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After 2nd half lull, WVU’s Grier looks to improve vs Kansas

October 1, 2018
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West Virginia's Will Grier (7) looks to pass the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Will Grier added to his Heisman Trophy campaign resume with an impressive first half against Texas Tech. The rest of the game was a bust.

Grier is looking to have a better start-to-finish at home Saturday when No. 9 West Virginia (4-0, 2-0 Big 12) takes on Kansas (2-3, 0-2).

“It’s a long season, and you have to continue to get better,” Grier said. “Those are the teams that end up winning championships and being remembered are the teams that play well in November and December. So we’ve got to continue to play better as the season goes and learn from things like that.”

Grier threw three first-half touchdown passes and the Mountaineers put up 28 first-quarter points against the Red Raiders but went scoreless on offense in the second half of Saturday’s 42-34 win.

It took a defensive gem — a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown by Keith Washington — to seal the victory after Texas Tech rallied from a 25-point deficit.

“I don’t think our energy was terrible,” Grier said. “We knew there was a crucial point to keep the energy up, keep everybody in it. But like I said, we hurt ourselves on some things, and I don’t think we were going as hard as we were in the first quarter.”

Staying consistent will help determine not only Grier’s Heisman chances, but West Virginia’s hopes of dethroning No. 7 Oklahoma, the three-time defending league champion. The Mountaineers also are trying to keep a top 10 ranking that it has for the first time since 2012.

Grier’s second-half doldrums have happened before.

Last year West Virginia went scoreless after halftime in wins over Iowa State and Kansas State. And two weeks ago the Mountaineers failed to score over the final 22 minutes of a 35-6 win over Kansas State.

At least Grier and the offense have the reassurance that the lulls haven’t cost them a win — yet.

The solution simply is to “grind it out, man,” Grier said. “That’s part of football.”

The frustrations were real against Texas Tech. David Sills V dropped a third-down pass late in the third quarter. Grier overthrew two open receivers on deep balls near the goal line, one of them on fourth down.

“I’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys the ball when they get open like that,” Grier said.

Coach Dana Holgorsen isn’t worried at all about his senior quarterback.

“We had too many drops,” Holgorsen said. “We didn’t block them very good up front. I think it’s probably just an old-fashioned relaxation situation. We relaxed because we were up 25, and they didn’t quit.”

Grier’s numbers overall have been great. Since joining the Mountaineers as a transfer from Florida last year, he’s thrown for more than 300 yards in 13 of 15 games. This year he’s thrown 17 TD passes in four games with three interceptions, has completed 72 percent of his passes and is averaging 372 yards.

He’ll have to keep earning his yards. West Virginia’s next two opponents, Kansas and Iowa State, are second and third in the league, respectively, in the fewest passing yards allowed.

Grier is “one of the better players I’ve seen at that position in a long time,” Kansas coach David Beaty said Monday. “Fun to watch. Not fun to play against.”

Grier doesn’t need any reminders of what Kansas is capable of. Last year the Jayhawks kept the game close in the fourth quarter before Grier scored twice on keepers late to salt away a 56-34 win.

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