MORGANTOWN — It was the moment WVU fans had been waiting for on Sept. 3, in Landover, Md.
Not only were the Mountaineers playing rival Virginia Tech for the first time in 12 years, but it was the much-anticipated debut of Will Grier.
The Florida transfer was supposed to fix all of the woes WVU had at QB since Geno Smith left, in 2012.
Although the game against the Hokies didn’t go the way the Mountaineers hoped, Grier, replacing a maligned Skyler Howard, not only lived up to his lofty expectations — he surpassed them.
With his quick release, Grier seemed like a natural fit in head coach Dana Holgorsen’s and new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital’s offense.
Not only did Grier leap back onto the scene after transferring, he was helped by receiver David Sills.
Sills left WVU for El Camino (Calif.) College after 2015 to fulfill his dream of playing quarterback before deciding it was best for him to return to the Mountaineers as a receiver.
All he did was catch a nation-leading 18 touchdown passes, the second most in school history.
It was not the ending to the season most hoped for, losing the last two games to Texas and Oklahoma, all while losing Grier to a broken hand and finishing 7-5.
Grier and Sills announced they will be back at WVU next season, but as far as this year goes, 2017 was certainly the year of Grier.
The Mountaineers and Hokies were finally going to play again for the first tine since 2005, this time at FedExField, outside of Washington, D.C.
Grier was finally going to make his debut, but it wasn’t the start anyone was hoping for.
WVU was held to seven points in the first half — a pass from Grier to Sills at the edge of the end zone, something that would become a theme all season.
Momentum picked up in the second half as V.T. and WVU traded blows, but the Hokies had the final punch, coming away with a 31-24 win before a crowd of 67,489. Other than a slow first half, Grier looked every bit the part, as did running back Justin Crawford, who finished with
REST OF SEPTEMBER
The first team to fall victim to the newly powered WVU offense was East Carolina in WVU’s Sept. 9 home opener.
WVU scored 49 points in the first half alone, finishing with a 56-20 win. Grier threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns — three going to Sills. Crawford had
118 yards and two scores.
The Mountaineers upped their productivity Sept. 16 against Delaware State, finishing with
Grier had three more touchdowns, but none to Sills. Marcus Simms caught two, while Ka’Raun White added the other. Crawford had his third-straight 100-yard game, with 102 yards and three touchdowns.
WVU opened Big 12 play, at Kansas, scoring another 56 points. Grier threw for two touchdowns — both to Sills — and ran for two more. Crawford had
125 yards and Kennedy McKoy added 105.
The running game was more of the story offensively, but the defense did not play its best game.
Injuries continued to plague the defense, missing five starters while giving up 564 yards and 34 points to the Jayhawks.
Top 10 woes
Beating top 10 teams on the road has been a problem for WVU over the last half a century. The first chance this season came at No. 8 TCU.
This game was eerily similar to the V.T. game, with each team trading blows in the second half until the Horned Frogs had the last laugh on a Kenny Hill touchdown to give them a 31-24 lead.
WVU had it chances, but an Elijah Battle interception on TCU’s final scoring drive was overturned, and a controversial pass interference call was made against David Sills that all but ended any chance of a tying score.
Grier had three touchdowns — two to Sills and one to White. Crawford had his fifth-straight 100-yard rushing game, with
The biggest story defensively was the return of linebacker David Long from a knee injury. He missed the first four games, but following his return, became the best defender on the WVU defense.
The Mountaineers found themselves down 35-17 late in the third quarter against No. 24 Texas Tech, but scored 29-unanswered points to knock off the Red Raiders, 46-35.
Grier tossed five touchdowns — three to Sills — while Ka’Raun White had two, including the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Crawford was held to his worst game of the season, though, struggling to near 50 yards.
The defense couldn’t stop a high-powered Red Raiders offense during the first 40 minutes, but shut them down late in the third quarter and into the fourth. It appeared to be a turning point for defensive coordinator Tony Gibson’s group.
The high point
The comeback against Texas Tech helped the Mountaineers squeak past Baylor, 38-36, after the Bears mounted a late comeback that was held off on a late 2-point conversion attempt Oct. 21.
It was WVU’s first win at Baylor since joining the Big 12.
The following week, on Oct. 28, a pouring rain befuddled the WVU offense against Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers’ defense and special teams provided most of the scoring, with a blocked punt for a touchdown and a pick-6 by freshman safety Kenny Robinson. However, the Cowboys still rolled, 50-39.
No. 14 Iowa State came to Morgantown on Nov. 4, and although the WVU offense continued to sputter, the Mountaineers pulled through with a 20-16 win.
On. Nov. 11, another place WVU hasn’t won — Bill Snyder Family Stadium — was next on the schedule, at Kansas State. The offense was out of sorts again, but Grier still threw four touchdowns and
Sitting at 7-3, the Mountaineers remained in the thick of things in the
Big 12 title race.
After a Crawford touchdown was taken off the board following a review in the first quarter, Grier rolled left and dived toward the pylon, fumbled the ball into the end zone and got up with his right middle finger bent in a way it shouldn’t.
Grier left the game and did not return, and was later diagnosed with a broken hand and dislocated finger.
Chris Chugunov replaced him and has his ups and down, but the injury was too much to overcome, losing to the Longhorns,
With Grier out against No. 2 Oklahoma, there weren’t many high hopes for the Mountaineers, which ended up becoming
The WVU defense couldn’t come close to slowing Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and the Sooners’ offense, giving up 646 yards in a 59-31 romp. Gibson was despondent afterward.
To offset the loss of Grier, WVU ran a “wildcat” scheme, having a direct snap go to McKoy.
It worked to the tune of 235 yards and three touchdowns between McKoy and Crawford.