Former Kansas State head basketball coach and current West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins is known for his disciplined defensive teams.
The WVU football team, on the other hand, is known for not a strong defense—something that could prove to be problematic this week when No. 4 Kansas State travels to Morgantown to take on No. 13 West Virginia in football.
The Wildcats will bring one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the country—senior Collin Klein—when they come to play on Saturday.
Coming off their poorest performance this season, the Mountaineers will have their work cut out for them while trying to bounce back and compete for a conference title.
However, West Virginia has proven this season that it has the ability to score as well as any team in the country—making this one of the most intriguing matchups in college football this week.
Here is what you can expect from WVU and KSU this weekend.
No. 4 Kansas State at No. 13 West Virginia | Big 12 Conference Game
When: Saturday, Oct. 20 | 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium (60,000) | Morgantown, W. Va.
TV: Fox (Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Julie Alexandria) | Broadcast begins 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: No official live stream available
QB: Geno Smith, 12 (Sr.)
Paul Millard, 14 (r-Fr.)
WR (X): Stedman Bailey, 3 (r-Jr.)
Ivan McCartney, 5 (Jr.)
IR (H): Travares Copeland, 2 (Fr.)
Jordan Thopmson, 10 (Fr.)
Dante Campbell, 15 (r-Fr.)
LT: Quinton Spain, 67 (r-So.)
Nick Kindler, 79 (r-Jr.)
LG: Josh Jenkins, 77 (r-Sr.)
C: Joe Madsen, 74 (r-Sr.)
John Bassler, 60 (r-Sr.)
RG: Jeff Braun, 57 (r-Sr.)
RT: Pat Eger, 76 (r-Jr.)
Curtis Feigt, 62 (r-Jr.)
IR (Y): Tavon Austin, 1 (Sr.)
Travares Copeland, 2 (Fr.)
WR (Z): J.D. Woods, 81 (r-Sr.)
Ryan Nehlen, 80 (r-Sr.)
RB (A): Ryan Clarke, 32 (r-Sr.)
Cody Clay, 88 (r-Fr.)
RB (B): Shawne Alston, 20 (Sr.)
Andrew Buie, 13 (So.)
Dustin Garrison, 29 (So.)
DT: Jorge Wright, 99 (r-Sr.)
Eric Kinsey, 45 (Fr.)
NT: Shaq Rowell, 90 (Jr.)
Christian Brown, 95 (Fr.)
DE: Will Clarke, 98 (r-Jr.)
Kyle Rose, 93 (r-Fr.)
BUCK: Josh Francis, 4 (Sr.)
Tyler Anderson, 53 (r-Jr.)
Dozie Ezemma, 17 (r-Jr.)
STAR: Terence Garvin, 28 (Sr.)
Wes Tonkery, 37 (r-So.)
WILL: Doug Rigg, 47 (Jr.)
Jewone Snow, 56 (r-So.)
Shaq Petteway, 36 (So.)
SAM: Isaiah Bruce, 31 (r-Fr.)
Jewone Snow, 56 (r-So.)
Jared Barber, 33 (So.)
FCB: Brodrick Jenkins, 23 (r-Jr.)—OUT vs. KSU (Replacement starter not yet named)
Ricky Rumph, 41 (Fr.)
Cecil Level, 24 (r-Sr.)
FS: Karl Joseph, 8 (Fr.)
Ishmael Banks, 34 (r-So.)
BS: Darwin Cook, 25 (r-Jr.)
K.J. Dillon, 9 (Fr.)
BCB: Pat Miller, 6 (Sr.)
Nana Kyerehmeh, 7 (Fr.)
K: Tyler Bitancurt, 40 (r-Sr.)
P: Corey Smith, 44 (r-Sr.)
Michael Molinari, 48 (r-So.)
KO: Corey Smith, 44 (r-Sr.)
LS: John DePalma, 87 (Fr.)
PR: Tavon Austin, 1 (Sr.)
Jordan Thompson, 10 (Fr.)
KR: Tavon Austin, 1 (Sr.)
Stedman Bailey, 3 (r-Jr.)
WR: Chris Harper, 3 (Sr.)
Torell Miller, 88 (Jr.)
