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Fade routes successful for WVU

September 25, 2018

MORGANTOWN — More often than not, fade passes thrown at the goal line are not going to work.

Sure, they do come through on occasion, but when a team in on the cusp of the end zone and the quarterback lofts the ball to a corner in hopes a receiver can get on the other end of the pass, it works far less often than it doesn’t.

Don’t tell that to West Virginia University head coach Dana Holgorsen, however. Not as long as he has Will Grier throwing the ball and David Sills catching it.

“Fade routes on the goal line are low percentage in general,” Holgorsen said. “But when you have those guys? It’s pretty high percentage, so we’ll keep rolling with it.”

Grier threw three touchdown passes to Sills in Saturday’s 35-6 win against visiting Kansas State — all from the 1-yard line. The first and the third touchdowns came on slant patterns. The second one, however, was a fade to the back corner of the end zone. Grier put the ball where it needed to be and Sills went up and got it.

“That’s the two options (fade and slant) that we have,” Sills said. “It’s something that we’ve been really successful with. Me and Will almost have like a separate communication out there.”

So how do you defend a quarterback and receiver duo on the goal line when they’re making the hard plays look easy?

“You’ve got to put more people out there, and when they put more people out there we run the ball,” Holgorsen said. “Their philosophy on defense, they put five D-linemen in there and the put everybody in the box. We had packages with two tight ends and a fullback. We had a package where we didn’t even have a receiver out there, but that doesn’t make any sense when we have David Sills. He’s really hard to cover in the red zone, so you’ve got to put more people out there, which is going to open up the run game.”

TURNOVER TROUBLE?: For the second consecutive game, Grier threw an early interception in the first quarter. He threw another in the third quarter, and coupled with a Leddie Brown fumble and a Jack Allison interception, WVU turned the ball over four times Saturday against K-State. The Wildcats gave the ball away just once, a fumble forced by Dylan Tonkery and recovered by Reese Donahue.

LOVE FOR THE LBS: Linebacker David Long led a strong effort from the WVU linebackers on Saturday with nine tackles and two sacks, but Tonkery and JoVanni Stewart made their presences known against K-State as well.

Tonkery finished the game with five total tackles (four solo, one assisted) and was in on one of the Mountaineers’ most important defensive plays of the game.

With WVU leading 7-0 in the second quarter, K-State was facing a fourth-and-1 situation at its own 43-yard line. The Wildcats, after some deliberation at the line of scrimmage, decided to try an option pitch to get the yard. Tonkery was already in the backfield and blew up the play for a loss of 4 yards and a turnover on downs.

Two weeks ago against Youngstown State, the former Bridgeport High standout did not register a tackle despite starting.

″(Tonkery) plays hard,” WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “He’s got West Virginia running all through him and he’s proud to be here and he plays that way.”

Stewart, a converted safety making his second start as a linebacker for the Mountaineers, finished the game with five tackles and never seemed to be too far from the action when K-State had the ball.

“I thought JoVanni Stewart was all over the place,” Gibson said. “Boy, is he tough. He takes a beating in there inside the box but he bounces up. He’s disruptive. He’s a good blitzer. It was good.”

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