West Virginia – Oklahoma QB Duel Lives Up To The Hype
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — They never set foot on the field at the same time, at least not while the clock was running.
This wasn’t offense against defense, which is the way football was designed to be played.
This was offense vs. offense and, more to the point, quarterback vs. quarterback.
This was West Virginia’s Will Grier vs. Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, both passing, running, setting the mood, controlling the tempo and, in the end, deciding the game.
One thing was certain after watching what transpired, if Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama wins the Heisman he’s one hell of a quarterback.
What took place down on Mountaineer Field almost defied description, the way it highlighted the skills of Grier and Murray and, at the same time, contrasted them.
Grier’s game is played with his head and his arm, Murray’s with his feet and his arm.
Which you would rather have depends upon your offense. Certainly, the two spent the entire evening trying to one up each other … and actually did it.
The difference in what would be a 59-56 Oklahoma victory?
Grier, who threw for 539 yards and four touchdowns, fumbled twice and each was run in for an Oklahoma touchdown.
“It was a shame we played so well on offense and gave them 14 points,” coach Dana Holgorsen said.
It was evident right from the start that this was going to be one of those WVU-Baylor nights. You remember, WVU 70, Baylor 63, but this time there was far, far, far more at stake.
This turned into an aerial circus on one side, WVU’s, and a balanced show on the other, Oklahoma’s.
It went this way. Grier, 41-yard touchdown pass to David Sills, Murray a 55-yard touchdown run.
Head to head, back and forth, just like they both promised during the week.
“Being a competitor, good competition brings the best out of me,” Murray said during the week. “I know Saturday the emotions will be high. It’s a prime time game that has a lot riding on it. At the same time I have to hold all that in, be myself, play my game and get a W.”
“As far as this matchup, yeah, it doesn’t get a whole lot better,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen noted. “Two really good players, similar past, and it should be fun. It doesn’t get any better than that. Both have had a lot of success and are obviously two of the best quarterbacks in the country. We get to watch them play here one last time on Friday night.”
The first half saw Grier complete 20 of 29 passes for 262 yards and two TDs while Murray completed 9 of 12 for 168 yards and rushed three times for 78 yards.
And Grier had a TD called back.
But there was a blight upon his record. Oklahoma linebacker Caleb Kelly made a great defensive play, sacking Grier, forcing a fumble, scooping it up and loping 10 yards into the end zone.
So it was that at halftime nothing had been settled, Oklahoma leading 35-28 … but getting the ball.
And that meant Murray would be operating again, only it was turn to get burned by a great play, this from the budding superstar who is WVU safety Kenny Robinson, who made a leaping, stretched out interception in the back of the Mountaineer end zone to get the ball back to Grier.
And he didn’t disappoint, going bing, bang and boom and hitting Gary Jennings for a 57-yard score to tie the game and push his passing yardage to 339 yards.
Now, get this. Grier was still just warming up.
While Murray continued his heroics, like turning third and 10 from his own 25 into a touchdown in two throws of 30 and 45 yards, Grier came right back and hit Jennings again,, this time for 75 yards.
But Oklahoma was not out of bullets, and the world, as well as Grier, turned upside down as he fumbled while trying to pass, the ball scooped up by Curtis Bolton who ran 48 yards for another TD and the Sooners led 59-49.
WVU would ride Grier back into the game, drew within a field goal but could not recover and onside kick and could not stop a fourth down play … a play Murray kept alive with his feet and made a first-down throw.