WVU Offense Explosive, But Not Efficient In Victory
MANHATTAN, Kan. – There was much to like about West Virginia’s offense over the first 30 minutes of play.
But like a bad sitcom, the second showing was a bit stale. After racking up 28 points on a blitzkrieg of first half bombs from quarterback Will Grier, the Mountaineers were stagnant in the second half. Kansas State pitched a shutout, and it was nearly enough to rally them until Jake Spavital’s group found life late.
Clinging to the 28-23 edge, WVU finally found its own and managed to put together a huge push, mixing the run and pass and moving the ball 34 yards over nine plays to finish off the final 4:33 on the clock. Not only was it the second-longest drive of the game for the Mountaineers, it was also the only one of much consequence in a second half that saw five consecutive punts.
Outside of the four touchdowns thrown by Grier – who now ranks second in school history in single season passing scores with 34 – the biggest play of the game was Gary Jennings’ five-yard catch and fourth and three. That mercifully moved the chains, allowing WVU to utilize Justin Crawford’s 14-yard run and another nine-yard catch by Jennings to snuff out any comeback opportunity for K-State.
“It was a culmination,” Spavital said of the decision to go for it on fourth down. “We were struggling late in terms of putting drives together. We came out and sputtered and it got to the point where we were trying to run clock to help the defense and we are just not a very good offense when we slow down. We’ve gotta be better. We either go three and out or score in a minute.”
There’s much truth to that. Indeed, outside of a 10-play, 80-yard march that culminated in the pretty and gritty four-yard fade catch by David Sills for a 21-13 lead, the Mountaineers took just six plays to score the other 21 points. Grier hit Ka’Raun White on a 75-yard scoring pass to grab the lead, found Sills on a 16-yarder to add to it and got the last score on a one-play, 30-yard bomb as time expired after Ezekiel Rose’s interception at the end of the first half.
That’s a half dozen plays, three touchdowns and a combined 70 seconds of possession. Otherwise, West Virginia had eight punts, two interceptions and a lost fumble.
“We are the most explosive offense you will ever see or the worst offense you will see,” Spavital said. “We are so inconsistent. So the fourth down call, the way we had been playing take a chance and make them drive the entire field. I said we were going to spread it out and have an opportunity to hit Gary or David. It was coming down to making a play. We had too many drops an I made it an easy catch. Will had to be accurate and he was.”
Grier noted that Kansas State’s defense took away many of the runs available to the Mountaineers, and it was on West Virginia to win one-on-one match-ups outside. They did that in the first half, but in the second the Wildcats tightened the defense and stuffed the spread.
“I didn’t think we were very physical and had that mentality in the second half,” Spavital said. “It was good to see them finally have something positive in the second half.”
Still, WVU made the plays as needed, and emerged from the Little Apple with a big win – and the first in three tries in program history. It also kept itself in the Big 12 race, staying in a tie for second place, albeit with losses to TCU and Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers need help, but for now they are mathematically alive with momentum.