West Virginia Mountaineers – Kansas State Wildcats Notebook
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It was the perfect situation for power football and if anyone in the Big 12 would be associated with an old school, power football approach, it would be 78-year-old Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.
The Wildcats trailed West Virginia 7-0 in the second quarter and neither team was rewriting the record books with its offensive output. It was fourth-and-one and the Wildcats lined up in a power set at their own 43. A surge came from both fronts but Kansas State quarterback pivoted and flicked a pitch to Alex Barnes, who tried the left end. But Barnes was met in the backfield, first by WVU linebackers Dylan Tonkery and JoVanni Stewart and then by lineman Jabril Robinson. The result: a four-yard loss. From there, WVU moved downfield on seven plays, capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass from Will Grier to David Sills V. The Mountaineers scored on another Grier-to-Sills 1-yard pass about 90 seconds later to take a 21-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
When asked, if, in hindsight, he would have gone for it and run the same play again, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder replied, “yes” – repeatedly – to both questions.
“In the locker room I told them I accept the responsibility for that play but I also told them I can’t coach a team that can’t get six inches,” Snyder said.
It’s probably an over-reach singling out one play as a turning point in a 35-6 blowout, but the Wildcats never recovered from that point swing.
“It’s tough but every time you’re in that situation, you have to keep playing your game,” K-State defensive lineman Jordan Mittie said.
“That was a key point. Was it 7-0 at that time?” head coach Dana Holgorsen recalled. “(It was) 7-0, we stopped them on fourth down, we scored, then we stopped them, then (we had) a two-minute drive down and scored again. I’m sure you all were questioning the time on the clock. (We) finished that half pretty good.”
LACK OF POWER: The Wildcats accumulated just 77 yards of offense in the first half and dug an inescapable hole for themselves. They finished with 91 yards rushing, the first time WVU held an opponent to under 100 yards on the ground since Dec. 28, 2016, against Miami. The 35-6 loss was their largest margin of defeat for the Wildcats since they lost to Texas Tech 66-14 in 2009.
But Mittie, at least, wasn’t about to point fingers.
“I’m not going to say anything about the offense,” he said. “We have a lot of things to improve on both sides of the ball.”
TOO EARLY TO TELL: Snyder was very complimentary of Grier but stopped short of naming him the Heisman front-runner.
“He’s deserving of awards that are out there but I can’t tell you (about the Heisman) because I haven’t seen any other quarterbacks,” Snyder said.
Grier, a senior, threw five touchdown passes for a WVU-record fifth time.
But Snyder is just as impressed with his legs.
“I’ve always been a great admirer of Will,” Snyder said. “He’s an extremely talented quarterback in many ways. Everybody looks at his passing stats but I love the way he manages a game. He’s an elusive guy too. He scrambles, and by making people miss him, he buys time.”
QUOTABLE: Snyder, when asked if backup quarterback Alex Delton might start the Wildcats’ next game, Sept. 29 against Texas: “There’s a chance I might start Saturday. Everybody has a chance.”
Delton has playing in all four of the Wildcats’ games this season but only in a backup role. He entered the game against West Virginia late in the third quarter.
With the win, WVU improved to 5-2 in Big 12 home openers.
The Mountaineers have now won 17 consecutive games when leading at halftime.
WVU improved to 115-15 when scoring 30 or more points in a game since 2000.
The Mountaineers also improved to 21-0 when holding opponents to 20 points or less under defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.
WVU allowed just six points, the fewest it has given up in a game since Nov. 28, 2015, vs. Iowa State.
West Virginia is now 11-1 when wearing a gold jersey with blue pants since 2001.
Redshirt senior safety Dravon Askew-Henry made his team-leading 42nd career start against the Wildcats, tied for the third-most in program history (Karl Joseph, Tyler Orlosky).
The Mountaineers recorded 464 yards of total offense, the 66th time they have registered 400 or more under coach Dana Holgorsen.
Redshirt senior quarterback Will Grier threw five touchdowns for a program-record fifth time against the Wildcats. Grier has thrown four or more touchdowns seven times in his 13-game Mountaineer career.
Grier passed Rasheed Marshall for No. 5 in program history in career touchdown passes (48).
Grier threw for 356 yards in the win, his 12th game of 300 or more yards through the air in his WVU career.
Junior wide receiver Marcus Simms caught an 82-yard touchdown in the first quarter, his first touchdown reception of the season and seventh of his career. The play was the longest of the season for the Mountaineers, the longest pass since Sept. 29, 2012, vs. Baylor, and tied for the 10th-longest touchdown pass in program history.
Simms finished with 136 receiving yards, a new career high.