Three Quarterbacks, One Plan For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — West Virginia could face any one of a trio of Kansas State quarterbacks on Saturday, but no matter who among the trio of Jesse Ertz, Alex Delton or Skylar Thompson gets the start, or plays, it won’t change much of the Mountaineers’ defensive approach. While there are some differences in the skill set of the three quarterbacks, it’s not like a a Jake Kelchner – Darren Studstill combination, which should be illustrative for Mountaineer fans who remember the early 1990s.
(Quick interlude for those unfamiliar: Kelchner was a pocket passer, while Studstill was a dynamic runner. They split time on the 1993 team. Kelchner could run, and Studstill was o.k. throwing it, but they were very different in their strengths, size and demeanors.)
Back to K-State. Ertz is the most polished passer of the three, given his experience, and Denton the more dynamic runner, but all three will run the same offense. The Wildcats will run, hunker behind the line and run some more, with quarterbacks getting equal carries to running backs, and then surprise with a “pop” pass where the QB fakes the run and then sets up for a quick dump over charging linebackers and safeties. Play-action passes will also test secondary discipline, no matter who is at the helm.]
West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson initially noted that the problem of not knowing the identity of the starter was a problem, but later admitted that WVU won’t change no matter who is behind center.
“Kansas State, they run the QBs a lot. ISU does not,” he noted in comparing what the Mountaineers will see last week as opposed to this. “And they have the throw game off of it. You start bringing the safeties down and they have all the pop passes.”
Iowa State’s passing game wasn’t a big concern, as the Cyclones kept things safe. They did get one open downfield receiver on a broken WVU coverage, but Hakeem Bailey’s hustling play to recover (the receiver was not his assignment) allowed him to break it up. K-State likely won’t miss such opportunities, so the Mountaineers must check the pass on the back end before getting up in run support.
“It’s a bigger challenge than any team we faced because of the unknowns,” a subdued Gibson said. “We have information [on all three] of them. They run it more with Delton, but Thompson can throw it too. He came in at a time when they had to throw it, but he can run. They don’t really change what they do.”
Even if WVU wanted to make numerous changes based on the identity of the QB on the field, it probably wouldn’t be able to. Installing more than one game plan would be dicey enough in the best of circumstances, but considering the rash of gold and blue injuries, attempting to do so for this game might be suicide. Viewed in terms of Gibson’s game plan last week (‘I just told them to play hard,’), it’s not difficult to understand why the Mountaineers must keep things as simple as possible again this week. That makes this game a battle of execution, not schemes and tactics.