MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — One messy game didn’t diminish West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen’s confidence in Heisman Trophy hopeful Will Grier.
Grier’s four turnovers overshadowed a four-touchdown performance in No. 9 West Virginia’s 38-22 victory over Kansas on Saturday.
West Virginia (5-0, 3-0 Big 12) has won its first five games for the second time in three seasons.
“We’ll take the sloppy win and go home,” Holgorsen said.
The heavily-favored Mountaineers had no trouble moving the ball, but Grier’s efforts to throw into extra coverage near the goal line cost his team plenty of points.
Grier was intercepted three times in the first half either in the end zone or at the goal line, two of them by cornerback Hasan Defense. All three of Grier’s interceptions occurred when West Virginia had driven inside the Kansas 15-yard line.
“He has the confidence to make any throw and every throw,” Holgorsen said. “That’s why he’s a hell of a quarterback, but those windows become small. I thought their defenders did a better job of attacking the ball than our receivers did.”
Kansas (2-4, 0-3) entered the game leading the Big 12 with eight interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns.
Grier said Kansas did a good job of mixing up its defensive schemes near the goal line. West Virginia saw its streak of 15 straight scores inside the opponents’ 20-yard line snapped.
“We’ve got to be better in the red zone,” Grier said. “I got to be better on not forcing things. It will be fixed going forward.”
Grier also had a third-quarter fumble on a scramble. West Virginia had committed six total turnovers in its previous four games.
Kansas was limited to 286 yards of offense but stayed in the game until late. Peyton Bender hit Jeremiah Booker with a 35-yard pass early in the third quarter and Khalil Herbert, who had a career-high 291 yards rushing against West Virginia last season, followed with a 31-yard TD run to pull the Jayhawks within 21-14.
Grier made good on West Virginia’s only other possession of the quarter, hitting running back Martell Pettaway with a 12-yard scoring toss.
After Kansas turned the ball over on downs in its own territory late in the game, Grier found David Sills with a 17-yard TD strike with 2:20 left for a 38-14 lead. Grier finished 28 of 41 for 332 yards.
Kansas coach David Beaty praised his defense for forcing Grier to attempt mostly short throws.
“I don’t recall them having a big bomb of a catch that they are known for just about every game,” Beaty said.
West Virginia freshman Leddie Brown caught a 15-yard scoring pass from Grier and also had a 1-yard TD run, both in the first quarter. Brown finished with 11 carries for 107 yards.
Kansas freshman Pooka Williams, the Big 12’s leading rusher, was held under 100 yards for the third straight game. He had 12 carries for 65 yards.
Kansas: Goal-line stands on defense kept this one from becoming a rout, but the result was the Jayhawks’ 13th straight Big 12 loss. They haven’t won a league road game in 10 years.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers put together their best second half scoring in Big 12 play this season after the first-half turnover troubles. They went scoreless on offense after halftime in a 42-34 win at Texas Tech and failed to score over the final 22 minutes in a 35-6 win over Kansas State .
West Virginia, ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 2012, should be OK despite the messy showing.
GRIER THE TACKLER
On one of his interceptions, Grier chased down Defense after a 60-yard return. Otherwise Defense would have gone for a touchdown.
West Virginia defensive lineman Reese Donahue proposed to his girlfriend at midfield after the game. She said yes.
Kansas: Has an open week before playing at Texas Tech on Oct. 20.
West Virginia: Plays at Iowa State next Saturday.