MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Dana Holgorsen vowed his team would “play our ass off,” and it prompted a blast-off.
Forty-one points on 40 plays in the first half!
(What a cure for Ames-nesia. Remember that West Virginia ran 42 plays total in its last game.)
Will Grier has risen!
(The sullen quarterback of 12 days ago re-emerged Thursday night flying airplane arms on touchdown celebrations. And those touchdowns, man, did they ever come in rapid succession. A 53-yard bomb to Gary Jennings on the third snap of the game. Then came a 65-yarder to David Sills. And another to Sills from 25 yards out. Grier even tucked one in himself.)
Martell Pettaway shows the breakaway!
(We had begun to doubt the attachment of that “explosive” adjective to his name, until he burst through a hole and rendered a Baylor safety catatonic. His 33-yard touchdown fired up a sideline that had seen Pettaway tripped up by second-level defenders too often. Not this time, though. Right tackle Colton McKivitz promised Pettaway the hole would be there, and the pulling 6-foot-7 lineman made it so.)
Seven straight drives inside Baylor’s 30!
(The points and highlights came so effortlessly that the crowd playfully booed Holgorsen’s fourth-quarter decision to punt on fourth-and-1 from his own 35.)
Tevin making like Tavon!
(As in Bush making like Austin on a fly sweep that scorched Baylor for 79 yards. Tavon happened to be cheering from the sideline. A quick-twitch good luck charm. “Tavon’s got some great energy, and the guys were fired up to see him,” said offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “He brought back some memories.”)
Just as this 58-14 beatdown erased some memories of that previous game. It was a performance so alarmingly putrid that West Virginia resorted to the dreaded players-only meeting. That’s typically the desperation move of teams in freefall, not top-15 clubs coming off a single loss.
But these guys — serious about competing for the Big 12 title — realized a second defeat would smash all their ambition. So meet they did, with the core of nine older players (names like Sills, Grier, David Long, etc.) making sure that the Iowa State debacle remained quarantined.
“We didn’t want it to have a trickle-down effect,” Long said.
For all the fix-it determination and take-charge bravado, the players also stressed enjoying the ride. Ignore the pressure to produce and breathe in the moment.
“We go out there and play this game every day, and we say that we love it so much,” Sills said. “So let’s really have fun with it.”
The fun came in buckets, reminiscent of that ridiculous 2012 game where West Virginia scored 70 on Baylor. The Mountaineers could’ve revisited 70, but Evan Staley’s right foot needed a quarter to get calibrated and Sills needed stickier fingertips on a 38-yard pass that slipped away at the goal line.
Then again, West Virginia will take the 139 yards and two scores that didn’t elude Sills. When he outjumped a perfectly positioned defensive back for a 42-yard pickup along the visiting sideline, Baylor coach Matt Rhule swallowed the futility.
“That’s a grown-man receiver making a play,” he said.
And it was a grown-up team resurrecting itself in preparation for the homestretch. Playing their butts off as their coach predicted, they dealt Baylor its worst spanking since 2007. Back on track offensively, the Mountaineers will hit Texas full-on next week.
“We’re super-thrilled about the win,” Sills said, “but definitely the way that we won made it great.”