WVU Beats Texas Tech Behind Will Grier's Heisman-Worthy Performance

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2018

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 01:  Will Grier #7 of the West Virginia Mountaineers drops back to pass against the Tennessee Volunteers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The No. 12 West Virginia Mountaineers continued their early-season success Saturday with a 42-34 win over the No. 25 Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

Texas Tech nearly erased a 25-point halftime deficit with 17 unanswered points in the second half, but a pick-six thrown by quarterback Jett Duffey late in the fourth quarter ended the comeback attempt.

Senior quarterback Will Grier carved up Texas Tech, going 27-of-41 for 370 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Mountaineers defense also turned in an impressive performance, holding freshman Alan Bowman to 123 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 9-of-20 passing in the first half.

Bowman exited the game late in the opening half with what appeared to be a rib or side injury, according to Max Olson of The Athletic. He did not return.

Bowman was replaced by Duffey, who was intercepted twice despite making some highlight-reel plays and nearly helping the Red Raiders come from behind.

Entering Saturday's contest, Bowman had thrown for over 1,000 yards combined in Texas Tech's previous two games to go along with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.

West Virginia improved to 4-0 on the season and 2-0 in conference play, while Texas Tech is now 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big 12.


Grier Continues to Prove He's Top Heisman Contender

Grier entered the 2018 season with some Heisman hype surrounding him, but after picking apart the Red Raiders, there is little doubt he deserves to be in the conversation with the likes of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

One week after the Texas Tech defense surprisingly held Oklahoma State's high-octane offense in check, Grier had no issue moving the ball up and down the field.

It was clear on the first drive of the game that Grier was in for a big day when he hit wide receiver Gary Jennings Jr. for a 13-yard touchdown:

Grier's second touchdown strike came late in the first quarter when he connected with junior wideout Marcus Simms from 45 yards out on a perfectly placed deep ball:

After Grier's beautiful pass, Doug Farrar of USA Today posted a fitting tweet:

Doug Farrar @NFL_DougFarrar

Will Grier right now https://t.co/pgirIBf5gL

Despite the fact that West Virginia was in firm control of the game, Grier wasn't done pouring it on in the first half.

With just over a minute remaining in the second quarter, Grier threw a jump ball to Jennings in the end zone, and he came down with it for his second touchdown of the game:

Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic was highly impressed with the touch Grier displayed on his passes in the first half:

Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuerbach

I could watch Will Grier throw the ball all day. Beautiful.

While the West Virginia offense slowed down in the second half and needed a defensive score to secure the win, the Mountaineers built a big lead in the first half to allow themselves some margin for error.

Some may make the argument that Grier's production is the result of a wide-open offense tailored to the passing game more so than Tagovailoa at Alabama or Haskins at Ohio State, but that doesn't take away from what he has been able to do so far this season.

If the Mountaineers continue to win and push Oklahoma for the Big 12 title, then there is no reason why Grier shouldn't be among the Heisman finalists at the conclusion of the campaign.


Bowman Still Texas Tech's Best Option at QB Despite Duffey's Flashes

After Bowman exited the game due to injury, the highly touted Duffey took over for Texas Tech.

In a losing effort, Duffey did some good things, going 16-of-27 for 172 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions and rushing for 86 yards and one score.

The sophomore signal-caller was rated the No. 14 dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class by 247Sports, and there were questions as to whether he would be Texas Tech's starter in 2018.

Duffey was beaten out by McLane Carter, though, and after Carter went down with an ankle injury earlier this season, he was surpassed on the depth chart by Bowman as well.

It initially looked as though Duffey was in for a long day after replacing Bowman late in the first half. A highly questionable decision resulted in an interception on his first drive, per Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:

Don Williams @AJ_DonWilliams

Jett Duffey's Tech experience summed up in four plays: Two quick passes completed, keeps for 6, has a little mojo going, then throws into triple coverage for an interception. Give him credit, though, for making a solid form tackle on the guy who picked him off.

Following that rocky start, Duffey improved significantly in the second half, starting with a two-yard touchdown pass to De'Quan Bowman late in the third quarter:

That marked the first touchdown pass of Duffey's career.

His signature play came early in the fourth quarter on a 4th-and-9 inside West Virginia territory.

With the Red Raiders trailing by 18, they desperately needed to come away with some points on the drive in order to stay in the game.

Duffey appeared dead to rights on the sidelines, but he slipped past two defenders and ran 27 yards for a first down to set up a field goal:

He followed that up with a three-yard touchdown run on Texas Tech's next drive to move the Red Raiders to within eight points:

After Texas Tech stopped West Virginia once again, the ball was in Duffey's hands with a chance to drive for the tying score.

A poor throw was intercepted by junior cornerback Keith Washington, however, and he returned it 51 yards for a touchdown to end the Texas Tech comeback attempt:

While Duffey undoubtedly adds a different dimension to the Texas Tech offense, Bowman runs the base offense more effectively due to his precision passing.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury's system largely relies on timing and rhythm in the passing game, and Bowman showed in recent weeks that he excels in those areas.

Duffey is better when it comes to ad-libbing and making something out of nothing, but Texas Tech's best chance for success moving forward will be with Bowman under center provided he doesn't miss significant time due to injury.


West Virginia is Oklahoma's Biggest Threat in Big 12

West Virginia showed some deficiencies in allowing Texas Tech to come back and make a game of it in the second half, but the Mountaineers did enough to prove their worth as a threat to Oklahoma in the Big 12.

Although the defense struggled a bit with the dual-threat ability of Duffey and the offense lost its rhythm in the second half, West Virginia is a well-rounded team beyond just Grier.

WVU arguably boasts the best receiving corps in the nation with Jennings and David Sills V leading the way.

Simms is often overlooked, but he showed the depth West Virginia has at receiver by reeling in nine receptions for 138 yards and a score Saturday.

The Mountaineers also have an underrated running game spearheaded by junior Kennedy McKoy, who finished with 77 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

That included a 38-yard touchdown run by McKoy at the end of the first quarter:

Per Olson, West Virginia's offense has been great this season when it comes to jumping on the opposition early and building a lead:

Max Olson @max_olson

Will Grier and @WVUfootball are outscoring teams 90-24 in the 1st half and outgaining them 1,202-481 this season.

West Virginia's defense was nowhere near as good in the second half as it was in the first, but that can be attributed to the sudden change at quarterback.

Bowman and Duffey are very different players, which likely contributed to the downturn in play.

Even so, the Mountaineers intercepted Texas Tech three times, and they let up a grand total of just 37 points in their first three games of the season combined.

The second half wasn't pretty Saturday, but beating a quality team like Texas Tech on the road is impressive nonetheless, and it suggests both the Mountaineers and Sooners could be undefeated when they meet in the final game of the regular season on Nov. 23 in Morgantown.

If that is the case, then the game may determine who represents the Big 12 in the College Football Playoff.


What's Next?

The Mountaineers will be heavily favored to remain undefeated next week when they host the Kansas Jayhawks in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech will be on a bye before coming back for a difficult road clash against the TCU Horned Frogs on Oct. 11.


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