K-State’s Snyder Concerned About Grier, WVU’s Passing Attack
Kansas State veteran head coach Bill Snyder leads his Wildcats into Mountaineer Field Saturday afternoon sporting a 4-2 record against WVU, though having lost the last two meetings – 28-23 last year in Manhattan and 17-16 in 2016 in Morgantown.
In his 27 seasons at the helm of K-State, Snyder has won a whole lot more than he’s lost, as he’s 212-111-1 all-time.
His squad this year is 2-1, but it is still looking for answers. It had to battle back from a 24-12 halftime deficit in its season opener to slip by FCS South Dakota, 27-24, and then the Wildcats were dismantled in week two by Mississippi State, 31-10. K-State finally won an easy one this past Saturday, defeating Texas-San Antonio 41-17.
All three of those games were in Manhattan. Now the ‘Cats go on the road for the first time this season. KSU is 51-53 all-time in Big 12 road games during the Snyder era.
K-State had been rotating two quarterbacks, Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton, but KSU seems to have settled on Thompson as the full-time QB.
“He’s a young guy that needs to make improvement and is making improvement,” Snyder said of Thompson, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound sophomore. “It’s early, and I don’t get really judgmental too early in the season, but I think he has taken some steps forward. As soon as you say that, it’s the kiss of death sometimes, but I think he has grown as we have gone through the season. I would like to think he would continue to do so as I would like to think everyone would continue to do so.”
Thompson has completed 28-of-49 passes through the first three games of the season for 360 yards with four TDs and one interception. He’s also rushed 37 times for 158 yards. A native of Independence, Mo., Thompson handled the quarterback duties last year against WVU, and was 13-of-26 for 159 yards, though he had two key interceptions that proved pivotal in West Virginia’s five-point win at the Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
“I think he is a pretty poised young guy,” Snyder added of Thompson. “I’m not necessarily concerned about him getting rattled in an unfamiliar environment. He is a young guy that can kind of stay within the boundaries that you provide for him, and he does it pretty thoroughly.”
Snyder is less concerned about his own quarterback than he is about the one on the other sideline. WVU’s Will Grier is leading a Mountaineer passing attack that is averaging 382.5 yards per game, and on top of that, K-State’s defense has been depleted by injuries.
“That’s probably one of the worst teams that you could line up short-handed against,” Snyder said of West Virginia, which is 2-0 this season and got an unexpected week off after its slated game at N.C. State this past Saturday was cancelled because of Hurricane Florence. “They’re very prolific with the pass with Will Grier, so being short-handed is not something that you envision and not something that you want.”
In his 13 games with the Mountaineers, Grier has thrown for over 300 yards in 11 of them. His only exceptions came in a loss at Oklahoma State last year (285 yards) and against Texas (50 yards) when he suffered a season-ending finger injury at the end of the first quarter. In the win at K-State on Nov. 11 last season, he completed a 27-of-46 passes for 372 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. It was last game of 2017 that he would finish healthy, as his injury against the Longhorns came a week later.
“He was pretty good to begin with, but you see him getting better, and that’s what this game is all about,” said Snyder of Grier and his progression as a quarterback. “I see the improvement in so many different ways. He manages the process and the game as well as most any. He understands the offense extremely well; he knows what to be in and what not to be in. He throws the ball extremely well, all types of balls well.
“He’s the guy that you see him run around quite a bit back there. He did against us last year and got a touchdown (at the end of the first half) that made the difference in the ballgame. He is an excellent scrambler, I guess is what I am saying, and he has the athletic ability to really make people miss. If you cut up all of the scrambles that he has made, it is amazing how he has been able to avoid tackles from some very fine athletes. He’d be a great dodgeball player. He makes people miss quite well and that has freed him up quite well. He got one (two weeks ago), they played Youngstown State, just scrambling and finding an open area and throwing it. Like I said, he got one against us and got in the endzone for the same reason. We should have had him tackled, and we didn’t. He’s a good player.”
Snyder would love for his Wildcats to be able to pressure Grier, but the K-State coach noted that is easier said than done.
“He can go north and south, but when you do (blitz), he’s going east and west,” Snyder said of WVU’s QB. “We don’t have anyone that can catch him from any of our up-front guys. It is a mixed bag, so to speak. It is a tough situation to be in. That, coupled with the fact that we have not been a good four-man pass rush team early, it is not as good as I would like for it to be. Now, that’s defined more so in sacks, which we have a limited number of sacks (two). But there are some pressures that we have been able to put. Wyatt Hubert got another tipped pass last week where he got good pressure, but it doesn’t count as a sack. He got one a week before where he got an interception; that doesn’t show up as a sack. So, I think we pressured the quarterback a little bit more than statistics might indicate.”
As for his own offense, the Wildcats are averaging 177.7 rushing yards and 179.0 passing yards a game. Snyder does like that balance.
“It is having the capacity to have the balance that you would like,” noted Snyder, who will turn 79 in a couple weeks and is the oldest head coach in the FBS ranks. Ohio University’s Frank Solich, who recently turned 74, is the only other one north of 69. “I don’t know when it was, but there was several years back, we were some seven-yard difference between our total pass offense and our total run offense. When I was at the University of Iowa, we had three years in succession where the difference was less than 50 yards between rush and pass. That’s a good place to be, I think, but very hard to achieve.”