Grier leads No. 23 West Virginia into winless Baylor (Oct 21, 2017)
WACO, Texas -- West Virginia prides itself on its running game, although it managed just 44 yards on the ground against Texas Tech last week.
Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier is turning the Mountaineers' offense into a pass-first attack. He threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns in the comeback win over the Red Raiders, and he has quality receivers to throw to, including David Sills V, whose 12 touchdown catches are three more than anybody else has nationally.
No. 23 West Virginia (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) will be looking for more when it travels to play Baylor (0-6, 0-3) on Saturday evening.
"They have great receivers, just like Oklahoma State has great receivers," Baylor coach Matt Rhule said of the Mountaineers. "They run the football and are rugged up front. This is another one that's going to take what you give them."
West Virginia running back Justin Crawford is averaging 101.5 rushing yards per game, with seven touchdowns, but it is Grier that has taken the lead role.
He has thrown for at least 300 yards in every game, having completed 151 of 230 passes (65.6 percent) for 2,092 yards, with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Baylor, meanwhile, is sinking to the bottom of the college football total defense rankings -- it stands 125th out of 129 teams, allowing 517.7 yards per game. The Bears are on a 12-game regular-season losing streak after falling to Oklahoma State by 43 points and allowing 747 yards last week.
The potential worry for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is that his team takes Baylor too lightly.
During his weekly press conference, Holgorsen pointed to the fact that the Mountaineers are seeing a Baylor program under Rhule for the first time, which might make Saturday's game difficult to navigate.
"First time in six years that this is a little more challenging week with Baylor, based on my experiences with what I have known Baylor to be and what they currently are," Holgorsen said. "There's a lot more unknowns than what there has been."
But instead of traveling to play a Baylor team that is capable of competing for a Big 12 title -- as the Mountaineers did in 2013 and 2015 (both 30-point losses) -- West Virginia will be trying win a game in which it is a heavy favorite.
That doesn't matter, Holgorsen said.
"For nine straight weeks and hopefully 10 (if the Mountaineers make the Big 12 championship game), you better play really good or you're going to get beat," Holgorsen said. "That makes it hard, I don't care if you're playing a 1-1 Tech team or an 0-3 Baylor team in conference. I don't view it any differently."
It will help that Holgorsen is able to point to Baylor's last home game.
Although Oklahoma defeated the Bears, 49-41, Baylor battled the then-No. 3 Sooners for longer than most expected. Holgorsen said Baylor should have beaten Oklahoma, which is debatable, considering the Sooners trailed for less than two minutes in the second half and had an 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
But then again, Holgorsen's team used a 29-point rally in the second half to defeat Texas Tech last week, so the Mountaineers have a fresh memory of how influential momentum can be on a team's home field.
"There's a confidence that tends to exist when stuff like that happens," Holgorsen said. "The momentum got going in the fourth quarter and I couldn't be prouder of our guys. I would hope that would carry over, and I think that's going to give us confidence going forward."
Baylor sophomore QB Zach Smith struggled against Oklahoma State as he completed just 11 of 28 passes for 127 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He was briefly replaced by freshman Charlie Brewer, who didn't fare much better.
Rhule is tasked with continually getting his team up off the mat this season.
"I said it after the game, these kids are unbelievably mentally tough," Rhule said during his Tuesday press conference. "They've been through a lot, and they continue to fight and scratch and claw, and I'm proud of those guys that go out and represent us on Saturdays. I hope our fans come out and cheer for our kids.
"And my message to our kids is simple. It hasn't worked yet on the scoreboard but there are a lot of guys playing significantly better football."