WVU football: Mountaineers get a break from passing QB this week
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- In all the examples of futility for West Virginia's historically bad defense last season, the Mountaineers never allowed 300-plus passing yards in three consecutive games.
That's the current streak against WVU (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12), which travels to face Kansas State (2-4 overall, 0-3 Big 12) this Saturday at 3:45 p.m. Fox Sports 1 will televise the game at the 50,000-seat Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
The Mountaineers ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 14 nationally in pass defense before their 30-21 win over then-No. 11 Oklahoma State on Sept. 28. The passing numbers for WVU's opposition have trended up in five consecutive games, although the style of the quarterbacks has changed.
"We were facing teams that were running the quarterback a little bit," third-year West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday.
The Mountaineers held Oklahoma to 119 yards passing in an early September loss in Norman, Okla. But the Sooners played two dual-threat QBs against the Mountaineers; freshman Trevor Knight threw 20 passes and ran seven times and Blake Bell ran twice and threw once in relief.
Maryland's C.J. Brown passed 26 times and ran 14 in the Terrapins' 37-0 shutout of the Mountaineers on Sept. 21. Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh had 16 rushing attempts, but threw 47 passes.
The last two weeks, WVU faced Baylor's Bryce Petty and Texas Tech's Davis Webb. Those two signal callers combined for 75 pass attempts and seven runs.
As a result of opposing offenses staying in the pocket and chucking it around, the Mountaineers allowed 322 passing yards to Oklahoma State, 396 to Baylor and 462 to Texas Tech.
That trend will likely end this Saturday because Kansas State quarterbacks Daniel Sams and Jake Waters have combined to throw 154 passes against 139 QB runs. The Wildcats have 41 more rushing attempts by their quarterbacks than completions, and Sams is the team's leading rusher (522 yards). He is the third-leading rusher nationally among quarterbacks.
"(Baylor and Texas Tech) were more sit in the pocket and throw the ball around," Holgorsen said. "Kansas State's probably a little more running game with the quarterback. The teams we played prior to Baylor, they were quarterbacks that were runners."
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KANSAS STATE, like West Virginia, has played a difficult Big 12 schedule. The Wildcats' three league losses are to Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Those teams are a combined 8-1 in the Big 12 and 15-3 overall.
The Mountaineers' Big 12 opponents - Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech - are all nationally ranked. Those four teams are a combined 12-2 in the Big 12 and 24-2 overall.
This will be the first game for Kansas State and West Virginia in which they've played a team in the bottom half of the Big 12 standings.
"They are (better than their record) and I think we're better than our record," Holgorsen said. "If you just look at their previous three games ... at Texas having a chance to win, at Oklahoma State having a chance to win, at home against Baylor after they throttled us and having a chance to win.
Kansas State's four losses have come by an average of 6.8 points. WVU's four defeats have come by an average of 21.8 points.
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TWO OF Kansas State's top three receivers - Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson - missed the Wildcats' 35-25 loss to Baylor on Oct. 12. Holgorsen expects both pass catchers to play against WVU.
"I anticipate their receivers will be back," he said. "They're smaller guys that play on the outside that are dynamic and fast and will stretch the field."
Lockett leads K-State with 475 receiving yards on 31 catches. He averages 95 yards per game, which ranks No. 25 nationally. He had 13 receptions for a school-record 237 yards in a 31-21 loss at Texas on Sept. 21.
Thompson is third on the team with 185 yards on 13 receptions. Both receivers have one touchdown.
With Lockett and Thompson sidelined because of leg injuries, Kansas State managed just 118 passing yards against Baylor.
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OFFENSIVE LINEMEN Pat Eger (6-foot-6, 302-pound senior) and Quinton Spain (6-5, 332, junior) are "good" health-wise, Holgorsen said.
"They worked out here earlier," he said. "They were in the weight room this morning lifting and all that. I'm anticipating them being fine."
Eger has 23 career starts and Spain 21.
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BILL SNYDER, who coaches in a stadium named after him, turned 74 earlier this month. He has coached the Wildcats for 27 seasons in two separate stints.
Snyder is the oldest active coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and 41 years older than the last head coach WVU faced, Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech. The 33-year-old Kingsbury is the third-youngest coach in the FBS.
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.