LT: Cornelius Lucas, 78 (Jr.)
Tomasi Mariner, 64 (So.)
LG: Cody Whitehair, 55 (r-Fr.)
Nick Puetz, 50 (Sr.)
C: B.J. Finney, 66 (So.)
Drew Liddle, 61 (So.)
RG: Keenan Taylor, 79 (Jr.)
Ethan Douglas, 71 (Sr.)
RT: Tavon Rooks, 73 (Jr.)
TE: Travis Tannahill, 80 (Sr.)
Zach Trujillo, 85 (So.)
QB: Collin Klein, 7 (Sr.)
Daniel Sams, 4 (r-Fr.)
Sam Johnson, 15 (So.)
FB: Braden Wilson, 37 (Sr.)
Zach Nemechek, 89 (So.)
RB: John Hubert, 33 (Jr.)
Angelo Pease, 8 (Sr.)
WR: Tyler Lockett, 16 (So.)
Curry Sexton, 14 (So.)
WR: Tramaine Thompson, 86 (Jr.)
Kyle Klein, 81 (r-Fr.)
DE: Meshak Williams, 42 (Sr.)
Ryan Mueller, 44 (So.)
DT: John Sua, 96 (Sr.)
Javonta Boyd, 99 (Sr.)
DT: Vai Lutui, 92 (Sr.)
Travis Britz, 95 (Fr.)
DE: Adam Davis, 55 (Sr.)
Alauna Finau, 94 (Jr.)
SLB: Justin Tuggle, 2 (Sr.)
Jarell Childs, 26 (Sr.)
MLB: Arthur Brown, 4 (Sr.)
Blake Slaughter, 53 (Sr.)
WLB: Tre Walker, 50 (Jr.)
Jonathan Truman, 21 (So.)
CB: Allen Chapman, 3 (Sr.)
Carl Miles Jr., 19 (Jr.)
SS: Jarard Milo, 23 (Jr.)
Thomas Ferguson, 5 (Sr.)
FS: Ty Zimmerman, 12 (Jr.)
Kent Gainous, 29 (Jr.)
CB: Nigel Malone, 24 (Sr.)
Randall Evans, 15 (So.)
Kip Daily, 7 (r-Jr.)
K: Anthony Cantele, 10 (Sr.)
Brandon Kilmek, 6 (Sr.)
P: Ryan Doerr, 9 (Sr.)
Mark Krause, 38 (r-Sr.)
H: Ryan Doerr, 9 (Sr.)
LS: Marcus Heit, 63 (Jr.)
Dalton Converse, 46 (So.)
KR: Tyler Lockett, 16 (So.)
Tramaine Thompson, 86 (Jr.)
PR: Tyler Lockett, 16 (So.)
Tramaine Thompson, 86 (Jr.)
West Virginia was steamrolled last week in Lubbock by Texas Tech after an excellent start to the seasons.
The Red Raiders started fast, scoring the first two touchdowns. WVU came back and added a touchdown of its own, which would prove to be the only meaningful scoring drive of the day for the Mountaineers.
Aside from that five-play, 54-yard drive, Geno Smith and the Mountaineers struggled to establish any offensive tempo or rhythm. Whenever they did, the drive would stall in one way or another.
Following that touchdown drive, the then-unranked Red Raiders scored 35 unanswered points to sink the No. 5 Mountaineers by a final score of 49-14.
Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege threw for 504 yards and six touchdowns on the day, while WVU managed just one offensive play longer than 20 yards.
In his weekly press conference this Tuesday, head coach Dana Holgorsen was straightforward as always about the loss, emphasizing that he expects better from both himself and his team (via WVUSports.com):
I am not happy with how we played on all three sides of the ball. We didn’t execute very well, we didn’t coach very well and we didn’t play with very much effort. What was disappointing was that it looked like none of us handled the situation as well as we could have. One thing that I tell the team all the time is that we are all in this together—coaches and players. Anything that I say in reference to a player, I am making reference to coaching as well. We didn’t handle the situation well. You can spin it a lot of different ways if you want to, but bottom line is we didn’t get the job done.
Kansas State had its hands full on the road against Iowa State before WVU fell to Texas Tech.
