Game Preview: Kansas State
Game Preview: WVU vs. Kansas State
Series: Kansas State 3-1
Last meeting: 2013: WVU 12 Kansas State 35
Television: 7 p.m., Fox Sports 1, Tim Brando (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (analysis)
West Virginia (6-4, 4-3) will say goodbye to 19 seniors playing their final home game at Milan Puskar Stadium Thursday night when the Mountaineers take on No. 13 Kansas State (7-2, 5-1) in a Big 12 Conference matchup.
The Mountaineers will look to rebound after two consecutive losses and will take on a Wildcats team out of the bye that is coming off a 41-20 loss on the road at TCU.
Kansas State is led by Bill Snyder, who is in his second tenure atop the Wildcats program and has amassed a career record of 185-92-1. One of the most respected men in his profession, Snyder, 74, has led the Wildcats to two Big 12 Championships. Synder is 2-0 against West Virginia, with wins in both of the previous Big 12 Conference matchups against Mountaineers head man Dana Holgorsen.
The veteran head coach has built the Kansas State program through a unique combination of junior college talent and program players and the Wildcats are known for their lack of mistakes and general discipline from the top down.
"He's the most respected guy in our profession. He does it the right way. It's developing a culture of good family values. Program guys work hard and develop depth. It means a lot to him. They do the right things, and play the right way. They don't beat themselves down. I can go on and on," Holgorsen said.
On offense the Wildcats will rely on senior quarterback Jake Waters who has Kansas State scoring 36.2 points per game ranking fourth in the Big 12 in total offense. A former junior college transfer, Waters is in his second year in the program and has thrown for 2,169 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 63.6 percent of his passes. Also an accomplished runner, Waters has accounted for over 400 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground.
Last season against West Virginia Waters completed 10 of his 13 attempts for 198 yards and a trio of touchdowns to go along with 58 yards rushing.
"They do some unique things in the run game with the quarterback that poses problem. You have to account for him, but then he can still throw the ball and he has some pretty quality receivers," Holgorsen said.
The primary weapon for Waters is Biletnikoff finalist Tyler Lockett, who is one of the top wide receivers in the country and has had his way with West Virginia in the first two meetings going for over 300 yards and five touchdowns. This season Lockett has almost 900 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns and fellow wide receiver Curry Sexton has 53 catches for 723 yards and 4 more touchdowns for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats will rely on multiple running backs led by Charles Jones, who has 11 touchdowns on the season along with the aforementioned legs of Waters behind a veteran offensive line that will use varying splits to create running lanes.
West Virginia's offense will be challenged once again by a Wildcat's defense that ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring defense allowing only 21.1 points per game, while also ranking second in the conference in total defense giving up 346 yards per contest. The unit isn't too tricky attempting to keep things in front of them but is very sound with their tackling and not making mistakes.
"They're going to be incredibly sound in what they do. They keep everything in front of you, and let your guys screw it up. We just have to play hard and be very, very technically sound. It's the same defense that we have seen out of them for the last couple of years, so nothing is new," Holgorsen said.
"That's not the problem. Trying to figure out what they do is not the problem - trying to effectively attack it is definitely a challenge," he added.
On that side of the ball the Wildcats are led in tackles by Jonathan Truman with 85 total stops and also feature former walk-on and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Candidate Ryan Mueller up front.
Kansas State will be making its second trip to Morgantown after winning the first meeting 55-14 in a game that the Wildcats dominated from start to finish. Collin Klein was responsible for seven touchdowns for Kansas State along with 364 yards of total offense as they led by as many as 52-7 in the fourth quarter.
