Shaky start, blistering finish for Will Grier

— By Alex Hickey

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A broken play best symbolized West Virginia quarterback Will Grier’s night against Youngstown State. And it figures to play on repeat if his season culminates in a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

The play started off as a potential disaster.

With West Virginia nursing a 28-14 third-quarter lead, the Penguins were perhaps one play away from making the Mountaineers sweat in the rain. Then a shotgun snap slipped through Grier’s fingers on a fourth-and-3 from the Youngstown State 32.

But Grier calmly picked up the ball, which he quickly chucked downfield from sidewinder release somewhere around his waist. The lollipop throw found receiver Marcus Simms for an unlikely 25-yard gain that took the wind out of Youngstown’s sails.

BOXSCORE: West Virginia 52, Youngstown State 17

Even if it ends up on his personal highlight reel, Grier gave Simms the credit for making the play happen.

“Marcus made an incredible play. The ball kind of took me that way,” Grier said. “He made an incredible catch. That’s what good teams need – players to step up and make plays on critical downs like that.”

Two plays later, Leddie Brown sealed the game with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Grier finished the game with an impressive stat line: 21-of-26 for 332 yards and four touchdowns. But much like his fumbled snap-turned-clutch throw, it didn’t initially look so pretty.

Grier was off-target on West Virginia’s first drive, nearly throwing interceptions on consecutive plays.

Mountaineers receiver William Crest had to bat away a pass from a defensive back in the end zone. But then no one could stop Youngstown’s Will Latham from making a leaping interception near the sideline.

“I hate making mistakes. But I’m not perfect; that’s part of it,” Grier said. “We settled in and made adjustments. I started taking what they gave me.”

From there, Grier never lost his groove. The senior from Charlotte, N.C., completed 19 of his last 22 throws as the Mountaineers offense rolled.

“It was more about [Will] getting through the progressions,” said Mountaineers offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “Quit having the mentality of always trying to throw the 40-to-75-yard pass play. Just hit your intermediate throws and move on to the next play.”

Grier adjusted well to Youngstown’s focus on minimizing top target David Sills V. Sills was limited to two catches for 33 yards, but Simms (eight catches, 119 yards) and Gary Jennings Jr. (six catches, 97 yards) were utilized to pick up the slack.

“That’s the quarterback’s job,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “We need to recognize what the defense is doing and trying to take away and have the wherewithal for good decision-making from the quarterback spot. Will did a good job of that.”

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