The stingy Cyclone defense held the Wildcats nearly 17 points below their season average going into the game and came close to pulling off another dramatic upset.
In the fourth quarter, ISU marched 75 yards for a touchdown to cut KSU's lead to just three points.
However, KSU quarterback Collin Klein was excellent as usual—enough so for his team to escape Ames with a 27-21 victory.
The senior ran for 105 yards and three touchdowns, also adding 187 yards through the air.
KSU dominated time of possession in the game, securing the ball for more than 40 minutes—more than twice as long as ISU.
It was KSU's longest drive of the day—14 plays, 67 yards spanning more than eight minutes—that ended up sealing the game in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcat defense also had a masterful performance, holding ISU to just 231 yards of total offense.
Kansas State is currently the only team still undefeated in Big 12 Conference play.
However, at No. 4 in the initial BCS rankings, the Wildcats have their eyes set on a potential national title berth down the road—that road will go straight through Morgantown this weekend.
Obviously, a loss there would kill KSU's national title hopes.
Likewise, a loss would prove to be a big hit to the Wildcats Big 12 title hopes as well. Though they currently stand alone at the top of the conference, a loss would entangle them in a knot at the top with the multitude of one-loss Big 12 teams.
It would also give West Virginia the head-to-head tiebreaker, which could prove to be very important when December rolls around.
As vital as this game is for KSU, it may be even more so for WVU.
Another league loss for the Mountaineers would sink their Big 12 title aspirations.
A win would give them almost complete control of their own destiny in the march to the conference crown.
Big 12 Standings
|No. 4 Kansas State||3-0||6-0|
|No. 13 West Virginia||2-1||5-1|
|No. 9 Oklahoma||2-1||5-1|
|No. 17 Texas Tech||2-1||5-1|
|No. 23 TCU||2-1||5-1|
|No. 24 Iowa State||1-2||4-2|
|No. 25 Texas||1-2||4-2|
Despite what the title says above, the biggest key for West Virginia will be its defense, though not just one player—the whole unit needs to perform better as a whole.
That has been the key every week for WVU, but the defensive unit hasn't yet fit the lock.
Still, the Mountaineers managed to win their first five games despite poor defensive play.
Last week, the defense gave up half-a-hundred again, but WVU didn't win. The only difference in that game, was that quarterback Geno Smith—the key—didn't play well.
As Smith goes, WVU goes—an undeniable fact that smacked us all in the face last week.
This week, Smith will need to play well for WVU to win. Fortunately for him, he'll be going up against a much weaker pass defense statistically speaking.
Texas Tech ranks No. 4 in the nation in pass defense, while Kansas State sits all the way down at No. 74.
That isn't quite as far down as West Virginia (No. 122), but it is definitely something to work with for Smith and the WVU passing game.
And work they must, or it will be another frustrating week for the Mountaineers.
At 6'5" 226 pounds, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is bigger than seven of West Virginia's 11 starting defensive players.
Only junior linebacker Doug Rigg and the three WVU defensive linemen are listed above 225 pounds.
Needless to say, it is going to be one tough task for the Mountaineer defense to contain him on Saturday. Every other defense that has faced Klein has learned that the hard way.
He is third among all FBS quarterbacks this year with 10 rushing touchdowns and he is just one of six quarterbacks to average more than 85 yards per game on the ground.
He tied the NCAA record last year for the most rushing touchdowns by quarterback with 27.
The senior, along with running back John Hubert, will provide the toughest challenge the West Virginia rush defense has seen this season.
As bad as the Mountaineers have been defending the pass, they have actually been respectable against the run—where they rank No. 43 in the nation.
Klein and Hubert will be up against that defense, looking to sustain long drives and keep the WVU offense off the field.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen on Kansas State:
We have Kansas State coming to town, who is a top-5 team and who is playing really well together on all three sides of the ball. They are probably the most disciplined team I have seen in a long time on all three sides of the ball. They are extremely disciplined. They don’t make mistakes on any side of the ball. They play with tremendous effort, and they play extremely physical football. They have a lot of experience. They are as smart of a football team as I have seen in some time.
