Grier Spreads the Wealth; Run Game Keeps Pushing
WVU tramples over East Carolina in their home opener.
Satisfying. The Mountaineers came out firing on all cylinders Saturday afternoon. It was evident the Mountaineers would have their way with East Carolina after the first offensive drive.
Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was deferred the ball to start the game for the second week in a row. This time Spavital did things differently, Justin Crawford was the star of the first drive and led the way for Mountaineer running backs to have a good day. Crawford capped off the first drive with a five-yard touchdown run to start the game. After that it was smooth sailing for the Mountaineers.
Quarterback Will Grier did not hesitate to get himself going either. The second offensive drive was a lot more methodical for WVU compared to the ground and pound attack they used early. To cap off the strategy, Grier found receiver Ka’Raun White for a 7-yard touchdown. The Mountaineers used a balance attack to march 70 yards down the field, after that it seemed like the Mountaineers could score at will in the first half.
The Mountaineers scored on four plays or less on four different possessions. Grier was efficient and accurate to start and it never stopped. We saw Grier struggle on passes 20 yards or more last week. Before the end of the first half Grier had connected with receiver Marcus Simms on a 52-yard touchdown pass. Three drives later Grier faked a screen and hit David Sills V with a 75-yard bomb that resulted in a touchdown.
Grier’s day was cut short midway through the third quarter after a productive start.
Although Head Coach Dana Holgorsen was proud of Grier and his performance, he was very critical about his QB taking hits.
“I told Will if he takes another hit I’d bench him…he has to do better at staying out of harm’s way.” Holgorsen said.
Crawford picked up where he left off last week. The preseason All-Big 12 running back rushed for over 100 yards for the second week in a row. Crawford finished with 118-yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. His successor Kennedy McKoy had a productive day putting a touchdown on the board in the first half.
But what was really positive is that there were less drops today than last week. Receivers and Grier seemed to be on the same page the entire game, and those timing questions from last week? What about them? Even Holgorsen noticed,
“he’s getting the speed of the game, getting comfortable with that, and just the overall timing with receivers.” Holgorsen said.
Now this is not the perfect game, there are still some things to work on for WVU. The Mountaineers did struggle at times with the run and getting running backs to the edge, but that is something offensive line coach Joe Wickline can have worked out over time.
On defense, the performance was just as good. The tackling was improved, and the coverage by the secondary was much improved. Corner Mike Daniels came back and gave another impressive performance, defending and batting some key passes early in the game. Senior safety Kyzir White had a big day with two interceptions in the first half as well.
“I didn’t know Kyzir could catch, until he caught one in practice during the week” Holgorsen said.
On special teams the return game looked a lot different from last year and last week. Sophomore WR Simms handled the punt and kick returns throughout the game, and even managed a 30-yard return. Is it safe to say Gary Jennings Jr. has lost his return job, probably not, but the Mountaineers did find a spark to put on special teams.
What the Mountaineers will for sure have to work on is the field goal aspect. Kicker Mike Molina misses two field goals today, and both were around 50-yards, and those are points Dana Holgorsen wants on the board.
Holgorsen told reporters “I like Molina within the 40, and I’d like to think if it were for a game winner we would line and center the kick better.”
A lot of positives to circle about this game, and for sure the negatives will be worked on this upcoming week for Delaware St.