Know Your Opponent: West Virginia

Head coach Bill Snyder leads his players back to the locker room after the game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Sept. 8, 2018. The Wildcats lost to the MSU Bulldogs 31-10. (Andrea Klepper | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State football will travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, to take on West Virginia in their first Big 12 matchup of the season.

The Mountaineers boast an excellent offense led by senior quarterback Will Grier and a solid defense with an aggressive defensive front.

Grier has a lot of talented weapons to use and has the arm strength and accuracy to get the ball to his players regardless of where they are on the field.

For example, senior wide receiver David Sills is 6-foot-4 but can blow by guys with just one stutter step — he is a matchup nightmare for K-State’s undersized secondary. Junior wide receiver Marcus Simms is a fast weapon that they like to use in quick-hitting passing plays.

They use these weapons in a spread offense that sometimes borders on straight-up air raid (especially when they have a talented quarterback like they do this year.) They use a lot of 11 personnel — one running back, one tight end — with the tight end lined up off the tackle’s hip.

Their offensive line and blocking running backs provide adequate protection for Grier who is not incredibly mobile (though he does look good in a designed bootleg throwing situation.)

Grier is at his best when he gets the ball out of his hands quickly. When he can hit the last step of his drop and go immediately into a throw to an open receiver, he is lethal.

The Wildcats will be best served if they can pressure Grier into scrambling, where he is likely to throw the ball into tighter coverages or waste a play by throwing it out of bounds and play press coverage to prevent short passes.

On defense, the Mountaineers base is a 33 Stack — they have three linemen, three linebackers, two corners and three safeties — where the third safety is really more of a hybrid defensive back/linebacker.

They are very aggressive when blitzing, especially on third down. The Mountaineers looked excellent in run defense early in the game against Tennessee.

The K-State offensive line will need to key in on grad-transfer nose tackle Kenny Bigelow Jr., who found his way into the Tennessee backfield a lot to stop the run and sack the Tennessee quarterback.

If K-State can stymie their blitzes, they will have a great chance to convert third and medium because the Mountaineer secondary is serviceable, but not great.

Tennessee also had some success against West Virginia when they ran the ball out of the I-Formation, and it would behoove K-State to consider power running schemes later in the game if it is still close.

Key Matchups

K-State O-line versus West Virginia front six: K-State will have to successfully run-block if they want to have any chance of being competitive in this game. While this will not be the best defensive line the Wildcats have seen, if they cannot run the ball the score will be ugly by halftime.

Further, if they can manage to give sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson some time and maybe sell some play actions, they will be able to throw the ball on West Virginia.

Grier and friends versus K-State secondary: Grier and his offensive weapons do not lack size or speed, and K-State’s secondary is undersized. K-State only has four defensive backs on its two-deep that are taller than six feet.

Schematically, K-State has recently been very susceptible to the pass in general. Talented quarterbacks with good receivers have traditionally shredded the Wildcats for big yardage numbers.

Between 6-foot-4 Sills and 6-foot Simms, Grier will likely have a big day throwing the football against K-State’s defense. My prediction? West Virginia 41, K-State 17.

Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, an alumnus from Olathe, Kansas. I graduated in spring 2022 with a Masters in Mass Communication, and I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. I covered K-State sports for the Collegian for four years.