West Virginia looks to snap skid at K-State
MORGANTOWN — The WVU season bottomed out Saturday, suffering a 38-17 home setback to a then 3-5 Texas Tech team.
The Red Raiders scored TDs on their first five possessions. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, went scoreless in three trips into the red zone.
The tough-to-swallow loss dropped the Mountaineers to 3-6 on the season, while leaving first-year coach Neal Brown quite frustrated.
Things get no easier this Saturday as the Mountaineers visit Kansas State. The Wildcats are 6-3 (3-3 in the Big 12) and the lone team to beat Oklahoma this fall.
“Kansas State is a veteran team. They start eight seniors and two juniors on offense and they start six seniors and three juniors on defense,” Brown said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches’ presser. “They have played a lot of football and they play well in all three phases.”
Kansas State is under the direction of first-year coach Christopher Klieman. He replaced the legendary Bill Snyder. Klieman came to Manhattan after leading North Dakota State University to the 2018 Division I FCS championship, marking his fourth national championship in five seasons at NDSU.
The Wildcats are coming off a tough 27-24 loss to Texas in Austin. WVU enters Saturday’s game as a 14-point underdog.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.
The major question surrounding WVU is now the quarterback situation.
Does Austin Kendall remain the starter or does Bowling Green transfer Jarrett Doege, who was solid in relief against Texas Tech, get the call? Rotating quarterbacks never works.
Doege did get a resounding cheer from the Milan Puskar faithful when he entered the Tech game late in the third quarter.
Both Mountaineer QBs put up good numbers against the Red Raiders.
Kendall was 26 of 43 for 355 yards while Doege completed 11 of 17 tosses for 119.
But Kendall’s numbers carry no impact when you shoot blanks in the red zone.
At Tuesday’s press conference with the Mountaineer media, Brown had this to say about his quarterback situation, “We have a plan. It does me no good to share it with you. Quarterback is not the reason we are struggling.
“Our margin for error is really small. If we don’t make routine plays, you get exposed, and we did. I want to see improvement and for us to get better. We have made solid progress but it didn’t show Saturday on special teams and defense.”
Kansas State has no issues at quarterback.
Skylar Thompson triggers the Kansas State offense. The dual threat QB has thrown for 1,589 yards, nine TDs and one pick. He needs 29 yards rushing to become just the fourth quarterback in school history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards.
James Gilbert is the Wildcats’ top rushing threat with 558 yards and five TDs while Dalton Schoen leads the team with 30 receptions for 457 yards and three TDS.
Klieman, meanwhile, is concerned with the potency of the Mountaineers’ offensive weapons.
“WVU has tremendous skill performers. They get the ball on the perimeter fast,” Klieman said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “We have to do a great job of not making it a one-on-one. They are very explosive with a great skill set.”
The Texas Tech game also marked the much-anticipated debut of freshman running back Tony Mathis. He entered in the second half and made his mark by hauling in a 9-yard TD pass from Doege.
“Tony Mathis will continue to play. He was nervous but had a nice run to finish the game,” Brown said Tuesday. “I like his running style.”
Mathis will be able to play the next three games and still be eligible for a redshirt season.
“Kansas State plays very disciplined. They don’t beat themselves. Skylar is really playing under control,” Brown said. “Defensively, they are very tough on the line and their secondary is playing with a lot of confidence.”
BUBBA’S EER BITS
Redshirt freshman receiver Sam James was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after grabbing 14 passes for 223 yards. However, he had several key drops during the contest.
Kansas State leads the all-time series against WVU, 5-4, despite losing the last three.
The Mountaineers won last year’s matchup, 35-6.
WVU will close its home schedule on Saturday, Nov. 23 against Oklahoma State. That will be followed by a road trip to TCU on Friday, Nov. 29.
Nine true freshmen and 12 redshirt freshmen have played for WVU this season.
Josh Norwood leads the Mountaineers in tackles (61).
Kansas State has yielded just five passing TDs all season, tying Ohio State for fewest in the nation.
The Wildcats visit Texas Tech next week.
Brown said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference that he and his staff will not actively recruit in the state of Texas.
Speaking of recruiting, Brown and his staff landed a blue-chipper this week. Four-star running back Lamy Constant of Brooklyn verbally committed to continue his grid career with the Mountaineers. He is a 6-foot-0, 190-pounder.