Toughness will be the key at KSU

MORGANTOWN — Question their technique. Question their skills.

But, don’t question the toughness of No. 23 West Virginia’s (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) offensive linemen.

“Linemen, we are not too happy when we get called out for not being physical enough or not tough enough in a game,” sophomore right tackle Colton McKivitz said. “It showed against Oklahoma State, but I think we took a step in the right direction. Another good week of practice this week will really help towards you know being more physical and I think it’s just more of a mindset than anything.

“It wasn’t scheme or anything like that it was just mental. We were harped on all week and I think we all got tired of being called soft or we weren’t tough enough to play four quarters or play in this game. We were fed up and kind of annoyed with hearing that kind of talk about the offensive line but we did take a good step in the right direction.”

McKivitz and company proceeded to open up enough running room for senior running back Justin Crawford (25-102) to eclipse the 100-yard mark for the sixth time in 2017 and offered enough protection for junior quarterback Will Grier to connect on 20-of-25 passes for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Now, the offensive front must find a way to maintain that edge when the Old Gold and Blue invade Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas, to face a Kansas State (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) defensive unit which is giving up a measly 126.8 yards per game.

“It should, it was good momentum coming off that win against Iowa State,” continued the former-Union Local standout. “They were tough and they played hard. It will be the same thing, (head) coach (Dana) Holgorsen said it’s going to be Iowa State week all over again with Kansas State. They are also a very physical group, so we’re going to have to do the same thing. Just keep practicing and have that mindset of being more physical.”

The Wildcats of head coach Bill Snyder will line up in its traditional four-man front with seniors Will Geary (6-0, 306) and Tanner Wood (6-5, 260) manning two of the spots while sophomores Reggie Walker (6-2, 242) and Trey Dishon (6-2, 311) completing the unit.

Backing up that front will be a trio of linebackers led by seniors Trent Tanking (6-2, 225) and Jayd Kirby (6-2, 222) and sophomore Elijah Sullivan (6-0, 220).

“Defensively, they look like they always have,” explained head coach Dana Holgorsen. “They haven’t changed a whole lot over the years. They’re giving up a few more points and a few more yards than they probably like, but they lost some really good players last year. Two or three of those guys were just really, really fantastic football players. They have guys coming that have been getting better over the course of nine games and going into their 10th game. Their front is big; they’re built to stop the run, as we all know. They’re a tough team just to go toe-to-toe with. If you get into whatever personnel groupings that you get into, you’re going to go toe-to-toe with those guys; they just keep adding people as you add people. They’re tough to move, and they’re tough to run the ball against. They have two really good corners in (Duke) Shelley and (D.J.) Reed that challenge you and get up in your face. They’re probably playing a little bit more man than what they have in the past because they feel good about their cover guys. We have our work cut out for us offensively.”

The secondary is composed of nickle back Cre Moore (6-0, 184, Sr.), cornerbacks Duke Shelley (5-9, 178, Jr.) and D.J. Reed (5-9, 188, Jr.), strong safety Denzel Goolsby (5-11, 192, So.) and free safety Kendall Adams (6-1, 221, Jr.).

“We have a big challenge,” added the WVU coach. “Our job this week is to continue to build on what we did last week, which is practice hard, prepare hard, be tough, and give effort. We should have a great week of practice. We’ll travel out there on Friday on Veteran’s Day, and then Saturday we’ll have a good game in Manhattan. So, we’re looking forward to it; it should be a lot of fun.”

Contact Jim Butta via email at mountaineersman@outlook.com