A perceived difference of styles will be on display on Saturday when No. 12 West Virginia travels to always-tough Kansas State for the two teams’ Big 12 Conference-opening clash at Milan Puskar Stadium om Morgantown, W.V.
West Virginia is thought to be a team that thrives in its high-powered passing attack as directed by Heisman-hopeful quarterback Will Grier. And Kansas State is seen as a squad that will shorten a game with ball-control offense handled by dual-threat quarterbacks and control an opponent with its stifling defense.
The fact is the two teams are a lot more alike than people think.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference, honestly,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. “Everybody wants to compare the new-school, old-school way of this game with Kansas State and West Virginia.
“There’s a lot of similarities that I see. They’ve been on the forefront of a lot of scheme things offensively, defensively, and especially special teams-wise. I’ve copied a lot of their stuff.”
The off-week created by the cancellation of West Virginia’s game against North Carolina State last week in advance of safety concerns from Hurricane Florence actually allowed AP poll voters to reconsider the Mountaineers’ first two games and elevate them to 12th from 14th in the most recent rankings.
West Virginia (2-0) comes off the impromptu off-week and a 52-17 win over Youngstown State on Sept. 9. Grier completed 21-of-26 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ victory, connecting with seven different receivers. He threw touchdown passes of 11, 24, 33 and 40 yards, with three of the scoring tosses to Gary Jennings.
Grier will have to be more patient against the 2-1 Wildcats than he has been the first two games.
“They can do different things to you,” Holgorsen said of the Kansas State defense. “They’re blitzing more and pressuring more and playing man coverage more than what I’ve seen. So, there’s going to be opportunities for big plays.”
Following a dominating bounce-back 41-17 win over UTSA last week, K-State will hit the road for the first time in 2018. Uncharacteristically, the Wildcats have had trouble hanging on to the ball in their first three games.
In a narrow season-opening win against South Dakota, Kansas State threw two interceptions and fumbled multiple times, losing two. The Wildcats threw just one interception the following week against Mississippi State before putting the ball on the ground four times against UTSA, losing two of those.
“We’ve had nine fumbles, four in first game, one in second, thought we had it corrected but then it jumped up and got us again,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “We were careless with the football, and we are working on the capacity to focus and maintain self-discipline.”
Starting strong safety Denzel Goolsby did not play against the Roadrunners while backup cornerback Kevion McGee was also out against UTSA, and Snyder said he is not sure of their status for the game against the Mountaineers.
“(West Virginia) is probably one of the worst teams you can be short-handed against,” Snyder said. “They have developed a great deal of balance, and have the ability to run it and throw it. This is not something that you want, but it’s no different than anyone else. You have to have someone that is prepared to play as well as the next one.”
This marks the ninth meeting between West Virginia and Kansas State, with the Wildcats holding a 5-3 overall lead. The teams have split the four games played in Morgantown.