Three games remaining and the Mountaineers needs to win at least two in order to go to a bowl game. Winning on the road is hard. Winning against a cornered opponent is hard. Winning is hard. The Mountaineers were once perplexed by the Kansas State Wildcats, losing four straight years, sometimes in heartbreaking fashion, before finally getting a win in 2016. That win - a 17-16 nailbiter, became a 28-23 win in 2017 before the string of lopsided victories. From 2018-2020, the Mountaineers outscored the Wildcats 95-36. Can they keep it going?
Contain Deuce Vaughn
Deuce Vaughn. You might as well go ahead and remember that name because he is the Wildcats leading rusher at 866 yards and 12 touchdowns but he is also the Wildcats leading receiver at 421 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Wildcats get him the ball - a lot. The scary news is that Vaughn is only a sophomore and he is getting better. Vaughn starting the year with three straight 100-yard rushing performance before struggling in the middle of the season when the Wildcats faced Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Texas Tech. Vaughn did put up 99 yards against Iowa State. He has since rebounded with 100-yard games against TCU and Kansas. Vaughn has scored a touchdown in every game except Iowa State. He is also strong with the ball, having lost only one fumble all year.
Protect Jarret Doege
The answer is simple for West Virginia, they must keep QB1 upright and clean if they want to get a good performance out of him. When the line protection breaks down, Doege breaks down. It really is that simple. The problem that Mountaineers have is that Doege isn’t just bad when the line breaks down, that part is understandable. The problem is that he sees ghosts when the line does break down - meaning he starts watching the pass rush and not looking downfield. Several times against the Cowboys Doege had a wide receiver who was open but he failed to throw the ball, instead checking off to the next progression and waiting for the pass rush. Kansas State doesn’t get after the quarterback much and Doege should stay relatively clean but if you were a defensive coordinator, why wouldn’t you crowd the line and blitz like hell? It’s worked for everyone who’s done it so far.
Second Half Adjustments
It’s no secret that the Mountaineers are a bad second half team. They have scored 8.6 points per game in the second half. Kansas State is middle of the road, scoring 13 points a game in the second half. The scary news is that Kansas State scores most of those points in the fourth quarter where they are 9th in the nation in fourth quarter scoring at 10.1 points per game. They are even better at home where they score 14 points a game in the fourth quarter. Neal Brown’s tendency has been to play the game close and then take the air out of the ball in the second half. He will need to make sure he doesn’t go too conservative too quickly against a team that is used to scoring in the second half and making it a game.