K-State looks to bounce back against West Virginia

Willie Wildcat leads K-State fans in cheering on their football team during their game against TCU at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 19, 2019. The Wildcats took the Horned Frogs 24-17. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

Coming off a 27-24 loss to Texas, the Wildcats return home to play West Virginia on Saturday. The Mountaineers have had a difficult season and are on a five-game losing streak.

The Longhorns limited the K-State offense to only 51 rushing yards. Junior quarterback Skylar Thompson entered the matchup with seven rushing touchdowns in the previous two games but walked away with seven carries for zero yards.

“We have to be better, and you have to give Texas credit because they really blitzed us an awful lot and ruined a lot of line stunts,” head coach Chris Klieman said at Tuesday’s press conference. “At times we picked them up well, and at times we didn’t.

“They just had us outnumbered at the point of attack,” Klieman said. “So, I know, just as a whole — offensive line, tight ends, fullbacks and our backs — are excited to get back home. Because you’re right, we have to be able to rush the football because it sets up everything that we do.”

Thompson has not defeated West Virginia in his time at K-State and is looking to get revenge against the Mountaineers.

“I am 0-2 against West Virginia, and we haven’t beat them the last three years since I’ve been here,” Thompson said. “So, it’s definitely something that we have thought about.”

The new coaching staff gives the Wildcats confidence going into the matchup.

“We obviously have a new coaching staff, and a lot of things are different, but we are definitely going to be coming out with a lot of energy and confidence,” Thompson said. “We are going to play together and play one play at a time.”

The Mountaineer defense is second in the conference in sacks with 26 on the season.

“They are a great front, you watch the Baylor game they had the ability to really able to get after the quarterback,” senior offensive lineman Adam Holtorf said.

The Mountaineers recorded eight sacks in a 17-14 loss to Baylor in week ten. Junior defensive lineman Darius Stills is second in the conference in sacks with seven.

“They are a physical group,” Holtforf said. “They have the ability to show a number of looks and bring different pressures, so they are going to show a lot of looks out there and are going to be fast and physical doing it.”

Despite the sack totals, West Virginia is ninth in the conference in rushing defense, which could pose an advantage for K-State. Klieman said the biggest factor working against the Mountaineers’ is their tendency to give up the big play.

“I think that’s probably their biggest thing that they’ve had hurt them is the big play, and getting down quickly in a couple of games,” Klieman said. “I caution the guys again, you can’t compare scores. You can’t worry about what was done last week compared to what’s going to be done this week. It’s all in your preparation/process. It gives you an opportunity.”

K-State Athletics announced a new helmet decal to celebrate the 150th year of college football. The Wildcats will wear the white helmet that debuted earlier this season with a single purple stripe with a scripted ‘Cats’ decal on the side.

“We’re celebrating 150th year of college football throughout the season,” Klieman said. “One of our ways to do it here, just for this game, to do a throwback and wear the ‘Cats’ on the helmet.”

Thompson said he isn’t letting the hype of the helmets get in the way of the task at hand.

“The helmets and all that kind of stuff is cool, but our team is not making a huge deal out of it,” Thompson said. We are excited about it, but that’s not a distraction at all for anybody in the program or anything.”

Current seniors have seen many uniform modifications in the program.

“Guys were excited,” senior defensive back Denzel Goolsby said. “Guys were fired up about it. I think it’s just exciting being able to do something that’s a little bit different and still honoring the fact that it’s a tradition and something that is in K-State’s past. So I think it’s a cool thing to get guys excited about something on game day.”

The Wildcats will honor former head coach Bill Snyder at Saturday’s game as part of the 150th year of college football.

The Wildcats will play West Virginia at home at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN as 14.5-point favorites.