Any thoughts that West Virginia would bring their road woes back home were quickly dispelled on Thursday, even with some initial offensive struggles.
Baylor’s defense appeared ready to play early in Morgantown, forcing multiple Mountaineer field goals in the first quarter. That was in spite of some serious woes for the Baylor offense, though, which seemed to be giving out turnovers like early Christmas presents to a swarming Mountaineer defense.
The Bears probably considered themselves lucky to only be down 13-0 to end the first quarter, but soon their luck ran out – the rest of the game would be total domination by West Virginia, who ended the half with a 41-0 lead after an outburst of scoring.
Baylor staved off a shutout with a change at quarterback, but the Mountaineers kept their foot on the gas and never lost control of this game, which ended in 58-14 drubbing. Below are some things we can takeaway from the game.
IN CASE YOU FORGOT, WEST VIRGINIA CAN SCORE
And score in bunches. It took all of twelve plays for West Virginia to put up 28 points on Baylor on Thursday evening in one quarter.
The Mountaineers did what they are usually able to do against most teams: they took deep shots at opportune moments, especially when they weren’t in obvious passing situations.
Will Grier’s first touchdown of the game came on first down from the West Virginia 47 yard line:
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) October 25, 2018
His next one – also a deep strike on first down – would spark West Virginia’s first half scoring barrage:
That Grier ➡️ Sills connection thooo 👀 pic.twitter.com/7iLR5Kl0cb
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 26, 2018
Replay some variation of those two passes over and over, and that was more or less the story for the rest of the first half every time West Virginia got the ball. After only managing one offensive touchdown last week, the Mountaineers came out in force and reminded Big 12 defensive coordinators just why they should be afraid of this potent air attack.
BAYLOR IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS
It was easy to think that because Baylor had played a Top 10 team so close that this team was just around the corner from beating a Top 25 squad. After tonight, that kind of thinking seems overly optimistic.
Even though Baylor’s defense kept the Mountaineers mostly in check through the first quarter, when things went wrong they seemed to fall apart all at once. While a lot of that has to do with just how good of a team they’ve got there in Morgantown, we also saw the Bears make their share of self-inflicted mistakes.
Almost every one of Charlie Brewer’s three interceptions, for example, were an issue with the receiver and quarterback not being on the same page, and similar mental mistakes appeared to pile up for the Bears in just a few minutes:
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 25, 2018
THE BEARS MIGHT HAVE A QB CONTROVERSY….AGAIN
Charlie Brewer did not have a good night on Thursday. The Baylor offensive line wasn’t able to hold up against the West Virginia front, and put pressure on him throughout the matchup.
In a game that could possibly have been a signature win for Matt Rhule, mistakes by the Bears on offense were a gift to a Mountaineers team that seemed pretty motivated for this one already.
Baylor probably considered themselves fortunate to only be down ten points after West Virginia’s fourth possession of the game. At that point, after all, the Bears had turned the ball over twice and punted once, so being down two scores probably didn’t seem insurmountable.
In hindsight, though, it’s entirely possible that the Bears could have managed to get a first quarter lead with the way their defense was keeping West Virginia out of the end zone. On four consecutive drives, the Mountaineers made it inside Baylor’s 30 yard line and came away with only six points. Matt Rhule is probably still wondering what might have happened had Baylor been able to put up a couple of scores to capitalize on that defensive performance.
The scoring didn’t start to happen until Jalen McClendon replaced Charlie Brewer. McClendon had a slightly better performance, raising the question of whether the Bears are starting at square one at quarterback. Only a few weeks ago, it seemed like this competition was settled. Now, the job appears open once more.
WEST VIRGINIA IS BACK AT IT ON DEFENSE
The Mountaineers have been putting up some really outstanding numbers defensively so far this season, and on Thursday they showed that was no fluke.
West Virginia was relentless in their pursuit of whoever was calling the signals, and they didn’t stop bringing the heat just because the game was well in hand:
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) October 26, 2018
Yes, this is the same Baylor team that lost to Duke. But the Bears had one of the better offenses – especially through the air – in the Big 12, and West Virginia held them to over 100 yards below their season average.
Skeptics could also make the case that many of the picks that the Mountaineers managed to get were the result of defenders being in the right place in the right time. Isn’t that sound defense, though?
WEST VIRGINIA IS STILL A SERIOUS CONTENDER
It seems like in the span of two games, we’ve seen the Mountaineers at both their very worst and at their very best. When they play like they did against Baylor, it’s hard to not believe in them as a team that could legitimately win out and take home some hardware.
November will be big test for this team, though. That isn’t news to anyone who looked at the Mountaineers’ late season stretch, which features Oklahoma and a road trip to take on the Longhorns. With one loss, West Virginia still controls their path to Jerry World.
Against Baylor, they certainly looked the part of conference champion. Now they have to do that against the rest of their slate.