The West Virginia offense began the day a little rusty with two turnovers following a week off after a cancelled game. Safe to say that slow start was but a minor speed bump on their way to a win Saturday afternoon in Morgantown.
The No. 12 Mountaineers did just about whatever they wanted offensively to throttle Kansas State 35-6 in both teams’ Big 12 opener, showcasing the arm of Heisman candidate Will Grier and proving that Dana Holgorsen’s squad remains a dangerous threat for Oklahoma and others in the league in the process.
Grier shook off an interception just six plays into the game to throw for 356 yards and five touchdowns before the final whistle (he tossed two late picks as well when the score was well in hand). Wideout Marcus Simms had the most impressive of those five scores off an 82-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter but it was the signal-caller’s favorite target in David Sills V who was the most productive with 73 yards and three touchdowns.
If there was one area that wasn’t rolling on offense for the Mountaineers, it might have been the rushing attack. Kennedy McKoy needed only eight carries to record 57 yards but the team took until late in the fourth quarter to crack the century mark against KSU. It didn’t matter at all in the end but if there’s one area where Holgorsen and his staff will nitpick watching film on Sunday it might be the over-reliance on big passing plays and not getting consistent yardage on the ground.
Even so, that kind of productivity made the Wildcats jealous. Quarterback Skylar Thompson was a solid 11-of-17 passing for 145 yards but the offense never could find any sort of consistency despite a few short fields. Backup Alex Delton was inserted in the second half to provide a bit of a spark but failed to (59 total yards) and the team mustered only two field goal drives all game. Alex Barnes was also held in check with just 49 yards rushing.
The end result drops K-State to a disappointing 2-2 to open the season and gets Big 12 play off in a suboptimal way for Bill Snyder after an offseason spent lurking as a dark horse. The team everybody thought the Wildcats will be does not appear to be showing up between the lines so far in 2018 and a tough test awaits next Saturday against Texas to make matters worse.
As for the Mountaineers, they may find themselves in the top 10 by next week after moving to 3-0 and remain a quality team that will be in the thick of the Big 12 race this fall. They’ll hit the road to face Texas Tech next week but a 7-0 start to this year’s campaign seems increasingly likely if they keep playing like they did against Kansas State.
No. 12 West Virginia didn’t play last week after Hurricane Florence cancelled their game against N.C. State so it’s understandable that the team was a little rusty to start their game against Kansas State. Head coach Dana Holgorsen probably didn’t like that they were extra rusty to kick things off but he’ll take the 21-0 halftime lead into the break either way to open Big 12 conference play in Morgantown.
Wildcats defensive back A.J. Parker came up with an interception six plays into the game and Bill Snyder’s squad added a fumble recovery on the ensuing drive to start the game off with a bang but the team was lackluster at best on the other side of the ball in failing to capitalize on the two initial turnovers. K-State finished the first half with only 77 yards and, while quarterback Skylar Thompson was efficient in throwing for 57 yards, his team couldn’t move the ball a lick on the ground — averaging under two yards per carry and looking anemic every time they handed the ball off.
Though the scoreboard didn’t quite indicate it, West Virginia moved the ball with much more ease and bounced back quickly from those two early turnovers. They racked up 320 yards through two quarters and were 5-of-7 on third down overall. Heisman candidate Will Grier looked particularly impressive in going 19-of-25 for 258 yards and a trio of scores after that interception. The first time he found the end zone was mostly the result of Marcus Simms weaving his way 82 yards on a catch and run, while David Sills V hauled in the next two touchdowns in a bit of pitch-and-catch at the goal line between friends.
Needless to say, this has been a complete mismatch so far. The Wildcats are lucky to not be losing by a lot more the way they’re playing on both sides of the ball. The Mountaineers seem to have shaken off the early rust and could be in store for an even bigger second half if they can avoid those turnovers.
It’s still more than three months until the famed stiff-armed trophy is handed out, but it’s never too early to get a wagering slant on the most prestigious piece of hardware in college football.
With Week 1 of the 2018 season wrapped up and put to bed, Bovada.lv released its updated odds Wednesday on who will claim this year’s Heisman Trophy. Prior to the start of the new season, Stanford running back Bryce Love was the favorite at 13/2; the new favorite at 4/1, up from 15/2 late last month, is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Love’s odds, meanwhile, dipped to 12/1.
A trio of quarterbacks, on the other hand, saw their odds shorten significantly. West Virginia’s Will Grier and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins both began the season at 11/1; the former now sits at 5/1, the latter at 6/1. UCF’s McKenzie Milton made an even bigger move, going from 35/1 prior to the start of the season to 11/1 after Week 1.
The running back with the best odds is Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor at 10/1, down slightly from 17/2.
Houston’s Ed Oliver has the best odds for a player on the defensive side of the ball at 90/1, up a bit from the 100/1 at which he started the year. Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is the only other defensive player listed, and he’s at 200/1. Bosa was at 125/1 a week ago.
Milton is the only player from a Group of Five conference to be listed as Temple quarterback Frank Nutil is now off the board.
