Preston’s Sacks Save WVU

Preston’s Sacks Save WVU


MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Normally, during Tuesday’s West Virginia player interviews, senior linebacker Xavier Preston sort of sneaks into the room, most of the media seemingly far more interested in what quarterback Will Grier or wide receiver David Sills have to say.

But this time Preston walked into a media crush.

So it goes with this week’s hero.

Yes, Grier threw five TD passes last week in the win over Baylor, his second straight week with five TD throws, and Sills latched on to three of them to give him 15 touchdowns to lead the nation … but the game played out to the point that it came down to one play.

Preston, who waited his turn for four years, made that play and kept WVU’s hopes of reaching the Big 12 championship game alive, sacking backup quarterback Charlie Brewer to preserve a 38-36 victory.

The sack on a quarterback who had come into the game and brought winless Baylor back from a 23-point difference to within that two-point conversion, made amends for a pass interference call on Preston in the end zone that had led to the Bears’ score.

“I was just happy the game was over,” Preston admitted. “We shouldn’t have been in that situation. It wasn’t just me. Other guys had to make plays for me to get there.”

They’d been making plays all night, or at least through three quarters, which WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said was the best three quarters they had played this season.

There had been six sacks of the quarterback, a season high for the team, and at halftime Baylor had minus-6 yards rushing … yet it came down to that one play.

“It was go time, the game was on the line. I got on the edge, I saw the quarterback coming. I just took a shot,” Preston explained.

The celebration is over and didn’t last all that long.

“It was a great feeling, but coach has a saying, ‘You get 24 hours to celebrate, then it’s back out there,’” Preston said.

Now Oklahoma State comes to town riding a two-game winning streak over the Mountaineers.

“I’m not going to give them too much credit. Those guys, they have put on a good season. They will give us a challenge,” Preston said. “They play hard, so it is definitely going to be a battle. We have to go out with the right mindset in order to win this Saturday.

“I’m sure Coach Gibby (defensive coordinator Tony Gibson) will find some way to attack those guys. If he wants to go at them, we will. We just try to do our jobs the best way we can. Mountaineer nation will be the difference, honestly.”

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Holgorsen has concern for tailback Justin Crawford, who did not have a good game at Baylor and who seems to be wearing down.

How can he revive him?

“Get him healthy. It’s football,” Holgorsen said.

And there’s one indisputable fact about the game — running backs get knocked around.

“That running back spot is going to get banged up,” Holgorsen said. “It happens to every back, to every team, every year. There’s nothing you can do about it.

“The way that those guys play, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s called a training room. Get a lot of treatment, get healthy and practice hard and get back out there and play. That’s what I expect him to do.”

In the win at Baylor, Crawford compiled just 30 yards on 10 carries, that coming after his streak of 100-yard games ended at five with 47 yards against Texas Tech.

The good news was that Kennedy McKoy looked to be peaking.

“I thought (McKoy) had his best game; he looked a lot different handing the ball to him than it did,” Holgorsen said.

McKoy rushed for 55 yards on just seven carries at Baylor while also catching a pair of passes.

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Here’s something you don’t get often around these parts — praise for the special teams.

Not only did WVU’s special teams recover an onsides kick at the end of the game (the Mountaineers also failed to recover one) but their coverage unit seems to be coming around.

“We’re right where we need to be on that,” Holgorsen said. “We’re doing a good job in both of those areas; they do the same. We have to pay particular attention to that and need to work hard on them.

“But I’m happy with where they were last week. Hopefully, I’ll be happier where they are this week.”