West Virginia football notebook: Will Grier toeing line between star and game manager

MORGANTOWN — Opposing defenses have not exposed many flaws in Will Grier this season, but Iowa State exploited one area where the West Virginia quarterback needs to sharpen his game.

Thanks to his play-extending ability, Grier has the habit of sometimes holding the ball longer than a quarterback is taught. The reason? A lot of the time, something breaks down in the defense, allowing him to find an even better play than the one that was drawn up.

“If somebody squirts open and I throw a 60-yard touchdown, nobody’s going to tell me to throw the ball away,” Grier said.

Aaron Rodgers is a leading practitioner of that art at the NFL level, so when it works, it’s an asset.

But as Iowa State demonstrated, it does not always work. Grier was sacked seven times by the Cyclones, and in several of those instances the loss of yardage could have been avoided if Grier had thrown the ball away.

Grier must improve at navigating “the gray area” between waiting for a big play to develop and surrendering the down.

“You’re not always going to make the right decision, [but] it’s going to fall on me either way,” Grier said. “I have to make my best judgement making plays, but also need to get rid of the ball in certain situations. I’ve got to be better moving forward.”

Everyone’s beatable… except ’Bama

With the Mountaineers off last week, many players spent their free Saturday watching football. Purdue’s 49-20 upset of No. 2 Ohio State brought uncomfortable flashbacks to WVU’s own beating at the hands of Iowa State the week before.

Grier said it showed that any team can lose on any given Saturday — “But not including Bama, apparently. Geez. They’re doing pretty well.”

The top-ranked Crimson Tide are undefeated and beating opponents by an average of 39 points per game.

Happy hunting grounds

While some of his teammates watched Purdue’s upset play out, right tackle Colton McKivitz was already in bed getting ready for a 3:30 a.m. wakeup call to go duck hunting with his dad and brother on Sunday morning.

“I got two, but the day before they shot seven. I don’t do the best,” McKivitz said of the hunt. “They definitely rub it in.”

Receiver Gary Jennings, who puts feathers in his helmet before each game, was a beneficiary of the McKivitz hunt.

“Gary got a few more feathers,” McKivitz said. “He enjoyed it.”

McKivitz also tried hunt down some potential headgear for the Mountaineer mascot, but was dissuaded.

“I found a raccoon in a tree and thought I would shoot it,” he said. “But dad sad it wasn’t big enough to make a hat out of it. He always tells me he’s more famous than me because he has his coonskin cap on and makes it on TV [during games].”

Gibson prepared to make it Raines

If defensive back Derrek Pitts (knee) is unable to play against Baylor, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is adjusting accordingly. Pitts started at Bandit safety the past two games – first in place of the injured Toyous Avery against Kansas, and then because he earned the starting role against Iowa State.

Avery will likely start against Baylor, with walk-on Dante Bonamico in the backup role. True freshman Kwantel Raines, who has yet to play this season, looms as another potential contributor. Gibson said a redshirt isn’t as important as playing Raines now if the situation dictates it.

“He’s been with us all year and has traveled to every game,” Gibson said. “We won’t save him at this point. We need to play him and get him ready to go.”

Six-day window dressing

The Big 12 won’t announce the time of West Virginia’s Nov. 3 game at Texas until Sunday, which is known in the TV business as the six-day window.

The Mountaineers and Longhorns will kick at either 3:30, 7:15 or 8 p.m. Eastern depending on which network picks up the game.

The elephant in the room is the team with an elephant as a mascot. Alabama visits LSU at 8 p.m. that night on CBS, putting FOX and ABC in the unenviable position of determining what programming should go head-to-head with that ratings juggernaut.

If the Longhorns and Mountaineers both win this weekend, it seems likely they would be selected for prime time, though the Texas Tech-Oklahoma matchup looms as another solid candidate.

Twitter @bigahickey

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