Date: September 22, 2018
Time: 3:30pm EST
Venue: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, WV
How to Watch/Listen
Streaming: WatchESPN, or the WatchESPN app
Radio: Click HERE for a complete list of radio affiliates in West Virginia. If you live outside of the state, or don’t live close enough to a radio affiliate, you can listen to the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG on TuneIn Radio.
Spread: WVU -16
Game 3. #HailWV— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) September 20, 2018
Stripe the Stadium. Stripe the Uniform.
Presented by @BookExchangeWV. pic.twitter.com/LX10o6LD5d
Looks like we're striping the unis in the spirit of striping the stadium.
Know Your Enemy
Series History: (3-5). The Wildcats took four in a row from us upon our joining the Big 12, but we've won the last two, including a 28-23 win last year in Manhattan.
2018 Record: 2-1. The Wildcats opened the year with a closer-than-they-would've-liked win over FCS South Dakota, and then followed that up by getting blasted by a surprisingly strong Mississippi State squad at home. They rebounded well against UTSA last weekend, but even the staunchest Wildcat supporters would be hard-pressed to argue that they've looked overly impressive.
Head Coach: Bill Snyder. There's nobody in college football more synonymous with the school they coach at than the Purple Wizard. Snyder's squads are generally known for disciplined, fundamentally sound football, and we should expect no different this year.
Offensive Coordinator: Andre Coleman. Coleman's a K-State lifer, now in his sixth year coaching at the school after playing for Snyder in the early 90s. As such, we shouldn't expect their offense to change much despite it being Coleman's first year in charge.
Defensive Coordinator: Blake Seiler. Seiler's also in his first year running the show, but he too has Wildcat blood running through his veins. Seiler played for State from 2003-06 and has spent each of his 10 years as a coach in the program.
By the Numbers
We're now far enough into the season that I feel comfortable introducing our "By the Numbers" section. Quick refresher:
First, Google Sheets mobile limits my radar chart options so all numbers are displayed in terms of percentiles. Obviously the higher the better.
Explosive Play Differential = (Explosive Plays For - Explosive Plays Against)
Toxic Differential = Explosive Play Differential + Turnover Margin
NFP, Net Field Position = Average Starting Field Position - Opponent Average Starting Field Position
It's important to keep in mind that this is a small sample size, but you can see pretty quickly here that Kansas State has struggled in a lot of areas to start the season. Two that I want to call particular attention to: their yards per play allowed and red zone TD%.
First, yards per play allowed. Their 5.4 season average is actually somewhere in the middle of the road nationally, but the 8.15 that they gave up to Mississippi State, and especially the 9.85 yards per carry (and 384 rushing yards) that they allowed in that game has to have our offense salivating.
Second, their red zone TD%. It's early days yet, but it's still uncharacteristically low for a Bill Snyder team. Consider that they've scored touchdowns on at least 63% of their red zone trips every year since we entered the conference, but that they've turned just 2 of their 8 red zone trips into touchdowns this year despite playing South Dakota and UT San Antonio. Having confidence in our ability to hold them to 3 points in the red zone should be a huge mental advantage for our #Dawgs.
When we have the ball..
Players to watch: DT Trey Dishon, DE Reggie Walker, LB DaQuan Patton, SS Denzel Goolsby, CB Duke Shelley, FS Kendall Adams
Defining success: Attack their newcomers
State's defense returns several key contributors from a solid-if-unspectacular 2017 unit. Reggie Walker and Trey Dishon return up front, while the secondary returns sparkplug corner Duke Shelley and an all-conference caliber safety tandem in Denzel Goolsby and Kendall Adams.
However, they're not without weakness. Linebacker was hit particularly hard by the graduation of their top two tacklers from a year ago, and while JUCO All-American Da'Quan Patton and the injury-battling Elijah Sullivan have stepped in and done a decent job, there's no doubt that the group has taken a step back from a year ago. There's also the injury to the aforementioned Goolsby to consider, which when combined with the lack of experience at the second level would appear to leave them vulnerable in the middle of their defense. So that's where I expect us to attack them.
As I mentioned above, Mississippi State was able to gash them for 384 yards on nearly 10 yards per carry, and if you watched that game a LOT of that yardage came on exactly the type of delay/draw handoffs that we've had success with this year, which our wide receivers compliment with quick hitter actions on the perimeter. I expect us to establish those types of plays early (both the runs and the passes that play off of them) to try and make those new linebackers run sideline-to-sideline and make plays in space. Once they're sufficiently preoccupied with the short-to-intermediate stuff, look for Will and Co to start attacking them downfield.
When they have the ball...
Players to watch: QB Skylar Thompson, RB Alex Barnes, RB Justin Silmon, WR Isaiah Zuber, WR Dalton Schoen, LT Dalton Risner
Defining success: Force their receivers to beat us
The Wildcats return some pretty nice pieces from last year's offense, as well. Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton are both back to continue their two-step at quarterback, Alex Barnes and Justin Silmon return in the backfield, and preseason All-Conference selection Dalton Risner returns at tackle to anchor an offensive line that brings back all five starters. This would appear to lend itself very nicely to the conservative, power running game that State is known for - look at what's there, take your 3 or 4 yards, then line up and do it again.
However, the loss of Byron Pringle and Dominique Heath has severly depleted their big play ability on the outside. Dalton Schoen and especially Isaiah Zuber are good players, but outside of those two there doesn't appear to be too much to worry about. Mississippi State was able to limit the Wildcats to just 100 yards through the air a few weeks ago, and I think we should be confident in our own secondary's ability to man up and lock these guys down. If they're able to do so, it'll leave the rest of our guys free to play downhill against an offense that's been 65:35 run:pass through the first three games. So that's what I think our priority should be - get into the backfield, stop the run, and force Thompson, Delton, and those receivers to prove that they can beat us.
Defining success: Win the field position battle
There will be a couple new names to familiarize ourselves with among their specialists, but a quick peak at the numbers shows that the third phase is still receiving plenty of attention. Their punt return unit has already made its presence felt by housing one against South Dakota, and they rank 9th nationally in Net Field Position. Both of those things have bit us against Kansas State in the past, but I think that the field position battle will be of particular interest on Saturday. State's offense lacks the explosiveness needed to consistently string together long drives, so if we're able to avoid short fields I think we have a great chance of really shutting them down.
Kansas State games have basically felt the same for the last 5 years or so - it's always four quarters of ugly football and at the end it's a one score game. This year bucks the trend.
They're probably well-coached enough to keep it close for a quarter or two, but I just don't see the explosiveness that teams will need to keep pace with us this year. The combination of 3:30 kick, striped stadium, and conference opener suggests a raucous, well-lubricated crowd - I think we feed off of that, start fast, and never look back. Look for Grier and Simms to connect on their first bomb of the season, and possibly a pair of backs over 100 yards. This one's over well before 0:00.
West Virginia 45 Kansas State 21