MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After one of its most abysmal offensive performances in the last quarter-century, the West Virginia football team wanted to show that was a fluke more than a gruesome reality heading into Thursday night’s game against Baylor.
With 568 yards on just 64 plays, the No. 13 Mountaineers squashed those criticisms and Baylor in a 58-14 romp.
After mustering only 152 yards and one touchdown against Iowa State on Oct. 13, West Virginia needed three plays against the Bears to strike. Will Grier hit Gary Jennings on a post route for a 53-yard score.
It wasn’t a flawless effort, especially early when the offense sputtered deep in Baylor’s territory and suffered two missed field goals. Even on the next two possessions, when Evan Staley’s field goals were true, it wasn’t the result West Virginia wanted.
Yet the attitude never wavered and the results poured out.
“There was a lot of optimism,” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “It was, ‘Hey, let’s keep battling and let’s keep fighting and we’re gonna make it work.’ The message all week was to make sure that we were having fun, because at times, it looks like all we were trying to do was score every single time and we weren’t. I think that was kind of a snowball effect.
“They overcame adversity, stuck together and kept it exciting for everyone.”
The offensive exploded for the remainder of the first half. Grier hit David Sills for back-to-back touchdowns of 25 and 65 yards, followed by two drives that ended in an explosive touchdown run for Martell Pettaway (33 yards) and a gritty 1-yard score by Grier.
In the first half, WVU had a 41-0 lead based upon 435 yards, including 302 yards through the air.
Baylor coach Matt Rhule was blindsided by the blowout, considering his team almost knocked off Texas previously.
“Everyone in that room is disappointed. We didn’t see it coming,” he said.
The third quarter was more of the same. Staley kicked a field goal after Baylor fumbled the second-half kickoff, and Grier engineered another touchdown drive, topped off by Leddie Brown’s 1-yard run.
Backup quarterback Jack Allison joined the fun, throwing his first collegiate touchdown pass on a 36-yarder to Jennings.
“We’re getting back to that team that you guys saw at the beginning of this year and I thought they went out there and had some fun,” Spavital said. “I thought we were explosive at times.”
Diversity reigned as 14 players had a catch or carry.
Alec Sinkfield, appearing for the first time since injuring his ankle Sept. 8 against Youngstown State, gained 31 on a screen. Pettaway ripped off that career-long touchdown. Kennedy McKoy had a 26-yarder erased by a holding infraction behind the play. Tevin Bush rolled 79 yards on a fly sweep and took a volley-pass for 13.
Sills paced the receivers with five catches for 139 yards and two scores. Jennings caught three passes for 100 yards and two TDs. However, West Virginia lost Marcus Simms after the diving for a punt in the second quarter and absorbing a defender’s knee to the lower back.
Sills believed all week that the woes against Iowa State would be put to bed, and this was the effort he knew his guys could put together, especially heading into a showdown with No. 6 Texas next week in Austin.
“I think a lot of people after the last game were doubting us and we wanted to show what we know we can be,” he said. “I think it we showed how dominant we can be.”