MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There’s a breathlessness to Will Grier’s game, fully appreciable even after six quarters of action.
The deep chucks, the sidearm flips and all targets in between. If it exists on a route tree, he can peg it. Yes, West Virginia has itself a bona-fide, game-shaping quarterback. The staff realized this last season. Now our own eyes have confirmed it.
Opposing coach Scottie Montgomery didn’t want to believe his eyes on Saturday. “Unbelievable throws” was his feedback after Grier waved a lightsaber through East Carolina’s defense.
Those 352 yards accumulated on just 25 passes, a ludicrous 14 yards per attempt. Grier struck for a wad of them on a play early in the second quarter. Retreating to his own 40-yard line, he long-tossed a post route that fell into Marcus Simms’ hands at the goal line.
“One of the prettier plays you’ll ever see in college football, with a kid running that fast and Will throwing it that far,” said Mountaineers offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
While Spav calls plays, he openly grants his quarterback flexibility, because there’s a cleverness to Grier’s game. Virginia Tech’s rugged defense struggled to contain it. East Carolina’s bunch was downright helpless.
“He was signaling all over the field,” said ECU’s Montgomery. “Signaling both sides of the field. So everything we did to try and get him off balance, he was quick enough (to counter) … and then recalling it without having to go to the sideline.”
Grier has sparkled through two games: One interception born of fourth-down desperation versus eight touchdowns and 50-of-78 passes completed, with four others dropped.
The pre-snap checks at which Grier excels, those are surefire signs of preparedness, football I.Q, a leader in control. And when the situation turns uncontrollable, you see his other side, when he cannonballs into the chaos.
There was nothing tidy about the play that unfolded in the second quarter, and nothing conventional about Grier’s response. Leading 35-3 after beginning the game with five successive touchdown drives, West Virginia sought a sixth when an off-line shotgun snap sent the ball to the turf. As Grier scooped it up, a 283-pound defensive tackle came pouring in creating a duck-and-cover scenario.
Instead, Grier backpedaled to buy himself space and heaved a pass 30 yards toward the left pylon … right over a cornerback’s arms and straight into Simms’. Flat-backed on the turf, Grier raised his arms to gesture touchdown. That the receiver’s foot landed out of bounds and the ball caromed loose didn’t detract from the sheer lunacy of Grier actually getting it there in the first place.
“A lot of people can throw a ball, but they can’t make the plays when everything doesn’t work out the right way,” said WVU receiver David Sills. “Will’s much more than just a quarterback — he’s a straight-out football player.”
Therein brings a recklessness to Will Grier’s game.
One scramble ended with Grier’s left leg twisted and a defender tugging on his facemark. Off the sideline sprang coach Dana Holgorsen with a reminder that Week 2 blowouts are no time for heroics. (“I told him if he got hit again I was gonna bench him.”)
So goes the challenge of preserving a bona-fide quarterback, especially one who’s equal parts football player.