A year ago, West Virginia led 12-7 in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats would score 28 unanswered on the heels of Waters to record their second consecutive win.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
West Virginia Depth Chart:
QB - 9 Clint Trickett (r-Sr), 3 Skyler Howard (So)
FB (B) - 88 Cody Clay (r-Jr), 28 Elijah Wellman (r-Fr)
RB (A) - 7 Rushel Shell (r-So), 4 Wendell Smallwood (So), 13 Andrew Buie (r-Jr), 2 Dreamius Smith (Sr)
WR (X) - 5 Mario Alford (Sr), 1 Shelton Gibson (r-Fr)
WR (Z) - 11 Kevin White (r-Sr), 81 Vernon Davis (r-So)
IR (H) - 6 Daikiel Shorts (Fr), 19 KJ Myers (r-Jr)
IR (Y) - 10 Jordan Thompson (Jr), 19 KJ Myers (r-Jr)
LT - 57 Adam Pankey (r-So), 89 Russell Haughton-James (r-Jr)
LG - 67 Quinton Spain (r-Sr), 79 Grant Lingafelter (r-Fr)
C - 65 Tyler Orlosky (r-So), 69 Tony Matteo (r-So)
RG - 64 Mark Glowinski (r-Sr), 59 Stone Underwood (r-Jr)
RT - 78 Marquis Lucas (r-Jr), 77 Marcell Lazard (So)
DE - 97 Noble Nwachukwu (r-So), 95 Christian Brown (r-So), 45 Eric Kinsey (Jr)
NT - 93 Kyle Rose (r-Jr), 49 Darrien Howard (So)
DE - 4 Shaq Riddick (Sr), 2 Brandon Golson (Sr), 99 Dontrill Hyman (Sr)
SPUR - 9 KJ Dillon (Jr), 3 Cullen Christian (r-Sr)
SAM - 37 Wes Tonkery (r-Sr), 31 Isaiah Bruce (r-Jr)
MIKE - 35 Nick Kwiatkoski (r-Jr), 17 Al-Rasheed Benton (r-Fr)
WILL - 20 Edward Muldrow (Jr), 36 Shaq Petteway
LCB - 7 Daryl Worley (So), 14 Ricky Rumph (Jr)
FS - 6 Dravon Henry (Fr), 27 Jaylon Myers (r-Jr), 24 Jeremy Tyler (So)
BS - 8 Karl Joseph (Jr), 22 Jarrod Harper (r-So)
RCB - 16 Terrell Chestnut (r-Jr), 34 Ishmael Banks (r-Sr)
PK - 8 Josh Lambert (r-So)
P - 91 Nick O'Toole (Jr)
KO - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Sr)
LS -87 John DePalma (Jr)
H - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Sr)
PR - 81 Vernon Davis Jr., (r-So), 7 Daryl Worley (So), 10 Jordan Thompson (Jr)
KR - 5 Mario Alford (Sr), 1 Shelton Gibson (r-Fr), 4 Wendell Smallwood (So)
-Coaching assignments for this season include: DL Tom Bradley (field), OL Ron Crook (field), QB/OC Shannon Dawson (press box), S/ST Joe DeForest (field), WR Lonnie Galloway (field), DC/LB Tony Gibson (field), CB Brian Mitchell (press box), DL Damon Codgell (field), RB JaJuan Seider (field)
-A total of 40 players have at least one game starting experience for the Mountaineers. On the flip side, 21 players have seen action for West Virginia for the first time in 2014 including: LB Al-Rasheed Benton, LB Hodari Christian, QB William Crest, LB Cullen Christian, WR Shelton Gibson, S Malik Greaves, LB Tanner Grose, FS Dravon Henry, QB Skyler Howard, OL Marcell Lazard, DL Jon Lewis, OL Grant Lingafelter, LS Nick Meadows, LB Edward Muldrow, CB Jaylon Myers, LB Xavier Preston, DL Shaq Riddick, RB Rushel Shell, OL Stone Underwood, TE Elijah Wellman and LB Dayron Wilson.
-Six Mountaineers earned their first start during the 2014 season: DL Christian Brown, FS Dravon Henry, WILL Edward Mudldrow, DE Noble Nwachukwu, DE Shaq Riddick and RB Rushel Shell.
-Three true freshmen have seen action this season with QB William Crest, FS Dravon Henry and LB Xavier Preston getting snaps. Ten redshirt freshmen in LB Al-Rasheed Benton, LB Hodari Christian, WR Shelton Gibson, S Malik Greaves, OL Marcell Lazard, DL Jon Lewis, OL Grant Lingafelter, LS Nick Meadows K Mike Molina and TE Elijah Wellman also have seen action.
-The Mountaineers have won 107 of its last 152 regular season games and is No. 14 all-time in college football winning percentage. With the win over Oklahoma State, West Virginia has qualified for its 33rd bowl game in school history.
