Another game that fans report took years off their lives ends in an unconvincing win for the No. 23 West Virginia Mountaineers Saturday evening in Waco.
WVU appeared to be in complete control through the first half but then disappeared in the second half; basically a role reversal from last weekend’s win over Texas Tech.
A win is a win at the end of the day, but a 38-36 scare against a winless Baylor team doesn’t grade the best.
Offense – C
West Virginia’s passing attack was extremely effective in the first half against the Bears. Will Grier connected with David Sills V (pronounced Sills, not Seals) for two touchdowns in the in the opening two quarters, and then once again early in the third.
Grier was finding his main targets Sills and Gary Jennings early and often, and White found his rhythm as the game went on. The WVU QB only issued four incomplete passes in the first half.
However, for the second game in a row, West Virginia didn’t have much of a running game, which is a bit of a red flag considering Baylor entered the game as the only team in the Big 12 worse at defending the run than the Mountaineers.
Kennedy McKoy led the Mountaineers with 55 rushing yards on just seven carries, while Justin Crawford only managed 30 yards on ten carries as he saw very limited action, especially in the second half.
Problems arose, offensively, after Grier’s touchdown pass to Ka’Raun White that gave WVU a 38-13 lead with 2:47 remaining in the third quarter. From that point on, the Mountaineers were forced to punt three times and only amassed 33 yards of offense.
West Virginia’s offense continues to be unable to put together a full game.
Defense – B-
Speaking of not being able to put together a full game, the WVU defense is much the same.
WVU kept a big-play-capable Baylor offense contained in the first half, only giving up six points on field goals. It also limited the Bears to a 1-for-8 conversion-rate on third down in the first half.
Things turned around in the third quarter, during which a change was made at quarterback for BU. Then Trestan Ebner put his imprint on the game, getting loose for three scores, the last of which brought Baylor to within two points.
West Virginia did seem to get more pressure than it has all year, collecting six sacks and 12 tackles for loss, led by Al-Rasheed Benton who had 1.5 sacks and 4.5 stops in the backfield.
But the second half lapses loom and show that potentially no lead is completely safe for the Mountaineers.
Special Teams – B+
The special teams units had one of their best days at the office Saturday.
Marcus Simms seems to be getting more comfortable as a kick return man, rattling off the longest return of the day at 45 yards in the third quarter.
Mike Molina was perfect on his six total kicks, drilling a short field goal and then being perfect on all extra-point attempts.
Punter Billy Kinney only had two of his six punts be returnable.
WVU’s kick return coverage wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful by any means.
This was a good sign after the wakeup call two weeks ago against TCU.
Linemen – A
Give it up for the big boys up front Saturday.
Offensively, the Mountaineers kept the pocket clean for most of the game for Grier, which has been a problem in previous years against the Bears.
On the defensive side, West Virginia’s front three really came to play.
Lamonte McDougle continues to play well in his freshman year, and Adam Shuler arguably had his best game of the season with four tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss.
Not only did they produce themselves, but they allowed other players like Benton, Kyzir White and David Long Jr., the ability to get into the backfield as well.
Overall – B
The Mountaineers played relatively well when you break it down, but the group-effort near collapse in the second half is still concerning.
WVU did what it was supposed to do against a winless team for about three-fourths of the contest, but that final period got a little too hairy.
West Virginia will take the win, though, especially knowing that its next opponent, Oklahoma State, also played an extremely close game against a lesser opponent on Saturday.