West Virginia Offense Shelves Initial Game Plan, Rallies To Stun Texas Tech
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Jake Spavital was flipping through the play calls in his mind, conjuring up different packages and ways to attack Texas Tech.
Then he hit a mental wall. He realized that was it, there weren’t any other options. So he reset the mindset. What, he wondered, had worked the best? And that’s how the Mountaineers came up with their second half plan, one which led to four touchdowns and the final 29 points of the game in a 46-35 win.
“They got the best of us early. What we told the offense all week was that you have to win the individual battles,” Spavital said. “All the offensive line will be on islands, it’s going to be man coverage and match-ups. At the end of the game it is going to be the team who wants it the most.”
That turned out to be West Virginia, as Will Grier threw for a career-high tying five touchdowns, including three to David Sills. Ka’Raun White also had a pair of touchdown receptions. One was a leaping grab that helped spark the rally, while the other gave the Mountaineers the lead for good at 39-35 with nine minutes remaining.
“We had to adjust on the fly,” Grier said. “They’re a good team. Talented defense. They did a good job up front of stopping the run and in the pass rush they were physical. We regrouped at halftime and started playing. With Spav we got a plan together and executed it.”
Which included leaving large segments of the run game on the cutting room floor. Justin Crawford finished with 47 yards on 14 carries, the first time this season the back failed to reach the century mark. His longest run was 19 yards, meaning the other baker’s dozen of totes gained just 28 yards, or little more than six feet per run. With those numbers, WVU had to become a pure passing team to stage the comeback, and that’s what it morphed into in the third quarter.
“You have to give them credit,” Spavital said. “They came out and were pretty aggressive and I couldn’t get the run game going for three quarters of the game. We struggled to run the ball and at times hold up with protection. We found a way about midway through the fourth quarter when we found some rhythm. I scrapped a lot of the playbook early because they were going to outnumber us in the run game and play man.”
That allowed Sills and White the chance to win those wideout wars, and the two did. Sills’ amassed 89 yards and the trio of touchdowns that pushed his national lead to 13. White totaled 114 yards, a second straight 100-plus yard performance after he set a career-best with 138 yards last week versus TCU. And Gary Jennings was his typically dependable self, with nine catches for 68 yards as WVU torched Tech’s secondary for 352 yards passing. Grier completed 32-of-41 throws for an incredible 78 percent with the five touchdowns and one interception.
The Mountaineers did finish with a season-worst 44 yards rushing on 29 carries, but it was the push in the running game that was key in the fourth-and-one conversion that led to the tie. Trailing 35-32 with 10 minutes to play, WVU faced a decision whether to take the field goal and a tie, or try to convert and keep the drive going in hopes of eventually taking the lead.
“Dana (Holgorsen) wanted to kick it at first,” Grier said. “We got him to call a timeout and the whole offense was yelling at him that we wanted to go for it. We thought we could sneak it and get it. They did a pretty good job. I wiggled through there and got a yard. It was closer than I’d like it to be.”
The measurement showed WVU got the first down by the nose of the ball, and from there the Mountaineers sniffed the end zone, tying the game on Grier’s pass to White before finding it once more for the final margin.
“It’s big. I say every week that all these games are important and the Big 12 is really good this year, and I’ll probably continue to say it every week because it’s true,” Grier said. “That was a good football team, a big win. We want to keep it rolling. We finished well, which we hadn’t in the two we lost this season. Guys made plays and the defense played really well. Great team win. One game at a time. Move on, focus on Baylor and go get another win.”