A bye week for No. 13 West Virginia coincides with saying so long to some lofty goals.
An undefeated season. A shot, for now, of reaching the College Football Playoff. And likely the Heisman Trophy aspirations of quarterback Will Grier.
The Mountaineers were thoroughly outplayed in a 30-14 loss at Iowa State last Saturday, capped by getting caught up in the middle of thousands of Cyclones fans storming the field.
West Virginia (5-1, 3-1 Big 12) now must use its final bye week to try to fix what went wrong.
“There’s plenty,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “It came down to good old-fashioned blocking and tackling.”
Next is a Thursday night home game Oct. 25 against Baylor (4-3, 2-2), followed by a brutal November schedule.
“I would say the mood right now is determination,” Holgorsen said. “They’re ready to get out there and get going.”
West Virginia still has multiple goals within reach, including a 10-win season and wrestling for a possible spot in the Big 12 championship game.
The realization now is that few teams finish unbeaten. There are only eight left in the Bowl Subdivision.
“It didn’t just happen to us last week,” Holgorsen said. “It happens every week. You’ve got to take your butt-whooping when you get it and you’ve got to use it as motivation to recalibrate, work harder and get out there and make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s where we’re currently at. I guess it was our turn.”
West Virginia ran just 42 offensive plays and was limited to 152 total yards against Iowa State. Grier went 11 of 15 for 100 yards, the first time this season he’s been held under 300. West Virginia’s wide receivers couldn’t get open and Grier was sacked seven times.
Last year Grier was able to beat Iowa State by making plays downfield when he was flushed out of the pocket.
“The defenders got to him a lot quicker than what they did last year, which made him have to make decisions quick — and then there was nobody for him to throw the ball to,” Holgorsen said. “So what do you want him to do? I’d like for him to throw the ball away and prevent 13-yard sacks.”
Grier is plodding through a mediocre stretch and could join Geno Smith in 2012 as Mountaineer quarterbacks who couldn’t sustain hot starts and garner widespread Heisman attention in December.
Two weeks ago Grier threw three interceptions in the red zone against Kansas. Before that against Texas Tech, Grier fizzled after halftime as the Mountaineers went scoreless on offense.
“He will improve, but I need o-linemen to improve,” Holgorsen said. “I need a run game to improve and I need receivers to get off coverage and get open. And that will improve as well.”
After Baylor there’s road games left at No. 7 Texas and Oklahoma State and home games against TCU and No. 9 Oklahoma. Lose again it could be just another disappointing middle-of-the-pack league finish for West Virginia.
“We need to put a better product on the field,” wide receiver David Sills said.
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