WVU football: Two QBs equal one Klein for Kansas State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Through the first six games of Collin Klein's 2012 season, a year that ended with a third-place Heisman Trophy finish, he had 1,079 passing yards, 515 rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns.
Klein graduated, but that might not provide much respite for West Virginia, which plays at Kansas State this Saturday (3:45 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
The Wildcats use a two-quarterback system in lieu of Klein's dual-threat skills, but the combined production is similar in 2013. Junior Jake Waters and sophomore Daniel Sams have combined for 1,297 passing yards, 673 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns through six games this season.
"They both can throw it and run it," WVU senior defensive tackle Shaq Rowell said of K-State's signal callers.
Waters, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior college transfer in his first season with the Wildcats, is listed as the starter.
But it has been sophomore Sams, a 6-2, 210-pounder, who started to wrest control of the position before Kansas State's off week.
Sams is K-State's leading rusher with 86 carries for 522 yards, but 57 attempts and 317 yards came in the past two games. He is also 19-for-28 passing for 222 yards in that span.
Waters has completed 9 of 22 passes and rushed 11 times in the Wildcats' past two games, losses to nationally ranked Big 12 opponents Oklahoma State and Baylor.
Kansas State, the co-Big 12 champs last season, didn't lose until Nov. 17 a year ago. The Wildcats are off to a 2-4 start this season, including 0-3 in the Big 12.
"They're searching a little bit for an identity," third-year WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "You lose a quarterback of the caliber of what they had last year, it's going to take time before they get into a rhythm. They've been searching with the two kids they've been playing.
"They're two different-type guys; they do different things with their scheme. We'll have to prepare for both."
Sams rushed 57 times and passed 28 in the past two games, just more than a 2-to-1 ratio in favor of the run. In contrast, Waters has 22 passes and 11 runs, precisely a 2-to-1 ratio. The defense will have to adjust to the personnel as it changes.
"I think we know what to expect," WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "One of them has strengths to run the ball and the other throws it effectively. We don't prepare any differently than what we did for, say, Oklahoma State with (Clint) Chelf and (J.W.) Walsh."
The Mountaineers (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12) have lost three of four, with the only win coming against then-No. 11 Oklahoma State. In the first five games this season, WVU allowed 1,727 yards at an average of 4.99 yards per play.
In the past two games - losses at Baylor and to Texas Tech - the West Virginia defense allowed 1,437 yards at 8.16 yards per play.
The Bears and Red Raiders, both in the top 10 of the national rankings, had pocket passers. No matter the K-State quarterback, they'll be less inclined to stand and deliver.
"The last couple of opponents have been able to spread you sideline-to-sideline and have the ability to run the ball," Patterson said, "but also you've got to defend vertically and horizontally. They were able to isolate us a little bit."
At the back end of West Virginia's defense are Darwin Cook and Karl Joseph. They're run-support safeties, so Kansas State's schemes play to their strengths.
"Now we can get back to hopefully getting people back in the box," Patterson said. "I think that plays a little bit more into our comfort level."
That didn't matter much last season. Klein had more passing touchdowns (three) than incompletions (two) in the Wildcats' 55-14 rout of WVU at Mountaineer Field. He accounted for seven touchdowns.
Two of Klein's touchdown throws went to Tyler Lockett, who finished with nine catches for 194 yards against the Mountaineers.
Lockett is expected to return from injury this Saturday, along with the team's third-leading receiver, Tramaine Thompson. That'll give Sams and Waters two vertical targets that weren't options against Baylor two weeks ago.
"It does kind of start with (Sams) as far as him making things happen with his feet," Holgorsen said. "If they've got those receivers back they may put that other quarterback in there and throw it.
"What they do is going to change with personnel. You don't know."
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.