Notes and Observations From West Virginia's Senior Day Victory Over Baylor
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Despite a lackluster offensive performance, West Virginia was able to stay focused and grind out a 24-21 win over Baylor.
The four turnovers West Virginia's defense forced tonight was the main reason the Mountaineers were able to pull out tonight's three point win. Although there were some defensive lapses, tonight was a very impressive performance by Tony Gibson's unit.
West Virginia's running backs looked the healthiest they have looked in months. All four backs touched the ball and specifically Justin Crawford and Martell Pettaway impressed with their hard running.
The West Virginia offense was completely flat for the majority of the first half. With a combination of senior night and an opponent who had lost five straight its not the most shocking thing in the world, but it's still disappointing.
Skyler Howard struggled throughout the night and finished 10-26 for 111 yards with 2 TDs passing. It looked at times as if the Mountaineers were afraid to throw the ball down the field and went conservative on a handful of third down calls, but somehow West Virginia found a way to win. Despite not having his best day at the office, Howard was able to buckle down and do enough to lead the West Virginia offense down the field in the second half. The senior night win embodies he grit that the Mountaineer quarterback has showed during his time in Morgantown.
It might be the most obvious statement you have ever read, but Gary Jennings' 58 yard TD reception in the third quarter was absolutely huge. It was the turning point in the game and on the play Jennings broke free on a slant and picked up most of those 58 yards after the catch. The play speaks volumes about the depth of the Mountaineers' receiver unit.
Daikiel Shorts' touchdown catch late in the second quarter was also huge and it seemed fitting that the receiver came down with a tough catch in a huge moment on his senior night.
West Virginia's special teams had another very subpar performance. The Mountaineers had a pair of holding penalties on returns (one of which negated a touchdown) and Mike Molina went 1-of-3 on field goals. Molina made a 50 yarder but missed from 46 and 34. The Mountaineers also initially failed to recover an onside kick but were bailed out by a penalty on Baylor.
The only criticism that can be dulled out on the defense is some sloppy tackling. The Mountaineers did miss some tackles that were very costly and extended Baylor drives.
You can't say enough about the play of Marvin Gross looked, who great in place of the injured Kyzir White. Gross didn't show much drop off at the spur position as he registered an interception on the game's second play and also got a couple of sacks. The play that most sticks out of course is the forced fumble that enabled the Mountaineers to take a 24-14 lead a few plays later in the third quarter.
Although his stat line won't show it, Zach Smith looked very good for a true freshman quarterback going against an unconventional defense. The young signal caller took some shots but never got rattled and delivered some nice balls.
One statistical item to note - Justin Crawford's 209 rushing yards makes him just the third running back in school history to rush for 200 yards twice in a season.