K-State to play at West Virginia on Saturday in first Big 12 matchup of season

Junior wide receiver Tyler Lockett catches a touchdown as junior West Virginia cornerback Ishmael Banks defends him on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Emily DeShazer | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State football team will travel east this weekend to open Big 12 play against the country’s 12th-best team, West Virginia.

K-State draws a tough matchup to start conference play, as they are set to face a 2-0 West Virginia team that has lit up the scoreboard.

Through just two games, the Mountaineers have scored 92 points and have put up 1,172 yards of offense. Defensively, they have surrendered just 31 points and 619 yards to opponents.

Everyone is talking about West Virginia senior quarterback Will Grier, but rightfully so. Through two games, Grier has completed 46 of 60 passes (76.7 percent) for 761 yards and nine touchdowns, with just one interception.

Grier is also a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy, and is currently in third on ESPN’s latest Heisman Watch poll.

Last season, Grier threw for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior. His yards were good enough for fourth in the Big 12, his 34 touchdown passes put him at third place in that category, and his passer rating of 162.7 was good for third in the conference. He did, however, finish first in the Big 12 with 12 interceptions thrown.

Against the Wildcats in 2017, the senior from Charlotte picked apart the defense to the tune of 372 yards (three yards shy of his season high) along with four touchdown passes. K-State intercepted Grier twice and sacked him twice, but it was not enough as West Virginia escaped with a 28-23 win.

Can K-State get pressure on Grier and limit his ability to scramble?

You would not know it by looking at the stat sheet, but Grier made some plays with his feet against K-State. He ran three times for -5 yards and was sacked twice. The most notable play he made was right before the end of the first half, not getting yards with his feet but extending a play and giving himself space to throw.

After intercepting a pass from Skylar Thompson, the Mountaineers took over on the Wildcat 30-yard line. Grier proceeded to scramble around in the backfield, avoiding K-State defenders before launching a pass to the end zone that found Ka’Raun White for a touchdown on the final play of the half.

With that score and the ensuing successful extra point, West Virginia went up 28-20 at the break and would go on to win 28-23.

The knack Grier has to scramble and make plays is something that K-State head coach Bill Snyder is well aware of.

“If you cut up all of the scrambles that he has made, it is amazing how he has been able to avoid tackles from some very fine athletes,” Snyder said at Tuesday’s press conference. “He’d be a great dodgeball player. He makes people miss quite well and that has freed him up quite well.”

K-State’s defense will have to contain Grier when he attempts to get yards to find space or just makes room to get a throw off. It will also have to get pressure on the quarterback and put him on the ground.

In this young 2018 season, K-State has sacked the quarterback just twice, but it does have 15 quarterback hurries. The defensive line has four pass breakups and one fumble recovery.

Snyder touched on that facet of the game as well. He said that while statistics may not show that K-State has not put a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season, there are a few plays that may not go down as sacks that change the game.

At the front of Snyder’s mind was when redshirt freshman defensive end Wyatt Hubert tipped and intercepted a pass against Mississippi State.

Series history

Before West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, K-State had only played the Mountaineers twice. In 1930, West Virginia came out on top, 23-7. A year later, K-State avenged the loss, 19-0.

Since the two teams began playing annually in 2012, the Wildcats own the series 4-2, making their all-time advantage 5-3.

K-State won by more than 20 points in both 2012 (55-14) and 2013 (35-12). Since then, each game has been decided by six points or less, with the series split at two wins apiece in the last four matchups.

The game will be televised on ESPN, with kickoff scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Since the game will be on ESPN and WatchESPN, either the app or www.espn.com/watch/.

If you happen to be traveling, you can also find the game on the radio. The game will be broadcast across the K-State Sports Network.

Jarrett Whitson
I’m Jarrett Whitson, the sports editor this semester. I’m from Blue Rapids, KS, a town of just over 1,000 people about 40 miles north of Manhattan. I’m a junior in Public Relations, and a member of FarmHouse Fraternity. I love playing and talking about sports— especially college football