MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It’s time for film study, where we make learning fun after West Virginia clinched a Big 12 winning record by surviving Kansas State 28-23:
Grier-to-White scorches corner blitz (the sequel)
Ka’Raun White said “my eyes got big” when K-State’s Duke Shelley (8) began cheating in for the corner blitz. That left White matched up on safety Kendall Adams (21) for what became a 75-yard touchdown.
“As soon as I saw the safety I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to make this play.’ When the DB blitzed I knew it was a touchdown.”
The play should look familiar. Will Grier rifled a 76-yard touchdown to White against the same corner blitz at TCU (second clip).
David Long: Backfield menace
Here goes a three-clip sequence of David Long being his disruptive self during an 11-tackle performance.
We open with the Will linebacker detonating a QB run for a 4-yard loss. Left guard Abdul Beecham (61), fullback Winston Dimel (38) and running back Justin Silmon (32) all whiffed on their chance to block the blur.
“I’m not sure if he has a slow-twitch muscle in his entire body,” said West Virginia linebackers coach David Scott.
Second clip: Long bursts through and drops the running back in his tracks. Dalvin Warmack (3) had temporarily gone over the 100-yard mark for the first time in his 23-game career, until this negative-yardage play. He finished with 96.
Third clip: A third-and-2 keeper by Skylar Thompson featured Beecham pulling, but Long darted from the backside, too quick to be walled off by tight end Dayton Valentine (88).
“He’s so explosive and slips blocks,” Scott said.
Justin Crawford’s longest run came in the third quarter, a 19-yard draw that flourished because he bounced outside. K-State linebacker Jayd Kirby (46), who made nine tackles Saturday, was suckered in only to be victimized by Crawford’s jump-cut.
“The line hatted up pretty good, plus Crawford’s got that innate ability where you just don’t know where he’s going to be,” said offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
The running back finished with 17 carries for 113 yards, and it’s noteworthy that 57 of those yards came after closing the first half with a careless fumble. On other occasions, a turnover might have meant more carries for backups, but Kennedy McKoy ran it only once in the second half as WVU rode with Crawford.
Pick plays bring penalties
As a cornerbacks coach, Doug Belk is pre-conditioned to fuming over illegal picks that go uncalled. So imagine his astonishment at seeing K-State receivers flagged TWICE on Saturday.
In the first clip, Dalton Schoen (83) was called for blocking downfield on Mike Daniels, negating a third-down conversion.
“It’s hit-or-miss, because those are hard to gauge,” Belk said. “I didn’t know that we would get a call there.”
Neither did Gibson, who thought Schoen’s penalty was 50-50. More blatant was Isaiah Zuber’s (7) pass interference infraction in the second clip. It erased a third-and-8 completion and forced K-State to settle for a field goal in the fourth quarter.
“Pretty blatant,” Gibson said. “He just ran through him.”
Belk complimented Bailey for “being physical with his guy and not getting knocked back. He stayed firm and we got the call.”
Robinson’s fourth-quarter INT
Third-and-five in the red zone, and K-State was driving for the go-ahead score. West Virginia blitzed its front six and even brought Dravon Askew-Henry off the edge, an aggressive cover zero call that Gibson said “is in our DNA.”
Safety Kenny Robinson read Skylar Thompson’s eyes for a freshman-on-freshman heist, jumping the route in front of Byron Pringle (9)
“Pretty impressive,” Gibson said.
And it almost never happened.
Notice before the snap how Kyzir White was communicating with Robinson? White told me he was talking about switching positions for the play. His ankle, injured on an earlier collision with Xavier Pegues, was sore enough White wasn’t sure he could cover the slot receiver. Safer, he thought, to drop back to center field and let Robinson play man. Ultimately White stuck with his original assignment.
“Nah, I don’t want them switching,” Gibson said. “If they had done it and Kyzir would’ve picked it, then good for them. If they had done it and K-State had scored, both of them would’ve got their ass reamed.”
West Virginia had the play well scouted, going back to last year’s K-State game (the second clip). There was Pringle running a square-in to convert third-and-10. But that catch came against an eight-man zone drop, unlike the pressure Thompson faced.
“They had success on us last year converting, so we got the guys tuned in,” said safeties coach Matt Caponi.
As for Robinson’s future — safety or corner? — Caponi and Belk joked that they might fight over him come spring. The coordinator already has a preference.
“He’s going to stay at free safety,” Gibson said. “That’s his natural position. He can cover ground and he’s a physical kid. You put him at corner and people can avoid him. You put him at free safety and its hard to stay away from him.”
Jennings delivers on fourth-down
Facing fourth-and-3 in the waning minutes, Dana Holgorsen wasn’t willing to risk a 48-yard field goal with backup kicker Evan Staley in the rain. So the offense got its chance to clinch the win, and did so with Grier zipping a 5-yard pass to Gary Jennings.
Though Grier was putting the bow on a 376-yard passing game, West Virginia’s receivers had dropped four passes, two of which became interceptions. And slant routes had been especially
“We had too many drops, so I wanted to make it an easy catch for everybody,” Spavital said. “We decided we were going to spread it out, have the option to hit (David) Sills or Gary on that, and we’ll max-pro it up with the O-line.”
K-State blitzed six, creating man coverage, and Jennings drove nickel back Cre Moore (23) deep enough to reach the marker on a quick curl route. Jennings finished with 13 catches, none more crucial.
“We had too many drops, so it was time to execute a play with the receivers,” Spavital said. “We wanted to get to the chains and rip it on them as fast as we can.
“Gary’s such a big target and physical body that he can catch a ball and fall forward for a first down. Will had to be accurate with it, and he was.”
Twin pancakes and a missed twist
Grier chucking a 43-yard pass that Jennings swooped in to steal from White was playground insanity, and lost in the chaos were two man-sized blocks along the Mountaineers’ line.
Josh Sills planted defensive end Tanner Wood (34) at the same moment Yodney Cajuste knocked Reggie Walker (51) for a loop. Not only did K-State’s best four-man pass rush fail to reach Grier, it failed for nine seconds.
During earlier action (second clip), the same four-man rush gave WVU’s pass protection fits. Wood and Davis Clark (93) worked a twist that Josh Sills and center Matt Jones didn’t recognize in time. A case of the O-line’s young guys being exposed.