Focus key against K-State
CHARLESTON -- Wait for it . . . wait for it . . . the snap, that is.
On Saturday night, West Virginia's defense will have to wait for it to be delivered from Kansas State center B.J. Finney to quarterback Collin Klein.
It can be as maddening to the opposition and fans as that TV-timeout guy in the red hat and jacket who holds up games. And that's exactly the approach Wildcats coach Bill Snyder enjoys.
Perhaps it's a surprise when you consider Kansas State is No. 15 nationally in scoring offense, averaging 40.8 points.
But look closer. In total offense, the Wildcats are but 46th nationally, averaging 427.5 yards.
Looking closer still and you'll see Kansas State has but 379 total snaps and its opponents have but 413 in six games. For the Wildcats, that's an average of 63.2 offensive plays. (Their opponents average 68.8)
To gain perspective, understand the national average is 71.6 snaps. The Big 12 average is 73.8 snaps. And WVU's average is 78.7 snaps.
It's by design. Klein takes his time. He studies the opposing defense. He drives it nuts waiting until the play clock gets to around five seconds or less.
"Kansas State has a way of keeping offenses off the field and creating games where the score is held down lower," said Iowa
State coach Paul Rhoads before his team's loss to K-State last Saturday.
"I don't know how I want to say it, but it [gets the defense] to the point where it loses focus, just because the game plays out so methodically."
Focus will be key to WVU's defense because Klein, perhaps the No. 2 Heisman Trophy contender behind Mountaineer Geno Smith, runs as much as any K-State tailback off the zone read option. Klein, in fact, is the nation's No. 50 rusher, averaging 85 yards a game. WVU's Andrew Buie is No. 51 at 84.
"It is going to be like it was against Maryland," said WVU coach Dana Holgorsen on Tuesday. "They are going to huddle; they are going to sub; they are going to get their personnel groups in; they are going to go to the line of scrimmage and try and draw you offsides; they are going to make sure they are in the right play."
If you're still wondering how K-State runs such a deliberate offense, yet averages 40.8 points, well, check the schedule. The Wildcats rang up Missouri State for 51, Miami for 52 and lowly Kansas for 56.
Against North Texas, KSU won 35-21; against Oklahoma 24-19; and against Iowa State 27-21.
Saturday's game in Morgantown seriously sets up as a battle between Snyder's old school of discipline and Holgorsen's new school of Red Bull.
West Virginia's Holgorsen, probably not by design, has had to place all his chips on the Mountaineer offense. And up to last Saturday's meltdown in Lubbock, the plan was working. The offense had flash. Quarterback Geno Smith remains the country's leading contender for the Heisman Trophy.
But there was last Saturday's collapse against Texas Tech. And many are looking to Joe DeForest, WVU's associate head coach/defensive coordinator in charge of safeties. He's also been hailed as a guru of special teams after coaching 2008 Ray Guy Award winning punter Matt Fodge and 2010 Lou Groza Award winning kicker Dan Bailey at Oklahoma State.
Many are looking to DeForest because if there's one phrase that covers WVU's defense and special teams this season, it would be "lack of discipline."
Meanwhile, Snyder's teams are all about discipline. In regard to special teams, Kansas State is statistically better than West Virginia in every single major NCAA category. In total defense, the Wildcats are No. 42, while the Mountaineers are No. 114 of 120.
"They are probably the most disciplined team I have seen in a long time on all three sides of the ball," said Holgorsen. "They are extremely disciplined. They don't make mistakes on any side of the ball."
As a kicker, Kansas State is No. 2 nationally in this stat: fewest penalties per game. While WVU is also respectable there, at No. 20, the Wildcats are averaging just three penalties a game.
When the Wildcats hit Morgantown, the Mountaineers will be facing a very disciplined team. No Bull.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.