Sat 10/26 3:45 PM ET
Texas Tech 27-37 L
Sirius/XM: 117 / 192
Baylor 25-35 L
Series: KSU 2-1
First Meeting: 1930
Last Meeting: 2012
MATCH-UPS, MUSINGS AND MORE
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder has no problem flouting convention. He is a senior citizen in a young man's game. He has twice built a program based on more jucos than just about any other school in the country. And he's not hesitant to play two quarterbacks, which many onlookers criticize out of hand.
You've heard it a thousand times. 'If you have two quarterbacks, you don't have any.' It's cute and snappy, even given its age, in this era when snark replaces thoughtful analysis. It's also dead wrong.
Take West Virginia's 1993 team, which relied heavily on a two quarterback system to roll through the regular season undefeated. Go all the way back to the Dallas Cowboys of the 1960s and 70s, who often rotated players at the helm. It's not a magic bullet, but it has its place in the game, and it could be the key for K-State to get off the schneid in the Big 12 and make a run toward bowl eligibility.
Daniel Sams, the running half of the Wildcat QB duo, is the leading rusher on the team with 522 yards (6.1 average) and seven scores. Jake Walters, who has been hampered by the absence of weapons such as Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson, is a good enough passer to put stress on secondaries. Put them together, especially against a defense that doesn't adapt quickly, and they can cause problems.
That could well be the case on Saturday when West Virginia visits. The Mountaineers' defensive stats have been skewed by the Baylor blowout, but they do have the ability to take away some segments of an opposing attack. But can they do so if the offense switches gears quickly?
Although Waters stats aren't eye-popping, he might have the chance to be the more effective player against WVU. The Mountaineers have had the most trouble against the two pocket passers it has faced this year (Baylor and Texas Tech), and Waters has show the ability to be accurate (>63% completions in three of his six games and no interceptions in his last three contests). Without a pass rush, which has ranged from adequate to totally missing this season, WVU might struggle to get him off his spot and lower his efficiency rate.
That's not to ignore Sams, who totaled 317 rushing yards and four scores against Oklahoma State and Baylor. If West Virginia misses assignments on the second level, or can't maintain rush discipline, Sams has the ability to take control of the game on the ground.
To be successful, West Virginia must be aware when the quarterbacks switch on the field (in the heat of battle, that's not always evident) and modify their approach when they do. They need to be measured and disciplined against Sams and his zone read runs, and make sure every assignment is covered. Versus Waters, they have to rush with more abandon, and win some of the one-on-one blocker/defender encounters -- ones they haven't been able to come out on top in for most of the season.
This isn't an insurmountable task, but it's one that WVU has had little experience with this year, with one exception. In the Oklahoma game, the Mountaineers faced passer Trevor Knight for most of the evening, and held him pretty much in check. Enter runner Blake Bell in the fourth quarter, who ripped off gains of 11 and 10 yards on his two carries against a defense that wasn't ready to face the quarterback run. The Mountaineers will have to adapt better than that on Saturday afternoon in Manhattan if it hopes to get its fourth win of the year.
A NUMBER WORTH COUNTING
It's fifty -- and in that pair of digits lies a story that hasn't gotten enough credit, especially from us.
One of the players in that group is Jared Barber, whose 50 tackles lead the team. He's played just as his high school profile suggested he might. A tough, physical player who loves to hit and mix it up, Barber has been right in the middle of the action for he improved Mountaineer defense. Thirty-three of his 50 stops have been unassisted, and he's also gotten into the backfield on five of those stops. He's been an anchor inside, especially as mates such as Nick Kwiatkoski and Doug Rigg have missed time. And, oh yeah, he's also broken up a pair of passes, so the idea that he can't play at all against the pass is wrong -- and one that we hopefully didn't perpetuate.
Rigg has also been solid, producing 32 stops in six games, as has Kwiatkoski (37 in five). They might not be Reed Williams in terms of the ability to drop 20 yards downfield and defend the pass, but for the most part they have played well this year. They will need to be solid against the run, and help keep Sams one-dimensional, in West Virginia's upset bid.
BEER OF THE WEEK
On my trip to the Big 12 basketball tournament last year (BlueGoldNews.com was one of only three media outlets that covered WVU there), I came across a local lager called Wheat State Golden. This very unpretentious brew is crafted by the Free State Brewing Company, which is just a couple dozen years old, but they've hit on a simple formula for a light, clean refreshing beer that goes great with sporting events and munchies both pre- and post-game.
There's not a lot of mystery here -- the Golden doesn't have any added flavorings or secret ingredients. It's just a great staple, with wheat as the main grain, set off by just the right amount of hops and is suited for almost any occasion. Once West Virginia fans discover the Big 12 basketball tournament (the bar and social scene next to the Sprint Center is excellent), more Mountain Staters will have the chance to discover this hidden gem.
ONE MORE THING...
A match-up of strength vs. strength to watch is West Virginia's punt game against K-State's return team. The Mountaineers, courtesy of Nick O'Toole's booming punts and a sure-tackling coverage team, stands third in the nation in net punting this year, averaging 41.95 yards per game in that category. On the other end, Kansas State is tops in the country, moving the ball an average of 24.67 yards upfield every time it gets a return.
Does West Virginia acknowledge this and angle its punts toward the sideline, even when it's not in a position to put the ball inside the 20-yard line? Or does it trust what it has been doing better than almost any other team, and allow O'Toole to continue to send his rocket shots skyward and trust the coverage group?
Either way, this encounter could have an outsized impact on the game. As both teams have struggled to put consistent offensive attacks together, field position figures to play an even greater role than normal.