MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen is no stranger to hyperbole. But when the West Virginia coach describes Will Grier’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings with 16 seconds to go in the Mountaineers’ 42-41 win at Texas, it doesn’t actually sound like an exaggeration.
“That was without a doubt the greatest pass I’ve seen in my life,” Holgorsen said with complete conviction. “It’s a Heisman moment, is what it is.”
In the long haul, it very well may be the pitch-and-catch that helps get Grier to New York City and West Virginia to Arlington, Texas, for a couple of major December events.
“It was a good one. I’m glad I did it,” Grier said with a grin. “I haven’t really ranked them [like Dana]. I’m glad we made it work and got a win.”
There are many factors that made the play come close to not working.
“The thing is that it really wasn’t a perfect play,” Jennings said. “From the start.”
For instance, the simplest part of the play ended up being the most complicated — the mere act of snapping the ball. Grier and center Matt Jones had to wait patiently for the official to allow Jones to snap because a West Virginia substitution permitted Texas to match.
“We made a substitution and the ref was holding the ball from the center and the clock was still ticking and everyone was like ‘What’s going on?’ ” Jennings said.
The Longhorns, of course, were in no rush to get their new player onto the field.
“At the time, I thought everyone was lined up,” Grier said. “I looked back at the white hat and thought, ‘Are we going to go? Because there’s not a lot of time left.’ Then, I looked back. As soon as he left, I snapped it.”
Then there’s the Jennings factor. If not for the Big 12 schedule-makers, the senior receiver wouldn’t have even played. Jennings was injured against Baylor the previous Thursday night, and said it took every bit of the eight-day break between games to get healthy.
“It was still a pretty big challenge [even with the extra day]. It was amazing I was still able to get out there and play,” said Jennings, who didn’t want to specify where he was hurting. “I said ‘I’m going to be ready’ and I took all the necessary precautions and treatments to get to that point.”
Jennings looked plenty healthy as he blew past Texas nickel Josh Thompson and safety Caden Sterns.
“I’m pretty sure he knew his job was to not let anyone behind him, but I think I was a pretty determined player and I just hauled to the end zone,” Jennings said.
But Grier still had to get the ball to him, which the quarterback did with an awkward crow-hop that forced him to throw from his back foot.
“He didn’t have time because Gary was running out of room,” Holgorsen said of Grier’s awkward delivery. “You can tell they’ve done that before.”
Grier’s throw couldn’t have been placed more beautifully. But with real estate running low, Jennings had to make sure he was inbounds as he secured the catch.
Had this been an NFL game, the work of art would have been called incomplete since Jennings only got one foot down in the end zone. But being college, Jennings knew exactly what he needed to do.
“I knew I could have gotten two down if I had to,” Jennings said. “But it was a matter of securing the catch and getting that one down.”
From there, it was a leap into program history as the Mountaineers went for 2 and secured a stunning win.
Jennings said he’s watched the replay and FOX play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson’s thrilling reaction multiple times. And he’s glad he did.
“I blanked out for the last part of that game, honestly,” Jennings said. “I don’t remember much unless I see it.”