For the second week in a row, the Kansas State football team will face a team coached by a former Mike Leach player. This time, it is Dana Holgorsen’s West Virginia University team.
Holgorsen was one of Leach’s early receivers when Leach was the offensive coordinator under head coach Hal Mumme at Iowa Wesleyan College. Holgorsen followed the duo to Valdosta State in the early 1990s and then held several positions at Texas Tech under Leach, now head coach of the Red Raiders.
True to form, Holgorsen’s offense is going to try to move quickly and throw the ball. Holgorsen’s major deviation from his “Air Raid Offense” roots is that he has a more balanced offense. While Leach essentially abandoned the rushing game, Holgorsen has managed to put together very successful, balanced attacks.
Wildcat defenders need to keep an eye out for junior receiver David Sills V. Sills has managed to light up defenses, averaging 15.5 yards per catch this season.
Sills is a former University of Southern California quarterback recruit. He committed to USC at the very early age of 14. After a knuckle injury and subsequent loss of control on his throws, he ended up as a backup quarterback at West Virginia. Sills moved to the receiver position in the off-season prior to this season.
This offense means K-State will have to manufacture some pressure without bringing extra rushers. The Wildcat linebackers will need to be ready to stop the talented rushing game of quarterback Will Grier.
K-State will also need its safeties and cornerbacks to play well to try to limit Grier’s throwing abilities.
West Virginia’s defense is a 3-3-5 base defense. They will have three linemen and three linebackers on the field for most downs. Luckily for the Wildcats, the Mountaineers lost all three starting linemen off of their 37th nationally ranked defense last season to graduation. The losses are noticeable.
I expect Wildcat freshman quarterback Skylar Thompson to get the starting spot for K-State after sophomore quarterback Alex Delton suffered what appeared to be his second concussion in two weeks.
Delton drew a targeting penalty last week after taking a shot to the head just before halftime against Texas Tech. Delton would not end up playing in the second half. Thompson led the Wildcats back from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to beat Texas Tech in overtime.
Since K-State is already down to their third option for quarterback, I would expect the offense to be careful about Thompson being hit. Expect the run game to involve a lot of touches for sophomore running back Alex Barnes and junior running back Justin Silmon.
If I were offensive coordinator, I would also use Barnes and Silmon to help in pass protection. K-State can’t afford too many sacks and definitely can’t afford losing Thompson to an injury.
I usually don’t include special teams in my previews, but senior cornerback D.J. Reed and junior receiver Byron Pringle are doing so well that they are changing games.
Teams have been changing their kicking strategies to kick away from Reed. With the increased returns, Pringle gave K-State 159 yards and a touchdown on four returns.
Finally, senior kicker Matthew McCrane is closing in on Martin Gramatica’s record of 54 career field goals made for K-State. In fact, one field goal against West Virginia would tie the record, and two would break the 19-year-old record.
My prediction: K-State skates by West Virginia with a narrow win, 27-24.