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West Virginia Hosts Kansas State in Big XII Opener

Graphic by Alex Comer

 

#12 West Virginia
vs
Kansas State
Kick-off: 3:30 PM Est.
TV: ESPN
Location: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, WV
Announcers: Clay Matvick and Dan Orlovsky

 

 

Team Stats

Points Per Game 26.0 46.0
Points Allowed Per Game 24.0 15.5
Total Yards 356.7 586.0
Yards Passing 179.0 382.5
Yards Rushing 177.7 203.5
Yards Allowed 390.7 297.0
Pass Yards Allowed 189.3 164.5
Rush Yards Allowed 201.3 132.5

 

 

The West Virginia Mountaineers (2-0) host the Kansas State Wildcats (2-1) in both programs Big XII opener. The Mountaineers are 3-5 all-time versus the Wildcats and 2-4 since joining the Big XII. In the first two games of the series, K-State beatdown WVU by an average margin of 32 points. Since then, the series is knotted up at 2-2 and the point differential of the last four games has been an average of 3.3 points per game. The Mountaineers have won the last two games against the Wildcats and the 28-23 win last year was the most points put up by West Virginia in this series.

Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder is in his 27th year at the helm. His teams typically improve each and every week as the season rolls along. He’s built a program that’s competitive each and every week.

Kansas State is coming off a win over the University of Texas San Antonio Roadrunners 41-17.

Entering in his sixth year in the program, first year offensive coordinator Andre Coleman has been looking for his guy to run the offense. The philosophy hasn’t changed but finding the right signal caller has been somewhat of a challenge.

After three games, Kansas State knows who will be starting under center heading into Big XII conference play. Going into the game last week against the Roadrunners, the Wildcats had been using the two-quarterback system with Alex Delton and Skylar Thomson. By the end of the game, it was clear Thomson had won the job after the 41-17 win over UTSA.

His stats don’t jump out at you, 13-18 (72.%) for 213 yards and two touchdowns, however, he was efficient. He’s made great decisions running the read option and has made strides in the passing game. They’ll keep you disciplined on the patience of the option, then the receivers will get behind the secondary and Thompson will throw a bomb for a big play.

Skylar looks towards receiver Isaiah Zuber in the passing game. Zuber has over twice as many receptions than any other receiver on the team with 14 (223 yards). Dalton Schoen has only six catches on the year, nevertheless, he is averaging 21.7 yards per reception. Zach Reuter comes in with 5 grabs for 72 yards.

The Wildcats may take advantage with their tight end Blaise Gammon. He only has 1 catch on the season, however, at 6’7” 255-lbs he provides at huge mismatch for most defenses.

Kansas State hasn’t been particularly great in the running game. In fact, they have only had one 100-yard rusher in their first three games. Alex Barnes is the only running back to reach the century mark and he did it in the first game of the season versus FCS opponent South Dakota. As a team, K-State is averaging 177.7 yards per game. They have relied heavily on Barnes, but Dalvin Warmack has the tools to be a significant contributor averaging 5.1 yards per carry and both can catch balls out of the backfield.

Defensively for Kansas State, they have shown to be aggressive this season playing man to man and attacking offenses. Blake Seiler is in his first season as the defensive coordinator but has been in the program for 10 years.

“They can do different things to you.” explained West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. They’re blitzing more, pressuring more and playing man coverage more than I have ever seen.”

Their defense is riddled with injuries early in the season and subsequently they have struggled. They haven’t had much depth in the secondary and losing two key players to injury has left them shorthanded. Starting safety Denzel Goolsby sustained an unspecified injury during the Mississippi State game a couple weeks ago and reserve defensive back Kevion McGee has been dealing with an injury that’s resulted in him missing the last two games.

Eli Walker stepped in for Goolsby last week in the victory over Texas-San Antonio, recording five tackles, including a big hit for a seven-yard loss.

They don’t come up short on talent at the top of the depth chart. Cornerback Duke Shelley is sixth among active players in the country in passes defended for a career and currently has six on the season leading the Wildcats. Along with Shelley, senior free safety Kendall Adams made the All-Big XII preseason defensive team and they will try to hold it together for that depleted secondary.

