MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia moved so freely and seized the game so quickly, you had to remind yourself that East Carolina wasn’t this year’s FCS opponent.
After a 56-20 victory that essentially ended with a first-half TKO, let’s cue up clips from the film room and relive the carnage:
‘Unique speed’ separates Simms
With Marcus Simms freed from his DUI suspension, play-caller Jake Spavital was free to unleash his full complement of weapons upon East Carolina. (Forgive me for eye-rolling through the what-if line of postgame questioning about whether WVU’s fastest player would have turned the outcome against Virginia Tech. For one thing, it’s an unprovable premise. Plus it ignores the reality that the kid deserved to sit out one game, maybe more, for making a life-risking decision.)
But in football-only terms, Simms’ single catch Saturday was long and noisy enough to inspire chatter about how his wheels can augment offense.
“He has a unique speed,” said Spavital.
“The dude can flat-out fly,” said fellow receiver David Sills. “I think it’s going to be tough for a lot of DBs in the country to stay up with him.”
ECU corner Chris Love (35) couldn’t keep up on the 52-yard touchdown bomb in the clip above. Less noticeable was Simms’ role in setting up WVU’s first touchdown by simulating the Jet sweet (see the second clip). That fake motion drew both linebackers back toward the middle of the field, creating blocking leverage in the left flat for the swing pass to Kennedy McKoy. ECU’s Kendall Futrell (44) shifts five steps inside the numbers, making it easier for Sills to seal him.
Grier threads the needle
Will Grier’s fifth and final touchdown throw Saturday — this 4-yarder to Sills on third-and-goal — should be appreciated for its precision. Funny thing is, Sills didn’t fully appreciate it until seeing the video cutups a day later.
“That ball, I watched it on film and it didn’t even look like I caught it. It looked like the ball kind of caught me,” Sills said. “It was put in a place where I couldn’t drop it.”
Sills ran a nice inside-out route against man coverage, but safety Korrin Wiggins (15) undercut the route and cornerback Colby Gore peeled off Gary Jennings. That left Grier a narrow window, which proved to be all he needed.
Crawford pops inside runs
So infatuated are we with the souped-up passing stats that it’s easy to overlook Justin Crawford leading the Big 12 in rushing through two weeks — despite handling only 28 carries.
Two of them were featured here on identical back-to-back plays. Crawford gained 10 yards on the first carry with Gore swooping over from right cornerback to save the touchdown. After the offense required only 7 seconds to reset, Crawford ran it again, and the hole opened up wider, aided by ECU’s four-down front running a right-side stunt. Fullback Eli Wellman stood up middle linebacker Jordan Williams (7), Crawford burst through undeterred and Gore chased 41 yards in hapless pursuit.
Don’t hate the fades
They didn’t work together much this summer, yet the timing between Ka’Raun White and his quarterback seems to be evolving. From a bunched-up diamond formation, this is a pass all the way, with the ball leaving Grier’s hand as White sets up the release.
In the second clip, Grier lays out another perfect fade, made to look easy with Sills coming off the line untouched after juking the cornerback Chris Love inside. Tougher press coverage almost certainly awaits West Virginia in the coming weeks, so we’ll see if the fade — which typically has a 36 percent success rate in the college game —remains a staple.
It sure did the trick against ECU, though, as Grier completed 4-of-5 passes in the red zone.
Toyous Avery on the prowl
Considered the unknown in a safety trio that includes Dravon Askew-Henry and Kyzir White, Toyous Avery delivered two third-down breakups on passes intended for slot receiver Quay Johnson.
“They were running rub routes and trying to pick those guys all day long, but Toyous saw it and broke on it,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “He did just what we want — separated man from ball.”
In the fourth-quarter play above, see how Avery refused to be driven off the first-down line to gain, allowing him to jump the route as Johnson cut toward the sideline. That’s the sign of good scouting followed by a confident read.
Pulling guards: Twice told
In the first play that went for no gain, a communication mishap left pulling guard Kyle Bosch surprised to see cornerback Corey Seargent (5) crashing in. Preferably in that situation, right tackle Colton McKivitz alerts the line of the corner sneaking in off the edge, considering Seargent tipped his blitz early enough. (Plus the safety was split wide of the hash and the defensive end had shifted inside.) And if alerted, Bosch could’ve widened his pull track to block Seargent instead of anglig toward the line to trap the defensive end.
“That just sucks sometimes,” Bosch said. “I should’ve been able to adjust off that. As a fifth-year senior I’ve got to be able to see that stuff.”
Later in the same drive, WVU flipped the running backs formation (moving Wellman and McKoy to Grier’s right) and pulled the opposite guard Josh Sills. He nicked just enough of a blitzing linebacker to spring McKoy for a 13-yard touchdown.
Bosch goes next level
West Virginia capped a nine-play, game-opening drive with Crawford’s 5-yard touchdown. The All-Big 12 guard Bosch was key here, helping center Matt Jones double-team the defensive tackle before slipping off to make a second-level block on linebacker Ray Tillman (21).
Despite the touchdown, Bosch wasn’t thrilled with his execution, seeing as how Crawford was momentarily contacted in the hole.
“I’d like to get off the double-team a little sooner. I triggered a little bit late,” he said. “I’d like to give (Crawford) a cleaner cut, but I’m glad he could see the cut and he made the best of it.”
And West Virginia made the best of its red-zone chances, scoring five touchdowns in five trips.
Isaiah Hardy’s on-the-job training
Arriving only a couple weeks before the season opener, junior college transfer Isaiah Hardy seemed destined to redshirt. So what an unexpected occurrence to see the 6-foot-7, 340-pounder inserted at right guard during the second quarter.
“He’s not ready to play, (but) we need bodies,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He had done enough in practice to show me that he’s big and can do a couple of things. He’s a million miles away, but he’s a big body that tries hard.
“He has no idea which direction he’s going, but he’s just big and can cover people up.”
In the two plays above, we saw some good (Hardy got a decent push on a fourth-and-2 conversion) and we saw a moment of cluelessness (Hardy whiffing on a defensive tackle who Grier’s grill).
While the film revealed some obvious struggles for the massive newcomer, at least he made his debut during a blowout.
“He’s a really determined kid and he’s going to be great for us here in the future,” Bosch said. “It was good for him to get out there and make some mistakes, make some of those trivial errors so he knows where he’s at.”
Battle & Winfield beaten on 50-50 balls
The three-play sequence above features a common denominator: An ECU receiver comes down with the catch in each.
In the first clip, Jimmy Williams makes a third-and-15 catch along the WVU sideline over a twisting Elijah Battle,
“Elijah’s just got to find the ball,” said cornerbacks coach Doug Belk. “He covered him well and had good technique up until the end.”
The final two throws in the video clip came at the expense of Corey Winfield, who endured a brutal day in first meaningful action since arriving from Syracuse. Davon Grayson pulling in a 36-yarder as Winfield flailed away seemed like a lowlight, that is until Trevon Brown burned Winfield for a 95-yard score.
“We’ve got to make some instinctual plays when it comes down to winning those 50-50 balls,” Belk said.
Fake screens bite Pirates hard
With Sills and Jennings paired up wide left, West Virginia twice toasted ECU with a fake screen. Maybe the Pirates were too centered on Jennings after his massive performance vs. Virginia Tech; they certainly weren’t paying enough attention to his colleague in either of these two situations.
On the first-quarter play, Grier underthrew Sills a bit yet still gained 40 yards. The pass before half was even more open and far more comical, with safety Korrin Wiggins (15) throwing his arms up midplay as Sills streaked away.