Another Tough, Physical Foe For West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s next challenge is a model of consistency.
Kansas State, built on fundamentals and the tried and true methods of 78-yard-old coach Bill Snyder, have gone to a bowl each of the last seven seasons and averaged more than 8.5 victories annually during that stretch. In his 26th season overall, Snyder has won 207 games, and a win against the Mountaineers would push him into sole possession for 20th place all-time at the FBS level.
There’s no secrets to the style. Snyder’s teams value the ball, tackle effectively and are assignment-sound. His staff coaches to a set of fundamentals while also adjusting for personnel differences. The result is a program that has been the model of high-level success ever since 1993 – Snyder’s fifth season at the helm.
“Going into this one, it’s really nothing new,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Kansas State is a team that fights their tail off in every phase with every player. If I reference playing Iowa State, it’s the same thing. What we need to do to be successful moving forward it to be a very disciplined, fundamental football team. Be great with turnover margin, penalties, play mistake-free football and give relentless effort the entire game.”
In other words, fight fire with fire. West Virginia did that successfully against Iowa State, using the run game and controlling possession along with limiting mistakes and turnovers. It’ll take the same effort and execution this weekend in Manhattan, where the Mountaineers have lost twice in as many trips; WVU is just 2-5 all time versus K-State.
“My admiration for Bill Snyder and what he’s done, I’m looking forward to going this week,” Holgorsen said. “The stadium keeps getting built up. They have a great fan base who will be loud. Great atmosphere.”
And solid talent. Kansas State is again built around running and being able to stop the run, mixing sizable lines in with steady skill position ability. The major question for both teams is who will play quarterback. A midseason knee injury to Jesse Ertz has elevated Alex Denton and Skylar Thompson. Denton started the overtime win against Texas Tech last week, completing 13-of-20 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown and interception before giving way to Thompson in the fourth quarter.
The redshirt freshman rallied the Wildcats from down to the largest fourth quarter road comeback win at school history, sparking K-State’s offense to the final 18 points of the game while hitting five of eight passes for 96 yards. Thompson engineered a game-tying drive over the final 3:40, and connected on the two-point conversion before helping Kansas State win it in overtime with an eight-yard scoring pass to widdeout Byron Pringle.
“Good up front. Big, physical with a lot of experience,” Holgorsen said. “Doesn’t matter who their quarterback is. They are all capable of running the offense. The will get in a lot of Wildcat. Have three backs they can use. They’ll do those pop passes, RPOs. Those receivers are pretty good. Very balanced. They average almost 200 yards per game running and 200 passing.”
While Kansas State is scoring 33 points per game, its defense has allowed just 24.8 points in part because of their methodical style on both sides. The ‘Cats have surrendered 422.6 yards per game, and have struggled against the pass (125th nationally) while stiffening in the red zone.
“On defense they haven’t changed a whole lot over the years,” Holgorsen said. “They are giving up a few more yards and points than they would like, but they lost a lot of good players last year. Front is big, built to stop the run. They are a tough team to go toe-to-toe with. They are tough to move. Good corners who play man a little more. Got our work cut out offensively.
“Their specialists do a great job but then they have the other 10 people out there playing with effort and great technique. Return team the same. As good as I have seen.”
West Virginia (6-3, 4-2) remains in a three-way tie for third place in the Big 12 with Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Kansas State (5-4, 3-3) is one spot behind.
“Our job is to continue to build upon what we did last week, which is practice hard, prepare hard, be tough, give effort,” Holgorsen said. “We should have a great week of practice and travel out there. Looking forward to it.”