Grier Helps WVU Save the Season

9 Bubba Kapral

MORGANTOWN — It is better to win ugly than lose pretty.

Dana Holgorsen has to be feeling that way ever since WVU pulled out a 46-35 win over Texas Tech Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers stunk up sun-baked Milan Puskar Stadium for nearly three quarters, trailing by as many as 18 points.

In that span, WVU’s defense was shredded for five touchdowns, its offensive line failed to protect star QB Will Grier while also showing an inability create any running room for Big 12 rushing leader Justin Crawford.

What they Mountaineers did have, however, was resolve. A resolve potent enough to ignite a brilliant final fourth quarter of play, enabling Holgorsen’s charges to wash away the bad taste from last week’s tough loss at TCU.

It also keeps the monkey on the Red Raiders’ back. Tech, which entered the game ranked No. 24 in the nation, has now lost its last four meetings against WVU.

Grier is a special talent with a deep passion for winning. His five TD tosses and 342 passing yards, while constantly dodging Red Raider rushers in the opening half, saved the season for the Mountaineers. A second Big 12 loss would have been lethal to any conference title aspirations.

Grier’s heroics were aided by some Texas Tech foibles as well as an aroused WVU defense. The Mountaineers kept the Red Raiders off the scoreboard during the fourth quarter and allowed just 16 yards in the final 15 minutes.

Tech, meanwhile, was its own worst enemy.

The Red Raiders were penalized an amazing 16 times for a whopping 159 yards. Many of the flags were pass interference calls, three coming on the momentum-changing TD drive in the fourth quarter.

The Red Raiders could have overcome the flag-fest if it had a reliable placekicker.

The visitors misfired on three field goal attempts, all of the chip-shot variety.

Had Tech converted just one of the three kicks, the “W” may have been heading back to Lubbock. The most painful misfire was a 23-yarder on the final play of the first half that bounced off the upright. It would have boosted the lead to 31-17. Instead it took some wind out of the visitors’ sails.

WVU did catch a break as the Red Raiders’ starting kicker did not make the trip to Morgantown.

Despite the offensive line’s struggles as a group, Union Local’s Colton McKivitz acquitted himself with another solid performance at right tackle. He also feel good about a key coaching decision with the outcome hanging in the balance.

Trailing 35-32 early in the fourth quarter, WVU called timeout to discuss a fourth-and-1 at the Tech 17. Instead of opting for a game-tying field goal, the Mountaineers’ O-line persuaded Holgorsen to go for it.

“I’d like to think I was the loudest,” McKivitz said. “Coach Holgorsen was like, ‘Are you guys going to get this?’ and we all kind of gave him a ‘Are you kidding me? Why would you ask that'”

Holgorsen heeded their plea.

“They had that kind of confidence and at that point in the game I was more interested in taking the lead,” Holgorsen said. ‘I said ‘OK, it’s on your shoulders.'”

McKivitz said the team was ecstatic following the impressive come-from-behind win.

“It was fun.. Dana had some stuff to say,” the redshirt sophomore said. “The guys were going nuts and dancing around. I took it all in.”

BUBBA’S WVU BITS

∫ I was able to catch up with Brendan Ferns on the field prior to the game. He was upbeat and says he is mending well from his recent season-ending should surgery. The former St. Clairsville High great said he will be ready to participate in spring drills.

∫ The win was Holgorsen’s 50th at WVU. That places him fourth on the school’s all-time football list.

∫ The Mountaineers may be facing an ambush game this Saturday night in Waco. Baylor is winless but took Oklahoma to the wire a few weeks ago. WVU can ill afford to be looking ahead to Oklahoma State on Oct. 28.

∫ Say what you will about USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen or Wyoming’s Josh Allen, but Grier is as good as any QB in the country. If he continues to pile up big numbers to go with WVU wins, Grier could definitely be NFL bound after this season.

∫ Saturday’s attendance was 60,928, marking the largest home crowd of the campaign.

∫ The two THE TWO teams engaged in a harmless pre-game scuffle in front of the WVU bench.

∫ Meadowbrook product Josh Sills did not start on the O-line as has been the case the past several games. He did, however, enter on WVU’s third possession.

Bubba Kapral can be reached at bkapral@timesleaderonline.com

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