Holgorsen on who plays Collin Klein on scout team:
Nobody has one. There is only one of him that exists...We have a couple of guys that are back there that will go in the right direction. It won’t look like it, and that’s a problem. But that is a problem that exists, and we have to overcome that. If you can find a 6-foot-5 guy that is big, strong and fast, he is probably not going to be on scout team.
Senior receiver Tavon Austin on the challenge presented by K-State:
Kansas State definitely presents a great challenge. They play tough football. That’s what Texas Tech did, they came in and hit us in the mouth. They’re going to come in like that this week, and we need to be prepared.
Junior linebacker Doug Rigg on defensive discipline:
A lot of times, (Klein will) look like he’s running the ball, then he’ll pretend to run the ball but throw it deep, and he has the arm to complete it. The biggest thing for us is that we have to read our keys. We can’t just assume it’s going to be a run and give up receivers going deep...We have to be very disciplined. We weren’t disciplined at all last weekend. We have to read our keys. The biggest thing with them is that if you over pursue, they’ll cut it back. If you don’t over pursue, they’ll run outside. They’re a very well coached team. They don’t make a lot of mistakes.
Head coach Bill Snyder on West Virginia:
They have a very talented football team, and it is not just Geno Smith. They have extremely fine receivers. They have a very talented offense. They have good specialists. They have good return guys who also serve as wide receivers. I know their numbers have not been as good on defense, but they have been able to outscore people. They have been able to play well on defense when they have to.
Snyder on not giving up big plays:
That is important to us. It is important to any football team, and it was important to Texas Tech against West Virginia. That is easier said than done. Am I pleased that we have for the most part? Yes, but as I have said this (West Virginia) is probably as talented of a group as I have seen.
Senior defensive back Jarard Milo on scout-team replication of WVU:
It is difficult. We are not getting the speed that they have, but our scout team members are doing a good job replicating their routes and trying to live up to their speed. It is difficult. We can only tell when game time comes.
Senior fullback Braden Wilson on sustaining long drives:
We are going to have to control the clock, play defense with a good offense, which is kind of our game. We just have to make sure to go out and do what we do best.
Quotes via KStateSports.com
West Virginia will win if it can rekindle its offensive groove.
Over the first five games WVU averaged 52 points per contest and its offense looked unstoppable, leading it to a 5-0 record despite its maligned pass defense.
Last week its defense was still maligned but the offense wasn't there either.
That can't happen again. The West Virginia offense must show up and succeed for the Mountaineers to earn a victory.
Meanwhile, the defense needs to corral Collin Klein to the best of its ability. This means holding strong on third downs to put the WVU offense back on the field.
KSU is one of the best teams in the country, so it will take a full team effort for West Virginia to win.
Kansas State will win if it can keep the West Virginia offense off the field.
KSU controlled the ball and time of possession in its win over Iowa State and is in the top 30 in the nation on the season in time of possession.
If Klein, Hubert and company can control the ball, convert third downs and keep the clock running, it will provide less opportunities for the Mountaineer offense to score.
Maryland did this fairly well against WVU earlier in the season—just not well enough to win.
This is because the Terrapins didn't fulfill the second part of the blueprint, which was laid out last week by Texas Tech.
Kansas State also needs to limit big plays from the West Virginia offense when it is on the field.
The Red Raiders executed this to perfection, as I mentioned earlier, limiting WVU to just one play over 20 yards.
The Mountaineers are one of the best offenses in the country at creating space for their playmakers to make plays—a strength Kansas State must take away on Saturday.
West Virginia opened up as a -3.5-point favorite at home against Kansas State—a line that has since dropped to -2.5 in favor of WVU (via VegasInsider.com).
I'm not a betting man, so what this means to me is that this is going to be a close, one-possession game.
The WVU offense will find its way back on track against a defense that is strong, but not as stingy and conservative as the Texas Tech defense.
Meanwhile, Klein and KSU will move the ball on the West Virginia defense as well.
However, the Wildcats will do so mostly on the ground which should shorten this game and prevent it from becoming the type of shootout we have seen with WVU this year.
It's going to be very close and will come down to which team has to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns in the red zone more often.
Playing at home and with a much higher sense of urgency, the slight edge goes to West Virginia.
Prediction: West Virginia 38, Kansas State 34