Below are the complete set of updated odds from Bovada.lv, with their numbers on Aug. 30 listed first followed by the new odds.
Tua Tagovailoa (QB Alabama) 15/2 4/1
Will Grier (QB West Virginia) 11/1 5/1
Dwayne Haskins (QB Ohio State) 11/1 6/1
Trace McSorley (QB Penn State) 12/1 9/1
Jonathan Taylor (RB Wisconsin) 17/2 10/1
McKenzie Milton (QB UCF) 35/1 11/1
Bryce Love (RB Stanford) 13/2 12/1
Kyler Murray (QB Oklahoma) 20/1 18/1
Justin Herbert (QB Oregon) 30/1 22/1
Jake Fromm (QB Georgia) 15/1 25/1
D’Andre Swift (RB Georgia) 40/1 25/1
Khalil Tate (QB Arizona) 12/1 25/1
Jarrett Stidham (QB Auburn) 25/1 30/1
Brandon Winbush (QB Notre Dame) 50/1 30/1
Drew Lock (QB Missouri) 45/1 35/1
Damien Harris (RB Alabama) 55/1 40/1
Trevor Lawrence (QB Clemson) 16/1 40/1
Jake Browning (QB Washington) 25/1 50/1
AJ Dillon (RB Boston College) 80/1 50/1
J.K. Dobbins (RB Ohio State) 40/1 50/1
Justice Hill (RB Oklahoma State) 125/1 60/1
Shea Patterson (QB Michigan) 20/1 65/1
Cam Akers (RB Florida State) 60/1 85/1
Deondre Francois (QB Florida State) 60/1 85/1
Ed Oliver (DL Houston) 100/1 90/1
Kelly Bryant (QB Clemson) 50/1 100/1
Nick Fitzgerald (QB Mississippi State) 50/1 100/1
Travis Etienne (RB Clemson) 80/1 100/1
David Sills (WR West Virginia) 225/1 100/1
Stephen Carr (RB USC) 200/1 175/1
Nick Bosa (DL Ohio State) 125/1 200/1
Sam Ehlinger (QB Texas) 35/1 200/1
Ryan Finley (QB NC State) 200/1 225/1
Frank Nutil (QB Temple) 200/1 Off the Board
The first play of the game pretty much told the story. Opening at their own 25 yard line, Tennessee called a pass for the first play of the Jeremy Pruitt era. Jarrett Guarantano accepted the ball from under center, stepped back to pass and was planted in the turf by West Virginia nose guard Kenny Bigelow, a 5-star recruit and USC transfer, forcing a fumble that the Vols recovered for a 10-yard loss — not quite the disaster it could have been, but, still, demonstrative of the difference between a team of well-traveled veterans with eyes on a Big 12 and national championship against a young team just figuring things out.
The No. 17 Mountaineers forced a three-and-out on that opening possession, got on the board with their first touch and never really felt threatened, cruising to a 40-14 win at the Belk College Kickoff in Charlotte.
After taking a 3-0 lead, West Virginia (1-0) put the first of many Will Grier touchdown passes on the board, a 59-yard strike to T.J. Simmons.
Tennessee (0-1) pulled within 10-7 midway through the second quarter thanks to a 17-play, 78-yard drive that consumed nearly nine minutes, culminating in a 1-yard toss from Guarantano to Dominick Wood-Anderson on fourth-and-goal.
West Virginia put a second Evan Staley field goal on the board to take a 13-7 lead at halftime, then stretched its legs with two more Grier touchdown passes. Tennessee added the second of its two scores at the 6:09 mark of the third quarter with a 4-yard Tim Jordan rush, but the Mountaineers put the game away for good with two more Grier scoring strikes.
The Heisman hopeful hit a Heisman-like 25-of-34 passes for 429 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions; the 429 yards were a career-high for Grier, and the handful of touchdowns tied his career high. David Sills was once again Grier’s favorite target, hauling in seven passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Gary Jennings, Jr., added six grabs for 113 yards and a score.
Guarantano finished the day connecting on 19-of-25 passes for 172 yards with a score, and Jordan led all runners with 20 carries for 118 yards and a score.
West Virginia looked like it was on track to blow out Tennessee in Jeremy Pruitt‘s first game, but the Vols hung tough and remain in the game at the Belk College Kickoff in Charlotte.
After forcing a punt to open the game, West Virginia got on the board first with a 26-yard Evan Staley field goal, then pushed the lead to 10-0 when Will Grier found T.J. Simmons for a 59-yard scoring strike.
The Mountaineers had a golden chance to push the lead to 17-0 late in the first quarter when Grier had David Sills streaking open behind the Tennessee defense, but Grier overshot him and WVU punted. Grier closed the half hitting 9-of-15 passes for 154 yards with a touchdown.
On the ensuing possession, Tennessee put together its best drive of the game, moving 78 yards in 17 plays, including a Jarrett Guarantano pass to Dominick Wood-Anderson on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to put the Vols on the board. Guarantano is 10-of-13 for 91 yards at the break.
West Virginia answered with a 35-yard field goal to push the lead to 13-7 at the break.
West Virginia receives to open the second half.