Mountaineers QB leads team past East Carolina
MORGANTOWN — Coming into the 2017 season it was a well-known fact that West Virginia (1-1) and veteran head coach Dana Holgorsen would have a lot of weapons on offense to surround University of Florida transfer Will Grier.
Fans of the Old Gold and Blue saw some of those weapons in the Mountaineers’ 31-24 setback to No. 18 Virginia Tech in the season-opener for both programs at FedExField.
They got a chance to see the entire attack on Saturday as American Athletic Conference member East Carolina paid a visit to Milan Puskar Stadium at left following a 56-20 setback in the home opener for West Virginia.
“I wanted to come out and play a clean game,” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital explained.
“For the most part we did that in the first half. It got a little sloppy with the twos, but that is something that I will take the blame for because I need to spend more time with them.
Behind the passing of Grier, who went for 371 yards and three touchdowns against the Hokies, WVU jumped out to a 479-191 edge in total offense over the first 30 minutes of the contest and went to the locker rooms leading by a comfortable 49-3 margin.
Senior Justin Crawford tallied the first of his two first half scores on the opening drive as the hosts marched 75 yards in only nine plays with Crawford, who finished with 110 yards on 13 carries in the first half, covering the final five with 12:44 showing on the clock.
A 15-play, 70-yard drive by the Pirates (0-2) on the ensuing possession culminated in the visitors only points of the half – a 23-yard field goal by Jake Verity.
The Mountaineers came back to march 71 yards on eight plays with Grier finding senior Ka’Raun White in the right corner of the end zone from seven yards out with 3:50 showing.
WVU’s next five scoring drives needed less than two minutes apiece as Kennedy McKoy scored on a 13-yard jaunt, Marcus Simms hauled in a 52-yard aerial from Grier, David Sills V scored on a 9-yard pass from Grier, Crawford burst through the line for a 41-yard score and the Grier-to-Sills tandem closed out the first half with a 75-yard bomb.
“In the first half offensively, if you look at what the penalties and what the interception did to us at crucial times during the game – the one penalty I would include as a discipline penalty,” ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery explained. “Defensively, we didn’t show up at times. At times, it was like we were playing with 10 people out there. Defensively, we need to be playing much better than we are.”
Defensively, senior Kyzir White set up two of the offense’s scores with his first two picks of the season while on special teams Simms’ 23-yard punt return – the longest by a Mountaineer in three years – ignited a score while his 29-yard kickoff return set the stage for another.
Grier finished with 352 yards and five touchdowns on 19-of-25 passing while Crawford added 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns on only 15 carries.
“I think he (Grier) makes them better, but at the same time I think they make Will better,” said Spavital. “It’s a mixture of everything. I think you can see where guys had a great summer. They felt comfortable with each other.”
Sills finished with 153 yards and a trio of six-pointers on seven catches.
“He (Sills) is Mr. Consistency,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen. “He loves football. He’s obviously Will’s guy. They (the ECU defense) knew where No. 12 was after last week so that opened the field up for the other receivers.”
West Virginia returns to Milan Puskar Stadium for another noon contest when FCS member Delaware State pays its first visit to Morgantown on Saturday, Sept. 16.
“It doesn’t matter what division they (Delaware State) is,” said Al-Rasheed Benton. “We’ve got to take them seriously. We (the defense) has got to keep getting better. We had moments today where we played like we are capable of playing. But, there still too many mishaps and busted coverages.”