Breaking Down the WVU-Kansas State Matchup By Position
Bill Snyder’s Wildcats have been a thorn in West Virginia’s side.
By Franklin Markel
The Mountaineers hung on last week for a 20-16 win against the Iowa State Cyclones. Next the Mountaineers travel to Manhattan, Kansas to take on the 5-4 Kansas State Wildcats. Last week K State came back to beat Texas Tech in Lubbock 42-35 in Overtime. WVU looks to stay among contenders for the Big 12 championship game and Kansas State looks to lock up a bowl game bid. Here is where the Mountaineers and Wildcats have their advantages:
West Virginia Advantages
Will Grier had a solid game last week after his worst of the season. He shined in the first half but cooled down in the second. All in all he finished 20-25 for 316 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception and now has 3068 yards and 30 touchdowns in 9 games. He continues to top the country in stats and will have a big decision this offseason, weather he declares for the NFL draft or stays for his senior year. For Kansas State, who will be under center on Saturday is still a question. Starter Jesse Ertz is very talented but has missed the last 4 games with a knee injury and is listed as questionable. In the 5 games he’s played in he’s thrown for 980 yards and 7 touchdowns and his most successful outing was his first, a 333 yard and 4 touchdown performance vs Central Arkansas. If Ertz is a no go, Alex Delton will get the start. He has split snaps with Skylar Thompson in the last 4 games but is the backup on the depth chart. In those 4 games he has 585 yards and 2 touchdowns and he’s thrown 2 interceptions. Ertz is talented but Grier is better and Ertz might not even start. WVU advantage.
The West Virginia Mountaineers had a huge game vs Iowa State. Justin Crawford had 102 yards and Kennedy McKoy had a huge second half totalling 60 yards and a game clinching 17 yard dash in the fourth quarter. Add the stats from Grier and Martell Pettaway and they totaled 208 yards from the ground. K State has a rushing game led by Alex Barnes with 587 yards this season and 5 touchdowns. The rushing game also sees a lot of Quarterback runs, Ertz and Delton combine for 678 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground. The Kansas State running game is better but when talking about just running backs, WV has the advantage.
David Sills caught another TD last week and he leads the nation with 16 and beats out all other Big 12 receivers by 7 touchdowns. Ka’Raun White had a explosive day, catching 4 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown and Marcus Simms had another 52 yards. The Wildcats have a lot of depth at the WR position. Byron Pringle has 511 yards and 3 TD’s on the season and Isaiah Zuber has 387 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Dalton Schoen has 440 yards on just 20 catches, 3 of which were touchdowns. The depth of guys like Heath, Harris and Router makes a solid core for K state. They might have the depth but WVU has the talent, so the Mountaineers have a slight advantage.
WVU has had great linebacker play the past couple weeks. The addition of David Long since the TCU game has made the improvement evident. Al-Rasheed Benton had another 9 tackles on Saturday and now has 77 on the season. David Long only had 5, bring his season total to 41, but that’s after missing the first 3 games of the season. The Wildcat linebackers are solid too. Trent Tanking has 75 tackles this season, he had 13 vs TCU, 11 vs Oklahoma and 10 vs Texas. Jayd Kirby has another 64 this season. He has 11 vs Texas and 13 vs Oklahoma. It can really go either way but WVU is ahead by the skin of their teeth.
Kansas State Advantages
The West Virginia offensive line really impressed me on Saturday. They played very well against a very tough Iowa State team. Josh Sills, Colton McKivitz, Kyle Bosh, Matt Jones, and Yodny Cajuste will start another game together this week and the durability of this unit is impressive. The Mountaineer team rushed for 208 yards last week and Crawford and McKoy made huge strides in the running game. The Wildcats offensive line is very young, this week they’ll start 3 sophomores and 2 juniors. The JUCO transfer Abdul Beecham is starting at the Left Guard and Junior Dalton Rinser starts at right tackle. These Juniors are very talented and really make this offensive line good. It’s very close but the Wildcats have the advantage.
The WVU defensive line continues to struggle. Reese Donahue had 5 tackles last week and Ezekiel Rose had 3. This is Mountaineer unit that really hasn’t been able to stop the run and needs improvement. Will Geary is the leader of the Kansas State defensive line, and with his 28 total tackles this season he should have a bright NFL future. The sophomore Reggie Walker has 32 tackles on the season and also has a great future in front of him. This is a easy Kansas State win and they should give the Mountaineers trouble.
The West Virginia defensive backs came up clutch last week. They made 4 plays in a row from Hakeem Bailey and Kenny Robinson to get the ball back late in the fourth. Bailey had 10 tackles and played some of the best football in his life while Elijah Battle had 7 tackles. For K state, wr/rb/s Denzel Goolsby has 60 tackles on the season, 12 in Norman and 11 in Austin. Kendal Adams has 46 tackles on the season and 151 in his career in Manhattan. D.J. Reed has 35 solo tackles and is getting better and better as each game goes on. The WVU DB’s could have the advantage if they play like last week but on paper Kansas State has the advantage.
WVU is trying out Evan Staley as the new kicker. Against Iowa State he was 2-3 on field goal attempts and 2-2 on point afters. One of the most promising things on Saturday was Billy Kinney, with three punts for a 44.3 yard average. For K State, the kicker is Matthew McCraine. He’s perfect on point afters and 17-21 on FG attempts. Punting is a strength for the K state special teams, Nick Walsh averages just under 44 yards a kick. K State has a slight advantage.
I think WVU and Kansas State are two very well matched teams. WVU is in a spot similar to last week, they’re facing a average offense but a great defense, just like they did Iowa State. I think they handle it the same way. WVU 24-20