-West Virginia is 10-15 in Big 12 Conference Games.
-West Virginia is 35-31-3 all-time in Thursday games.
-The Mountaineers have faced six Top 25 teams on the schedule to this point.
-West Virginia ranks fourth nationally with 264 first downs, converting on 79 third downs, also first in the country. Out of those first downs, 101 have came via the run and 1135 by the pass.
-The West Virginia offense has set school records in number of plays ran this season with Maryland (108), Towson (96) and Texas Tech (94) ranking as the top three on the list. West Virginia has ran a total of 856 plays, averaging 85.6 per game.
-West Virginia's defense is averaging 5.0 three-and-outs per game, ranking inside the top 25 nationally in that category.
-The Mountaineers rank 10th nationally holding opponents to a combined 48-157 (31 percent) on third down conversions.
-West Virginia has allowed only three teams to score on an opening drive this season and has only allowed two touchdowns on an opening drive.
Injuries: Freshman quarterback William Crest is out for the season with an injured shoulder and will redshirt. Senior linebacker Jared Barber has been ruled out of the contest and is likely to miss the remainder of the season as he recovers from knee surgery. Barber is a candidate for a redshirt.
Redshirts: All of the freshmen in the 2014 recruiting class are set to redshirt at this point outside of free safety Dravon Henry and linebacker Xavier Preston. Junior college offensive tackle Sylvester Townes also will receive a redshirt this fall along with sophomore linebacker Marvin Gross. Senior quarterback Paul Millard also is in line to receive a redshirt.
Points to click:
*Bouncing back. West Virginia has suffered losses back-to-back for the first time this season and things won't be any easier against No. 13 Kansas State. But the Mountaineers will need to regroup at home and look for another notch in the belt against a Wildcats team that has had their number since they joined the Big 12 Conference. The Mountaineers won't win a Big 12 championship but there is still plenty to play for in regards to bowl seeding and finishing strong, something they haven't been able to do the past two years.
*Stop the run. West Virginia has struggled against power run teams in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas and Kansas State will present many of the same challenges by leaning on their running backs and Jake Waters to run the football. Unlike some of the challenges presented by Baylor and TCU, this will be a physical run game and the West Virginia defense will be forced to hit back and stop the run at the point of attack.
*Lockett watch. For as well as Kansas State runs the ball, Tyler Lockett is one of the premier wide receivers in the Big 12 Conference and has played exceptionally well against West Virginia in two games with 17 catches, 305 yards and five touchdowns in the two meetings. The Mountaineers can't afford to let that happen again and must prevent the standout wide receiver from having his way with the secondary.
*Watch the splits. Kansas State is a team that will vary the splits of the offensive linemen in order to create favorable situations to either spread teams out to run inside or bunch them together to bounce it out. It will be essential for West Virginia to be aware of this and the defensive line to play well and allow the linebackers to scrape over to make tackles.
*Get back to offense. West Virginia has struggled offensively the past two games and while a lot of that can be attributed to the opponent on the other sideline, the Mountaineers must respond against a Kansas State team that doesn't do a lot to surprise but is very sound on the defensive side of the football. Being able to run the football will be key against the Wildcats, but the Mountaineers can't afford to be one dimensional and must find ways to move the ball down the field through the air.
*Waters rising. Jake Waters had his breakout party against West Virginia last season and the one-time junior college quarterback is the centerpiece to what the Wildcats want to do offensively both throwing the ball and on the ground. The Mountaineers must be disciplined against Waters who will use a patient style of running to move the football and can't afford to be sucked up into play action to allow anything cheap over the top.
*Use the crowd. It will be senior night in Morgantown and after an off-week the players and fans should provide an electric atmosphere inside Mountaineer Field. West Virginia will need to feed off that energy and use the crowd to it's advantage when possible.
*Turnovers. It goes without saying that West Virginia will need to attempt to win the turnover battle in this game and especially avoid any mistakes that will make things more difficult on themselves.
*Special teams. While the Mountaineers have been very solid in some areas, others continue to be a problem. Vernon Davis looked to solve some of the woes at punt returner and West Virginia will have to avoid making big mistakes in this area.
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