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No. 12 West Virginia holds off second-half rally by No. 25 Texas Tech

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It was a tale of two halves between No. 12 West Virginia (4-0, 2-0 Big 12) and No. 25 Texas Tech (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) in Lubbock, but at the end of the game, it was West Virginia heading home with a victory after going flat in the second half on offense. Will Grier passed for 370 yards and three touchdowns as West Virginia beat Texas Tech 42-34 Saturday afternoon.

West Virginia led Texas Tech 35-10 at halftime, but the Red Raiders turned things up a few notches in the second half. West Virginia punted three times and missed a field goal on their first four possessions of the second half. Jett Duffey helped lead a comeback effort for Texas Tech in place of the injured Alan Bowman, but a play action pass was picked off late in the fourth quarter and returned by Keith Washington for a much-needed and seemingly elusive dagger for the Mountaineers.

The win not only keeps West Virginia undefeated this season but continues to keep them in a good spot atop the Big 12 standings moving forward. And despite a slow second half, Grier will have a solid box score to add to his Heisman Trophy campaign. He certainly was in a groove with receiver Marcus Simms. Simms caught nine passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.

Texas Tech lost quarterback Bowman to an injury in the first half. His status moving forward is unknown at this time. The Red Raiders are now very thin at quarterback as they look to move on from this home loss.

Next up for West Virginia is a home Big 12 game against Kansas. The Mountaineers appear to be in a favorable position to get to November in the Big 12 driver’s seat, if not just on the College Football Playoff bubble. But if a challenging November schedule is going to mean anything for West Virginia, it still must put away Kansas, Iowa State, and Baylor.

Texas Tech will look to rebound in two weeks with a Thursday night road game against TCU in two weeks. Texas Tech is off next week.

Will Grier and West Virginia lighting up Texas Tech

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Will Grier and the No. 12 West Virginia Mountaineers came ready for a track meet at No. 25 Texas Tech. Perhaps Texas Tech was still waking up at the time the game started because the visiting Mountaineers got off to a fast start and took a 21-0 lead before Texas Tech got on the board. At halftime in Lubbock, West Virginia leads Texas Tech by a score of 35-10 in a Big 12 matchup of ranked opponents.

Grier capped the game’s opening drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Gary Jennings Jr. After Alan Bowman was intercepted on Texas Tech’s first offensive series by Kenny Robinson Jr., Leddie Brown scored a short touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. The lead was extended to 21-0 on a Grier 45-yard pass to Marcus Simms later in the first quarter. Sims has been the big playmaker of the game, with nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.

Bowman got the Red Raiders on the board with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Antoine Wesley, but the Mountaineers responded on the ensuing possession with a 38-yard touchdown run by Kennedy McKoy.

After one half, Grier has won the quarterback showdown with Bowman by passing for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Bowman has had a rough afternoon, completing 9 of 20 passes for 123 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He was also knocked out of the game in the first half, going to the locker room before halftime. It is being reported he will not return to the game.

Will Grier, David Sills V team up to help No. 12 West Virginia throttle Kansas State

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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 Sillswho 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.

After rusty start, No. 12 West Virginia gets going to take halftime lead against Kansas State

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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 Sillshauled 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.

Utah snacks on anemic West Virginia in Heart of Dallas Bowl

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It was hard to decide what was uglier at Tuesday’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: the drizzly, gray weather with temperatures in the high 30’s, or West Virginia’s performance. In the end, it was probably the latter. Playing without starting quarterback Will Grier and starting running back Justin Crawford, West Virginia was non-competitive as Utah cruised to a 30-14 win.

Utah (7-6) opened the game by forcing a three-and-out, then scoring on a 58-yard Zack Moss burst up the middle to provide what turned out to be the winning margin. After West Virginia notched a short field goal to pull within 7-3 early in the second quarter, the Utes burst the game open for good when Marcus Simms muffed a Mitch Wishnowsky punt, which the Utes’ Cody Barton hopped on at the WVU 13-yard line. Quarterback Tyler Huntley rushed in a 2-yard score three plays later to put the game effectively out of reach at 14-3 with 5:46 left in the second quarter.

A Utah special teams mistake briefly afforded West Virginia (7-6) a window to jump back in the game. With the score at 17-3 midway through the third quarter, Wishnowsky could not handle a punt snap, which West Virginia’s Shane Commodore recovered at the Utah 9-yard line. However, an anemic West Virginia offense could not gain a yard on its next three plays, forcing a second Evan Staley field goal and ending any hope of a Mountaineer comeback.

One early fourth quarter exchange epitomized the state of play in this day-after-Christmas bowl game pitting two teams that came in a combined 13-11 and playing before a mostly-empty Cotton Bowl. Leading 17-6 with the ball at the WVU 32, Utah elected to go for a 4th-and-3 as the fourth quarter opened. Those plans were thwarted when wide receiver Darren Carrington II flinched, forcing Utah to punt on a 4th-and-8 from the WVU 37. However, West Virginia immediately gave that break back by jumping offside on the punt snap. Utah sent its offense back on the field and saw Carrington atone for his mistake by taking a short pass from Huntley and turning it into a touchdown. But that score was called back thanks to another flag, as Ute wideout Raelon Singleton was caught holding after the catch. Huntley eventually notched his second 2-yard touchdown rush of the day four plays later.

Clint Chugunov made his second start of the season at quarterback for West Virginia and was, well, not good. He didn’t get much help from the rest of the offense and he did gut it out through a right leg injury, but the numbers are the numbers, and he hit 9-of-28 passes — including zero second half completions until just before the 2-minute mark of the fourth quarter — for 129 yards with one garbage time touchdown and two interceptions. Chugunov missed a wide-open Simms with a chance to pull WVU within 17-10 in the third quarter, his first interception hit Utah’s Julian Blackmon directly in the chest with 8:18 left in the fourth quarter, and his second pick, also to Blackmon, ended any hope of a miracle comeback after West Virginia recovered an onside kick with 1:50 remaining and trailing 30-14. 

It wasn’t just Chugunov, though. West Virginia rushed for 29 yards, gained 153 yards of total offense, achieved six first downs, converted 2-of-14 third down tries and turned the ball over four times.

Utah improved to 11-1 in bowl games under head coach Kyle Whittingham. Huntley led the Utes by hitting 12-of-26 passes for 165 yards while rushing 25 times for 57 yards and two touchdowns, and Moss added 150 yards and a score on 20 carries.