No. 13 W.Va. hosts No. 6 Oklahoma in Big 12 showdown
When Riley was the offensive coordinator at East Carolina, the Pirates were the first Division I program to offer Grier, who is from Charlotte, N.C., a scholarship.
West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital is plenty familiar with Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray.
Spavital was Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015, when Murray signed with the Aggies and played there for one season under Spavital.
Friday night in Morgantown, W.Va., the quarterbacks face off when No. 6 Oklahoma visits No. 13 West Virginia with a berth in the Big 12 championship game on the line.
While the Sooners and Mountaineers are playing to continue their pursuit of the conference title, there’s also plenty of personal accolades on the line. One of the two quarterbacks figure to be the league’s offensive player of the year and the pair make up two of the three primary Heisman Trophy contenders at this point, alongside Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
“I think if you asked either Kyler Murray or Will Grier right now what they care more about, I promise you they just want to win,” Riley said. “And that’s why those guys are even being mentioned for an award like that. You don’t get to that point thinking about it.”
The game figures to provide an opportunity for both quarterbacks to put up big numbers. The Sooners have allowed 40 or more points in three consecutive games, yet won all three. They’ve scored 48 or more points in five consecutive games and eight times all season.
West Virginia’s offense hasn’t been quite as prolific, but it isn’t far from it, having scored 41 or more in four consecutive games. The Mountaineers have also allowed 41 or more points in two of their last three.
“We’ve got another exciting one this weekend,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We’re in a position where this game matters and we couldn’t be more excited about it.
“If we can win, then we’ve accomplished our goal.”
West Virginia is trying to win its first conference title since moving to the Big 12 in 2012. Oklahoma is trying for its fourth consecutive conference title.
Friday’s winner will play Texas next week at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, if the Longhorns can get past Kansas on Friday. If not, Oklahoma and West Virginia could meet again a week later for the title.
Grier is the most experienced of the quarterbacks, having started last year for West Virginia.
But he did not play against the Sooners, having suffered a hand injury the week before against Texas.
“This will be his last regular-season game, and he’s meant a lot obviously to myself and our program,” Holgorsen said.
Grier has thrown for 3,325 yards and 33 touchdowns with eight interceptions and is a more traditional drop-back quarterback compared to Murray, who has thrown for 3,310 yards and 34 touchdowns with six interceptions but has also rushed for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Both teams have campaigned for their quarterbacks for the Heisman, with West Virginia launching its campaign before the season and Oklahoma unveiling its push for Murray last week.
Each day as he walks to practice, Murray passes statues of five of the six previous Heisman Trophy winners who played at Oklahoma. Only Baker Mayfield — who won last year — has yet to have a statue erected.
“It would be nice to put (another) one up, for sure,” Murray said.
But before either quarterback has a chance at a Heisman, they’ll have to get through this game.
West Virginia has never beaten the Sooners in Morgantown (0-3), and are trying to keep alive its chances of winning a conference title for the first time since 2011 when they took the Big East crown.
But Holgorsen also doesn’t want to make the moment bigger than it is.
“This ain’t a do-or-die moment for the program,” Holgorsen said.