Holgorsen, WVU Turn Their Attention To K-State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When WVU head football coach Dana Holgorsen stepped to the podium at noon last Tuesday for his weekly press conference, he faced a lot of unknowns.
His Mountaineers were scheduled to meet North Carolina State that coming Saturday in Raleigh, an opponent Holgorsen had not played since he had taken charge of West Virginia’s program in 2011. It was likely to be WVU’s toughest non-conference test of the regular season. Even the future of the game itself was unknown, as the forecast for Hurricane Florence placed Raleigh directly in its predicted path.
As it turned out, just a few minutes after Holgorsen completed that press conference, West Virginia and N.C. State officials announced that the game would not be played.
The unexpected open date left the Mountaineers more practice time than expected. They turned their attention to their Big 12 opener, as Kansas State was up next, heading to Morgantown this Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
Instead of unknowns, now there are plenty of knowns. First, a hurricane not will impact the game in West Virginia. Secondly, the Mountaineers are playing a team they know very well, having met K-State annually since joining the Big 12 in 2012.
“I’m probably going to have to calm our guys down a little bit, because they are anxious to play,” said Holgorsen. “Just because we weren’t able to play last week doesn’t mean we can be overexcited to play this week.
“You’ve heard me say plenty that I don’t want to overdo an opponent. They give you one week because that’s about what it takes to prepare,” noted Holgorsen, who is 2-4 against the Wildcats while at WVU. “Last Tuesday at this time I thought we were playing North Carolina State, and we were prepared to go outside that afternoon and practice for them. Then a few minutes after I went over the scouting report with you, the game was cancelled.
“Last Tuesday and Wednesday we turned them back into camp practices. You need timing and conditioning and all those thing if you want to improve. We did that Tuesday and Wednesday, and then we practiced over the weekend as well, which gave us a little head start on Kansas State.”
Holgorsen expects to see the same kind of Wildcat club KSU’s veteran coach Bill Snyder has been putting on the field for 27 seasons.
“Toughness, discipline and program pride have always been the backbone of the K-State program,” explained WVU’s coach.
“It always starts up front for K-State offensively. They block really well, and this year they return all their (starting) linemen. They have two quarterbacks who are both good running and throwing, though it looks like maybe they’ve settled on Skylar Thompson as their starter. Their offensive philosophy is as solid as anyone you’ll see.”
The Wildcats are 2-1 this season. They battled back to beat FCS South Dakota (27-24) in the opener and then fell to Mississippi State (31-10) in week two. This past Saturday the ‘Cats handled UTSA (41-17), and now they go on the road for the first time this year.
K-State won its first two games at new Mountaineer Field, destroying WVU 55-14 in 2012 and then winning 26-20 in 2014. It was West Virginia’s turn 2016, as KSU missed a field goal in the final seconds to allow the Mountaineers to hang on for a 17-16 victory. WVU also won last year in Manhattan, 28-23.
“Everybody wants to compare the ‘new school-old school’ thing with us and K-State,” noted Holgorsen of the matchup. “But I see a lot of similarities. I’ve copied a lot of their stuff.”
Defensively the Wildcats run a 4-3 scheme that usually doesn’t get real exotic, though this year they are blitzing more than they typically do.
“K-State is not overly complicated with what they do,” Holgorsen said of the Wildcat defense. “They are technically sound and tough, and will play their tail off.
“K-State’s secondary will be our biggest challenge so far by far,” added Holgorsen. “They are multiple in the back end. There have been times they have done nothing but play zone coverage, but I’ve also played them when they did nothing but play man coverage. They do a good job at both and disguising things.”
So far this year Kansas State’s defense is allowing 189.3 passing yards a game, which is the fourth-best mark in the Big 12 Conference. But KSU is easily the best defense in the league in terms of completion percentage, allowing just 46.2 percent of the passes against them to become receptions. It also gives up a Big 12-best 4.9 yards per passing attempt.
“This has always been a good game when we play K-State, an entertaining game,” concluded Holgorsen. “I wouldn’t expect it to be any different this year as well.”