Call it rust or hometown nerves, but a 65 minute weather delay was just what West Virginia quarterback Will Grier needed to shake them off after looking a bit out of sync in the first half of the 2018 Belk College Kickoff. The Mountaineer Heisman hopeful set the record for most touchdowns and passing yards against a Tennessee team, finishing the evening with 429 yards passing and 5 touchdowns as West Virginia rolled to a 40-14 win over the Volunteers and first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Tennessee received the opening kickoff and on the very first play of the game, Southern Cal transfer nose tackle Kenny Bigelow made it known that he came to Morgantown to do business. Bigelow had two tackles for loss and a forced fumble on the first drive, forcing Tennessee to punt.
West Virginia had to settle for a field goal when their first drive sputtered to a halt after David Sills V dropped a touchdown catch in the endzone. West Virginia’s defense brought the pressure on the ensuing drive, and forced the Volunteers into their second punt of the quarter.
West Virginia’s offense struggled with timing issues for most of the first half - most notably on a false start by everyone except center Matt Jones - but the highlight of the first 30 minutes was TJ Simmon’s first touchdown reception as a Mountaineer. On the fifth play of their second drive, Simmons took a pass from Grier 59-yards to put the Mountaineers up 10-0.
Tennessee controlled the ball and chewed up the clock before converting a fourth and goal for a touchdown. West Virginia would go on to score another field goal and a 13-7 lead to end the half.
Grier caught fire in the third quarter, after a lengthy break in the locker room in which Dana Holgorsen and the team reportedly spent the time relaxing and watching other televised games, throwing for three touchdowns on consecutive drives.
Tennessee fans began heading for the exits midway through the fourth quarter after quarterback Jarrett Guarantano failed to convert on another 4th and goal. Grier would go on to put the game on ice with another touchdown pass to Sills in the closing minutes of the game.
David Sills led all receivers with 140 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. Gary Jennings added 113 yards and a touchdown on 6 catches. Martell Pettaway carried the ball nine times for 56 yards, and true freshman Leddie Brown added 33 yards on eight carries.
West Virginia will host the Youngstown State Penguins next Saturday in Morgantown. That game will kick off at 6PM Eastern and will be televised on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.