Football, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Greene supplied the spark WVU has been missing

MORGANTOWN — For weeks, WVU coach Neal Brown has talked about wanting to use backup quarterback Garrett Greene on offense more.

Greene showed exactly why Saturday, coming off the bench to lead four scoring drives in a gritty win over Oklahoma.

Brown had thus far been unwilling to have Greene take any time away from starter JT Daniels, opting instead for novelty snaps at wide receiver and running back. We got a glimpse of what Greene can do during the final drive against Iowa State last week and it looked good. 

That performance may have opened the door a tad for Greene to see more time under center and on Saturday, Greene kicked that door wide open against the Sooners.

“We have him some more snaps during the week because I thought he played pretty well last week,” Brown said. “We knew the only way we were going to win the game was controlling the clock and running the football.”

Greene supplied a much-needed spark to an offense that had been lifeless over its last six quarters of play. After getting one drive at the end of the first quarter, Greene was put back in to run a two-minute drill just before halftime against the Sooners.

Three plays later, the Mountaineers found themselves in the endzone for the first time in the game and Greene had more than made his case to play in the second half.

“He always has energy and I thought the drive before the half he made a couple of plays on that,” Brown said. “He still made some mistakes but I’m happy for him. He’s waited his time, hasn’t complained and he went in there and did a nice job.”

“I really didn’t even know I was going out for the second half until right before they were going to kick the ball off,” Greene said. “I thought they were going to roll with JT, but thankfully they picked me to lead the guys out there and we got the job done.”

In the postgame press conference, Greene claimed he did not play great, but it’s hard to agree after what we witnessed Saturday.

Greene added a new dimension to WVU’s offense, rushing for 119 yards and a pair of scores while throwing for 138 yards and another touchdown. He also injected some energy, multiple times wearing his heart on his sleeve celebrating big plays or important moments.

“I think sometimes to play my best, it has to look a little gritty,” Greene said. “That wasn’t a perfect football game and I left a ton of plays out there, but my dad always says good things happen to those that work hard.”

It was a much different look from the offense that mustered just 11 first downs against Iowa State or even the one that put up zero points in the first 29 minutes Saturday. And it came from a guy who really has not played very much football in his career.

“My thought process is always to just stay ready so I don’t have to get ready,” Greene said. “Nothing changed throughout the week…but I’ve just stayed ready, stayed prepared and stayed locked in. I didn’t play all too great today, but they did a great job of helping me out today.”

In the second half, Greene led a go-ahead touchdown drive, a game-tying touchdown drive and the game-winning field goal drive that used up all of the remaining six-and-a-half minutes left on the clock. WVU converted two third downs and a fourth down on that final drive to set up Casey Legg’s 25-yard game-winner.

“I think I would have more nerves if I had less confidence in my guys, but I have the utmost confidence with everybody that was on the field with me,” Greene said. “I was fully confident going into that drive.”

Brown said poor play for the second game in a row from Daniels — who completed 7-of-12 passes for 65 yards with an interception — did not factor into the decision to go to Greene.

“It was more about just needing someone that can help us in the run game than anything (Daniels) did negatively,” Brown said.

He was also non-committal about what the Mountaineers would do next week against Kansas State.

“I’m probably going to make that (decision) sometime this week,” Brown said. “We’re not going to make that today.”

After Saturday’s performance, it would be hard to imagine Greene going back to the bench. He looked like a capable quarterback on the field and talked like one off of it, giving praise to his teammates whenever possible and accepting blame for anything that went wrong.

He sounded like a seasoned veteran when asked if he expected there to be any changes prior to next week.

“I think that’s just up to the coaches,” Greene said. “I just do what they tell me to do. We’re going to enjoy this until (Sunday) and then we’re going to get ready for Kansas State. I really don’t know what’s going to happen next week.”

At the end of the day, Greene proved Brown right, both about the spark he brings to the team and the need for him to get on the field more, and WVU was rewarded with its first Big 12 win against Oklahoma. Brown clearly made the right call in going to Greene when he did against the Sooners.

Going back to Daniels, who has the pedigree and polish Greene lacks, would be a difficult decision to defend when the Wildcats come to town next week, but Greene’s play Saturday may have made that at moot point, regardless of what Brown’s willing to announce publicly.

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