MORGANTOWN-The shoe will be on the other foot this Saturday night at Milan Puskar Stadium as No. 13 West Virginia (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) entertains No. 4 Kansas State (6-0, 3-0) at 7 p.m.
A week ago it was the Mountaineers that were the visitors with everything to lose and nothing to gain when they took on an unranked Texas Tech squad. The result was a lackluster performance that led to a 45-14 setback and a long, lonely flight back from from the Lone Star State.
"I will touch on a couple of things from this past week before we move on to Kansas State," head coach Dana Holgorsen said to open his weekly press conference. "I am not happy with how we played on all three sides of the ball. We didn't execute very well, we didn't coach very well and we didn't play with very much effort.
"What was disappointing was that it looked like none of us handled the situation as well as we could have. One thing that I tell the team all the time is that we are all in this together-coaches and players. Anything I say in reference to a player, I am making reference to coaching as well. We didn't handle the situation well. You can spin it a lot of different ways if you want, but bottom line is we didn't get the job done."
Now, WVU faces its toughest opponent to date when the unbeaten Wildcats return to Morgantown for the first time since the 1931 campaign.
"We have Kansas State coming to town, who is a top-5 team and who is playing really well together on all three sides of the ball," continued the coach. "They are probably the most disciplined team I have seen in a long time on all three sides of the ball. They are extremely disciplined. They don't make mistakes on any side of the ball."
Kansas State-West Virginia Preview
By The Associated Press
No. 4 Kansas State (6-0, 3-0 Big 12)
at No. 17 West Virginia (5-1, 2-1), 7 p.m. (FOX)
Line: West Virginia by 3. Series Record: Tied 1-1.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Wes Virginia's loss at Texas Tech last week took the luster off what would have been a huge game. Still, first place in the Big 12 and maybe in the Heisman Trophy chase, too, as West Virginia's Geno Smith and Kansas State's Collin Klein enter the game as the front-runner. Kansas State can remain alone atop the conference with a win. The Mountaineers would create a three-way tie if they beat the Wildcats, and they'd be joined in the deadlock at 3-1 by the winner of the Texas Tech-TCU game.
Kansas State DBs Ty Zimmerman and Nigel Malone against West Virginia WRs Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Zimmerman leads the Wildcats with three interceptions this year while Malone has nine over the past two seasons. Bailey's 14 TD receptions are a West Virginia single-season record, but he missed the second half of a 49-14 loss at Texas Tech with an ankle injury. Bailey tweeted this week that he's fine. Austin leads the nation with 11.7 catches per game and Bailey is third with 9.2
And, the Wildcats have senior quarterback Collin Klein and a rushing attack that averages 264.8 yards per game-second only to Oklahoma State (300 ypg).
"Obviously, it starts with their quarterback," said Holgerson. "Collin Klein is a tremendous football player. You watch him on tape, and you have to stop the run because between him and their running back, John Hubert, they rush for 200 some yards a game."
Mountaineer fans are accustomed to seeing running quarterbacks play at Mountaineer Field. Names like Major Harris, Rasheed Marshall and Pat White made reputations for themselves while rushing the football in the old gold and blue.
Now, it will be the Mountaineers' defense that will be the one trying to slow down an offensive attack built around a running quarterback.
"We will work hard on trying to stop the run, and we want to make them pass, Holgorsen said. You look at them throwing the ball, and it doesn't look very good, but it goes exactly where you want it to go.
"They have big-play potential outside, and they have some receivers that can really run. You spend so much time on stopping the run that they have guys that make plays on the outside and they do a great job on third downs."
If West Virginia's defense, which ranks No. 9 in the Big 12 in scoring (35.0 ppg), total (460.0 ypg) and pass (336.0 ypg) defense, does have a strength, it would be against the run. The Mountaineers come into Saturday's showdown with KSU ranked sixth in the conference in run defense, allowing only 124 yards per outing. A number that is still 12 yards more per game than what the Wildcats' prevent unit is giving up.
"I hope so and they could be (a better matchup for WVU's defense), Holgorsen said. They pose a lot of challenges. They are only snapping the ball 63 times a game, but they are averaging 40 points a game. They have big-play potential. They do it in a different way, and it is a little bit more like Texas."
The defense surrendered 45 points to the Longhorns in WVU's three-point win at Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium, but the unit held their hosts to only 135 yards on the ground. Freshman Johnathan Gray was Texas' leading rusher with 87 yards on 14 carries and Joe Bergeron tallied four touchdowns on runs of 2, 2, 1, and 4 yards.
"With any team, there are challenges and this one just happens to be with stopping the run," added the Mountaineers' coach. "Then when they are going to throw the ball, (we need to be) making plays down field. We haven't done a very good job of making plays down field, and that is a little bit of an understatement."
And, the task may be made more difficult if junior Will Clarke is unable to perform for the second week in a row.
"We will see how it goes today," Holgerson said. "All this injury stuff, I will tell you when they are out. I told you Brodrick (Jenkins) was out; the rest of them, we will see how they do today and tomorrow."
Jenkins suffered a slight cartilage tear against Texas Tech and will not play against the Wildcats. Stedman Bailey (twisted ankle), Jeff Braun (twisted ankle) as well as Shawne Alston, who has not played since the Maryland game, are all being viewed on a day-to-day basis.
"It is frustrating, but what can you do," continued the coach. "You want me to cry about it?"
Freshman Travares Copeland will see more playing time at receiver while sophomores Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison will continue to carry the load at running back. Clark's spot will also be filled by one of three freshmen-Kyle Rose, Christian Brown or Eric Kinsey.