What We've Learned: Week Nine
For everything that has gone wrong for West Virginia football over the past month, it went right Thursday night against the visiting Baylor Bears.
Behind Will Grier's 353 yards and three touchdowns, the Mountaineers' offense exercised its demons and throttled Baylor 58-14. Defensively, Tony Gibson's unit turned in its best performance of the season, tallying four turnovers, 12 tackles for loss, and five sacks.
Here's what we've learned after week nine.
Quarterback Play was Exceptional
Will Grier's troubles have been well-documented after the fifth-year senior was sacked seven times and threw for only 100 yards against Iowa State in week seven. But if his performance against Baylor was an indication of things to come, Grier's regained moxie will keep the Mountaineers in the Big 12 title race. At times (and especially against the Cyclones), Grier's inability to throw the football away resulted in stalled drives, poor stats and ultimately an embarrassing loss to a below .500 team on the road. That was not the case Thursday night. On several occasions, Grier looked for the "average" play or simply tossed the ball out of bounds and lived to play another down. That pocket presence proceeded nine scoring drives. Redshirt sophomore Jack Allison also looked sharp during his time in the fourth quarter, completing all four of his attempts and a 36-yard touchdown strike to Gary Jennings.
Tony Gibson Deserves a Raise
If you're a frequent reader of this segment, you know that I've voiced my concerns about West Virginia's defense and its lack of size. Gibson's defensive philosophy is predicated on speed and blitzing the quarterback from multiple angles. When it works, it works beautifully. And it worked without a hiccup against Baylor. What's most impressive, however, is that Gibson is without four linebackers due to knee injuries and still finds ways to create havoc in the backfield. So much havoc that Baylor starting quarterback Charlie Brewer was pulled from the game late in the second quarter after completing only one pass for 22 yards and three interceptions. Gibson is a high-value asset for West Virginia and his defense's performance on Thursday night was just another example of that.
David Sills is Still Really, Really Good
If you forgot just how good of a receiver David Sills is, he made sure to remind us just how elite he can be against the Bears. The senior pass-catcher ended his night with five catches, two touchdowns, and 139 yards. After Thursday night, Sills now has 29 career receiving touchdowns, tying Tavon Austin for second-most in school history and is only 12 away from tying Stedman Bailey's record of 41. If the Mountaineers plan on claiming its first-ever Big 12 title, the Grier to Sills connection will need to work just as it did against Baylor.