WVU Survives Comeback, Bests Baylor 38-36
WACO, Texas – It really shouldn’t have been that difficult.
West Virginia held a 38-13 lead over Baylor going into the fourth quarter. But the Bears – aided by a pair of big scoring plays and an onside kick – staged a rally and got within 38-36 in the final minute before the Mountaineers stopped the tying two-point conversion try when Xavier Preston sacked back-up quarterback Charlie Brewer.
Hakeem Bailey then recovered the onside kick and WVU took a knee to run out the clock and record their first-ever win in Waco in three tries. It seemed the No. 23 Mountaineers were about to take an even bigger knee, and a major ‘L’ for most of the fourth quarter.
That was only balanced by the fact that West Virginia (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) put on quite an offensive show against Baylor, getting five touchdown passes from Will Grier – including three to David Sills – in the closer-than-expected win here Saturday night.
The Mountaineers seemingly blew the game open with a pair of Sills touchdowns that came just 20 seconds apart just before and after the half. The first was a 16-yard score with just one second left before the break. Sills split the seam and hauled in a pinpoint Grier pass right on the numbers. That pushed what was a methodical, one-score game to a 17-6 WVU lead. Sills then delivered a seemingly crushing blow on a 53-yard catch-and-run on the first play of the third quarter.
Suddenly, a six-point lead had ballooned to 24-6, and Baylor’s rally seemed especially improbable after Marcus Simms and Ka’Raun White added touchdowns in the third quarter for the 38-13 edge. Grier finished 26-of-37 passing for 375 yards and his second straight five touchdown performance of the season. Sills caught the three scoring passes, increasing his national-lead to 15 – or six more than any other player.
The win was West Virginia’s first-ever in Waco, where the Mountaineers were 0-2 after allowing an average of 68 points per game. The defense did give up a handful of long plays, including a 52-yard scoring pass and a 40-yard rush following an onside kick that made it interesting over the final 14 minutes.
West Virginia struck first, scoring the initial 10 points of the game on Mike Molina’s 27-yard field goal and a 35-yard pass from Grier to Sills. Molina’s score came after WVU’s defense held Baylor on four downs after BU opened with a nine-play 33-yard drive that stalled inside Mountaineer territory.
WVU then went ahead 10-0 a possession later when Grier found Sills in one-on-one coverage against corner Harrison Hand. Sills out-jumped the freshman, securing a 50-50 ball for his 13th touchdown reception of the season. Baylor answered with an eight-play, 69-yard drive that was capped by Connor Martin’s 23-yard field goal. The series took nearly five minutes, and got the Bears back within one score, which was exactly what Rhule wanted to maintain confidence.
West Virginia had a chance to tack on to its lead on the ensuing possession, but a promising drive fizzled at midfield due to an illegal chop block penalty. That put the Mountaineers behind the sticks, and they pinned BU at its own 15-yard line. The Bears, however, overcame a second and 19 from their own six to move 60 yards in seven plays for another Martin field goal, this time from 42 yards to bring the score within 10-6.
They key plays were completions of 24 and 45 yards that moved the ball from BU’s own six to the WVU 25. The defense stiffened from there, however, holding Baylor to a field goal. That proved key as the Mountaineers traded a pair of possessions during the final minutes of the second quarter, finally regaining the ball with just 1:05 on the clock. But Jake Spavital went to work, expertly mixing the pass and run as West Virginia chewed up 64 yards in just 57 seconds.
With just seven seconds remaining in the half, WVU set up at the 16-yard line. Grier dropped and waited until Sills worked past the second level, finally cutting across the defense from his outside position. He broke free down the seam after crossing with Marcus Simms, and Grier delivered a strike to the end zone between two deep safeties for Sills’ 14th score of the season as the clock hit one second. The touchdown extended the advantage to 17-6 at the half and was huge with WVU getting possession to open the third quarter.