Special teams have played a vital role in this series. “Special teams has always been my biggest headache with these guys.” Said Dana

They have two new returners this season. Duke Shelley and Isaiah Zuber haven’t had a big impact in the early portion of the season but Holgorsen views them just as dangerous as the numerous great returners in Kansas State history.

Dana explained exactly what makes this special team’s unit so great. “They cover hard, they use great technique and their schemes are real sound.”

The Mountaineers had their game cancelled last Saturdat at North Carolina State due to Hurricane Florence that hit the Carolinas over the weekend. West Virginia opened the season beating SEC foe Tennessee, before winning their home opener versus FCS program Youngstown State.

Through two games, the offense has shown they can hit the big play and be patient, methodically moving the ball down the field.

West Virginia’s offense has seen contrast in defenses the first couple of games. Tennessee played a lot of man and tried to bring pressure, while Youngstown State backed off and played a lot of zone. Heisman contender Will Grier has not had a problem at the line of scrimmage deciphering the defenses and put his offense in positions to make plays.

 

 

Passing Statistics
NAME CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT RAT
Will Grier 46 60 761 76.7 12.68 9 1 229.4

 

Grier has spread the wealth among his receivers. Eight different receivers have caught a pass, 10 players overall. Senior receiver Gary Jennings is having a great start to the season averaging over 100 yards a game.

 

 

Receiving Statistics
NAME REC YDS AVG LONG TD
Gary Jennings Jr. 12 210 17.5 33 (TD) 4
David Sills V 9 173 19.2 38 2
Marcus Simms 10 159 15.9 32 0
T.J. Simmons 3 82 27.3 59 (TD) 1
Dominique Maiden 2 48 24.0 40 (TD) 1
Trevon Wesco 2 35 17.5 29 0
Kennedy McKoy 2 25 12.5 14 (TD) 1
Alec Sinkfield 2 15 7.5 9 0
Jovani Haskins 2 13 6.5 9 0
Tevin Bush 2 10 5.0 9 0
Totals 47 765 16.3 59 9

 

There was no question coming into the season that the Mountaineers were going to have arguably the best passing game in the country, however, despite having a deep backfield, there was some questions on consistency from the running game. It’s a small sample size, but WVU is averaging over 200 yards a game on the ground and they have three running backs averaging over six yards a carry.

 

 

Rushing Statistics
NAME CAR YDS AVG LONG TD
Leddie Brown 23 148 6.4 18 1
Martell Pettaway 21 133 6.3 22 0
Kennedy McKoy 15 94 6.3 26 1
Alec Sinkfield 6 28 4.7 9 (TD) 1
Marcus Simms 1 5 5.0 5 0
Tevin Bush 1 2 2.0 2 0
Brady Watson 1 0 0.0 0 0
Will Grier 5 -3 -0.6 4 0
Totals 73 407 5.6 26 3

 

 

The Mountaineer defense has demonstrated they are going to be fast and physical this season and its showing on the stat sheet only giving up 297 yards per game. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has shown he can be versatile with his odd stack scheme (3-3-5), putting strong safety Toyous Avery at linebacker and even going with four defensive linemen at times.

West Virginia has proven they can be patient on offense and take what the defense gives them. I expect the Wildcat defense to play better than they showed in the first three games. There’s so much familiarity amongst the Big XII teams, there’s nothing they haven’t seen.

The defense will have a tough challenge against the Kansas State offense. They will have to play disciplined, fill their gaps and don’t bite on any misdirection plays. The Wildcats have given up 10 sacks already this season. The West Virginia defense needs to exploit their weakness and get into the backfield. The Mountaineers haven’t had trouble wreaking havoc in the backfield. They are averaging 10 tackles for a loss a game, good enough for sixth in the country.

Kansas State is having turnover issues this season which is rare. A program that typically wins the turnover battle, hasn’t won one yet. They are currently minus five on the turnover ratio. The Mountaineers are minus one on the season.

I expect West Virginia to win this game. If they can dictate the tempo of the game and speed K-State up, it will be a long day for the Wildcats. That’s easier said than done against the great Bill Snyder. I don’t think West Virginia will be able to completely blow out Kansas State, however, I believe they won’t have much trouble. Mountaineers win 38-13.

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