Mountaineers, Wildcats set to face off in game with Big 12 title implications
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 02:10
When the dust settles in Morgantown after No. 4 Kansas State (6-0, 3-0) and No. 13 West Virginia (5-1, 2-1) face off Saturday night, the race for the Heisman Trophy and the road to the Big 12 championship should be much clearer.
The Mountaineers are coming off their worst loss in nearly a decade, while the Wildcats roll into town with an undefeated record and one of the country’s premier rushing attacks.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen knows the Mountaineers’ defense will have its work cut out for it. He said the team will focus on stopping Kansas State’s running game, which is led by dynamic leader and Heisman Trophy contender, senior quarterback Collin Klein.
"Offensively, it starts with their quarterback. Collin Klein is a tremendous football player," Holgorsen said.
"We will work hard on trying to stop the run, and we want to make them pass. You look at them throwing the ball, and it doesn’t look very good, but it goes exactly where you want it to go. They have big play potential outside, and they have some receivers that can really run."
Klein is third in the Big 12 in rushing (606 yards per game) and fourth in passing (1,074 yards per game).
Junior linebacker Doug Rigg said the defense is aware of Klein’s talents and must stay disciplined to contain him.
"A lot of times, he’ll look like he’s running the ball, then he’ll pretend to run the ball but throw it deep, and he has the arm to complete it," Rigg said.
"The biggest thing for us is that we have to read our keys. We can’t just assume it’s going to be a run and give up receivers going deep."
Defensively, the Wildcats will try to emulate Texas Tech in containing West Virginia’s explosive offense, which ranks No. 3 nationally in passing (384 yards per game) and No. 7 nationally in scoring (45.7 points per game).
Kansas State is allowing only 16.5 points per game (No. 19 nationally) and 238.5 yards per game through the air (No. 7 in the Big 12).
Senior inside receiver Tavon Austin said Kansas State’s level of toughness reminds him of Texas Tech.
"Kansas State definitely presents a great challenge. They play tough football," he said.
"That’s what Texas Tech did – they came in and hit us in the mouth. They’re going to come in like that this week, and we need to be prepared."
After a lackluster performance against Texas Tech, senior quarterback Geno Smith said there are several places in which he hoped to improve the week leading up to the game.
"A number of things: One was accuracy. I didn’t think I hit my mark as much as I would have liked to," he said.
"I was off target on certain throws that I normally make, but days like that happen. You just have to move on from it."
Smith, who leads the nation in passing efficiency (180.8), touchdown passes (25) and completion percentage (75.3 percent), said the Wildcats’ defense will provide a tough challenge because of how well it plays as a unit.
"They’re a tough challenge; they have a really good defense. They play together (and) they play hard. They rarely make mistakes," he said.
"You rarely catch any guys blowing coverages. They all fly to the ball, and that’s something you want as a defensive coordinator, and that’s a good sign for their defense. It’s going to be a challenge for us, and we have to be up for that challenge."
Kickoff is set for 7:05 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally on FOX. West Virginia has beaten three top-five teams at home since the opening of Milan Puskar Stadium in 1980.