Grier throws 5 TDs, West Virginia thumps East Carolina 56-20

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier (7) attempts a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against East Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

By JOHN RABY, AP Sports Writer

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Will Grier gave West Virginia fans the offensive show they had been waiting more than a year for.

Grier threw five touchdown passes, including three to David Sills, to lead the Mountaineers to a 56-20 victory over East Carolina on Saturday.

“It was unbelievable, man,” Grier said. “It was awesome to play out there for the first time. I can’t wait to do it again. You can never be unhappy with a win for Mountaineer nation.”

Grier has infused some excitement into a program that was coming off 10 wins from a year ago but lost quarterback Skyler Howard to graduation and wasn’t expected to compete for a Big 12 title in 2017.

Before the season, fans weren’t exactly sure what they were getting in the Florida transfer. Grier was solid as a freshman for the Gators in 2015, but midway through that season he was suspended for one year for violating the NCAA’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Grier announced in April 2016 that he was transferring to West Virginia. In his first home start, he completed 19 of 25 passes for 352 yards. His TD tosses covered 7, 52, 9, 75 and 4 yards.

“This week, it appeared that he looked very comfortable from snap one,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “I think that’s going to continue to improve, just the timing aspect of it. He’s getting the speed of the game and getting comfortable with that and just the overall timing with the receivers.”

Four of Grier’s TD tosses came in the first half, when West Virginia built a 49-3 lead. It was the highest-scoring first half for the Mountaineers since they scored 49 in a 70-33 Orange Bowl win over Clemson following the 2011 season.

Sills caught seven passes for a career-high 153 yards and has five TD catches already this season. West Virginia’s Justin Crawford provided some balance with 15 carries for 118 yards, including TD runs of 5 and 41 yards.

West Virginia (1-1) scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives spanning the first and second quarters and was never threatened. The Mountaineers scored just once after halftime, when backup quarterback Chris Chugunov played most of the half.

Thomas Sirk, a graduate transfer from Duke, couldn’t get much going in his first start for East Carolina (0-2). Kyzir White intercepted him twice and Sirk finished 16 of 34 for 191 yards with one score before being replaced by Gardner Minshew midway through the third quarter.

“I think in the first half, defensively, we didn’t show up at all,” said East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery. “It was at times it was almost like we were playing with 10 out there.”

THE TAKEAWAY

East Carolina: The Pirates couldn’t defend the pass against the Mountaineers after allowing 422 rushing yards in a 34-14 loss to defending FCS champion James Madison a week ago. The Pirates have allowed an average of 616 yards in two games and the schedule isn’t getting any easier.

West Virginia: Grier found seven different receivers, making his home debut look easy. “We’re all one. We make each other better,” Grier said. “They’re picking me up, I pick them up.”

TOSSED FOR TARGETING

East Carolina’s Joe Carter will miss the first half next week after he was flagged for targeting on a hit on West Virginia’s Marcus Simms during a second-quarter punt return. West Virginia wide receiver Reggie Roberson was flagged for targeting late in the third quarter but the call was overturned upon review.

UP NEXT

East Carolina hosts No. 18 Virginia Tech next Saturday.

West Virginia hosts FCS Delaware State next Saturday.

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