been meant for White, but it sailed just over him where Jennings was there to make a leaping grab as he outwrestled a defensive back for the ball.
Forget that the play covered 43 yards. Far more impressive was that Grier extended the play to last 17 seconds.
And so it went, but this year Grier has other thoughts, thoughts about playing smarter, higher percentage football, the thing they worked on all during this off-season.
The biggest improvement he is making in his game isn’t in his playmaking but in his thought process.
“The biggest thing is the mind set,” he said “We practice it which translates into the game, doing a better job of getting us into more efficient plays. it’s knowing where the sticks are and getting that extra push on the pile, getting an extra yard.
‘’We are stressing the importance of staying on the field and getting extra downs.”
This is difficult to do against Kansas State, a well-coached team that doesn’t make many mistakes. It is like playing Kansas State’s game against them, something WVU has managed to adopt into their system the last couple of years.
After losing four straight times to the Wildcats, they have beaten them twice in a row in low scoring, defensive games.
Patience becomes important for Grier.
“Patience is important because they can do different things to you,” Coach Dana Holgorsen explained. “They’re blitzing more and pressuring more and playing man coverage more than what I’ve ever seen. So, there’s going to be opportunities for big plays.”
But Grier has to spot them and take advantage of them, not get itchy and try to make things happen when they aren’t there.
That isn’t easy for Grier, who is aggressive and competitive.
“That’s how I’m wired,” he said, “but I think you can put that competitiveness into doing it the smarter way. I’ve tried to do that, transform the way I play and get away from those kinds of plays. I’m used it in a different way. I’m going to continue to grow in that area and get better as the season goes.”