Know Your Opponent: The West Virginia Mountaineers

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(Graphic by Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State has perhaps its easiest remaining game this Saturday when West Virginia (4-5) comes to town for an 11 a.m. showdown at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

The Mountaineers boast wins against Virginia Tech, Iowa State and TCU, but are coming off a blow-out loss at home against Oklahoma State. They have not lost to K-State since the Wildcats edged them out in 2015 in Manhattan.

Head coach Neal Brown is in his third season in Morgantown after three successful seasons at Troy. He’s played for air raid-originator Hal Mumme and spent a few years with Mark Stoops at Kentucky and Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech.

OFFENSE

West Virginia has a really good running back in senior Leddie Brown. He’s a powerful runner who can run through tackles. He also does a nice job as a receiving threat out of the backfield and is third in the Big 12 in all-purpose yardage.

Distributing the ball is Bowling Green transfer, Jarret Doege. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because his brother Seth played a ton of games at Texas Tech. Doege is a fifth-year senior.

From a scheme perspective, they use their strengths along the offensive line and at running back to run the ball just a hair over 50 percent of the time. They boast the league’s third-best passing attack and worst rushing attack.

Winston Wright is their primary target in the passing game, with five catches per game and 60.3 yards per game.

DEFENSE

Technically, the Mountaineer defense is a 4-2-5, but they often line up in something closer to a 3-3-5. They have a non-traditional personnel grouping because they use a hybrid defensive end/linebacker they call a BANDI back as well as a hybrid linebacker/safety they call a SPEAR.

Their defensive line is really good, headed by defensive tackle Dante Stills in the middle. To create pressure with four and three-man rushes, they use a lot of stunts and twists that make it hard for offensive lines to identify who to block.

Brown seemed concerned in his mid-week press conference about three of K-State’s weapons: Deuce Vaughn, Malik Knowles and Phillip Brooks (shout out to BlueGoldNews.com for uploading the coach’s statements to YouTube). He was also complimentary of Skylar Thompson.

The Mountaineer defense is fifth in the conference in stopping both the run and the pass, fifth in scoring defense and sixth in yards per play.

KEY MATCH-UPS:

Get Deuce loose:

Brown seems to have a strong understanding of what K-State does with Vaughn in the run game, the passing game and as a decoy. It seems like a lot of his defensive focus is on limiting the Wildcat running back.

If K-State offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham can find new ways to get Vaughn open — or Vaughn can power his way through being yet another defense’s focus — the Wildcats could force the Mountaineers out of their game plan and have a successful day.

Get to the quarterback:

Doege is an extremely experienced quarterback. He’s good at knowing when to get out of the pocket and can break, contain and beat you with his feet if you don’t get to him. However, West Virginia’s offensive line gives up the most sacks in the league.

Brown seemed impressed with K-State’s Felix Anudike’s ability to get to the quarterback, so expect them to double-team him or at least chip him on passing downs. That might open things up for K-State’s sneakily dangerous pass rushers on the other side in Nate Matlack and Bronson Massie.

K-State might also try to get pressure by rushing a linebacker to take advantage of the resources and attention West Virginia will devote to stopping Anudike.

Short field:

In head coach Chris Klieman’s press conference, he identified the inability of K-State’s defense and special teams to give the offense a short field as a major negative of the win over Kansas. Expect the defense to focus on getting a turnover and the special teams to really push for a long return.

K-State’s offense could really benefit from the help, and a non-offensive touchdown could do wonders for the complexion of what I expect to be a close game.

PREDICTION:

Vaughn does what Vaughn does, and Thompson has yet another hyper-efficient game. K-State’s defense does just enough, and K-State wins 28-23.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.