By Ryan Decker, Originally Written for West Virginia Illustrated
West Virginia’s offensive attack was primed for a big day after racking up nearly 600 yards of offense last week and playing an East Carolina (0-2) defense that was shredded in its first game of the season.
Quarterback Will Grier was close to perfect in the first half, connecting with receivers on routes short, long and intermediate in length.
With the offense clicking on all cylinders, WVU (1-1) cruised to a 56-20 victory in its home opener Saturday against the Pirates.
“Really proud of the way the guys bounced back after that disappointing loss last week,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Started fast. Obviously had that game in hand at halftime, which is rare in college football.”
West Virginia was off and running from the start, going 75 yards in just 2:16 on its opening drive. Kennedy McKoy had two lengthy plays out of the backfield, while Justin Crawford capped the drive off with a five-yard scoring run.
Crawford scored a second time later in the game, marking the first time in his WVU career of having multiple rushing touchdowns. He rushed for 118 yards on 15 carries; the seventh time he’s eclipsed the century mark in a Mountaineer uniform.
Grier was the one moving West Virginia down the field from then on, completing four of his five pass attempts on the ensuing drive, including a 38-yard strike to Gary Jennings.
Grier finished the drive connecting with Ka’Raun White on a fade route in the back corner of the end zone to give the Mountaineers a 14-3 lead early on.
The Mountaineers continued to score at ease, finding the end zone once more in the first quarter, and then four more times in the second.
Marcus Simms, playing in his first game of the season, caught his first touchdown pass, as well – a long, 52-yard toss that led him right to pay dirt.
“(Simms) can run can’t he,” asked offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “I think Marcus has a unique speed. I don’t think there’s very many kids in the country that can stretch the field vertically like he can.”
That still wasn’t the longest play of the first half.
That belonged to David Sills, who got behind every defensive back on his side of the field, hauled in the lofty pass and went 75-yards untouched to give WVU a 49-3 lead at the break.
Sills finished the day with seven catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns.
The offensive starters tallied 489 yards of offense in the first half alone and added to that in the second before being pulled with the outcome decided.
Grier finished the game 19-for-25 with 352 passing yards and five touchdowns. He tallied a quarterback rating of 260.3.
“I thought Will played well,” Spavital said. “I think he’s in a good spot, where we want as an offense. I think he’s executing and has a great understanding.”
East Carolina’s first touchdown of the day came midway through the third period on a pass from Thomas Sirk to Jimmy Williams.
Sirk was replaced later in the second half by Gardner Minshew after throwing a pair of interceptions in the game, both of which were picked off by Kyzir White.
Minshew was responsible for the other scoring pass, a 95-yard pitch and catch to Trevon Brown, going for the longest scoring play in ECU history.
Offensively, the Mountaineers were 5-for-5 when in the red zone.