Heisman hopeful Grier leads WVU against young Texas Tech QB
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — West Virginia launched a Heisman Trophy campaign for Will Grier over the summer and the senior quarterback for the No. 12 Mountaineers has certainly backed it up.
So has Alan Bowman, the true freshman for No. 25 Texas Tech who got thrust into action because of injury early in the season opener. He is 3-0 as the starter and leads NCAA Division I with 389 yards passing per game under the tutelage of Red Raiders coach and former record-setting quarterback Kliff Kingsbury.
“Not surprisingly, he found himself another young quarterback that is as good as advertised from what I’ve seen,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Ever since he stepped in against Ole Miss, they’ve been playing at a very high level offensively. Kliff is doing a great job of mentoring that kid, training him, getting him ready to go, protecting him.”
After that season-opening loss, the Red Raiders (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) finished the non-conference schedule with 77 and 63 points in wins before starting Big 12 play with a convincing 41-17 victory at then-No. 15 Oklahoma State. Bowman has completed 72 percent of his passes (129 of 179) with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Holgorsen was an inside receivers coach for the Red Raiders during Kingsbury’s last three seasons as their quarterback. The two coaches were later on staff together and roommates at Houston, and now face each other as Big 12 head coaches for the sixth time Saturday. Texas Tech is trying to win in consecutive weeks over top-15 teams for the first time since 2008.
The Mountaineers (3-0, 1-0) have won the last four in the series, including a comeback 46-35 win last October. Grier threw five touchdowns, four in the final 20 minutes as WVU scored the last 29 points to overcome an 18-point deficit.
Grier has thrown 14 TDs this season while completing 71 of 95 passes (75 percent) and throwing for 372 yards per game.
“Great arm, very poised, great pocket presence,” Kingsbury said. “He’ll be one of the top guys taken this year and should be, and then he’s got a family, he’s married. He’s mature — kind of like an NFL player already. I was hoping he would have left last year, but he stuck around and is playing through the roof.”
MORE THAN PASSING FADE
Texas Tech already has 16 rushing touchdowns, fourth among FBS teams and five more than any other Big 12 team. The Red Raiders had 19 rushing TDs all last season. Ta’Zhawn Henry, a true freshman like Bowman, has six of the ground scores.
IN SYNCH WITH SILLS
David Sills V, the former quarterback now catching passes for West Virginia, is coming off his fourth career three-TD game. He has five scores this year after matching the FBS lead last year with 18 TD catches — all from Grier.
“We are able to communicate very subtly to each other,” Grier said. “It grows, it’s a living thing, this silent communication. It goes both ways and it’s something, through practice, we can almost look at each other and know what we want.”
Red Raiders senior safety Jah’Shawn Johnson, one of the team leaders, finally made his season debut last week after recovering from a shoulder injury. He spent the first three weeks of the season in the training room rehabbing, but still had an impact when on the field.
“I actually realized that my voice carries a lot of weight, so that was nice to see,” he said. “It was kind of a challenge that the coaches had put on me to speak up and be more of a vocal leader, and I took that challenge and ran with it, and the guys listened, and they stayed positive.”
RED ZONE SCORES
Both teams have had their share of long touchdowns, and they’ve also been good in the red zone. Texas Tech has scored 25 of 29 times inside the 20, with 21 touchdowns. West Virginia is 12 of 12 with nine TDs.
“I don’t have an answer other than that was an offseason emphasis and a focus after — we were disastrous there, last in the country last year,” Kingsbury said. The Red Raiders had TDs on 33 of 62 red-zone trips (53 percent) last season.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.