WVU coaches, QB Grier expect ‘aggressive’ defense from K-State

September 20, 2018

MORGANTOWN — Kansas State is, for the most part, a known commodity in the world of college football. The Wildcats do what they do, and they usually do it well for coach Bill Snyder.

West Virginia University coach Dana Holgorsen, however, sees some slight changes from the usual look K-State presents, particularly on defense.

“They’re blitzing more and pressuring more and playing man coverage more than what I’ve seen,” Holgorsen said Tuesday. “So there is going to be opportunities for big plays. That’s what we’ve seen on video, so I’m not expecting them to do anything different. I don’t think this will be a ‘play off of you’ team 100 percent of the time. They’re a little more aggressive, more like what Tennessee did — Tennessee was a little more aggressive. Youngstown State was way back.”

WVU quarterback Will Grier dealt with both defenses well. Against the Tennessee Volunteers, Grier completed 25 of 34 pass attempts for 429 yards and five touchdowns. When YSU visited Morgantown, Grier went 21 of 26 for 332 yards and four scores.

Being able to adapt on the fly has been a strength for the Mountaineers’ quarterback, Holgorsen said.

“Will’s been great at identifying what they’re doing and getting us in the best plays,” he said. “I think that will be critical here on Saturday.”

Last season the Wildcats were able to catch WVU off guard a few times during the Mountaineers’ 28-23 win in Manhattan, Kansas. WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said the goal, obviously, is to avoid that same situation when the Wildcats (2-1) visit Morgantown at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) to open Big 12 play for both teams. That will hinge on communication — can the No. 12-ranked Mountaineers (2-0), and Grier specifically, make the proper reads and adjustments when the K-State defense lines up?

“I think we have to be disciplined, really, with our communication — what they’re trying to accomplish on that play,” Spavital said. “I think they caught us in a few things last year when we had run game called and they shot to a blitz or to a box that was outmanned. We just didn’t get in to any audibles. We have to make sure we have a good feeling of what they’re trying to do to us and that we get into the right play. It’s going to be a big week for Will in terms of managing that.

“You sit there and you study a lot of tape on them and there’s not many tendencies these guys have. You just got to make sure these kids are on point and can catch them in the right scenarios, communicate it out to everybody and everyone is on the same page.”

Easier said than done against a Snyder-coached team, according to Spavital.

“A lot of that is to just get Will up on the line and let him decipher it,” he said. “They do a good job — it’s a Bill Snyder-coached team. They continually get better, like I’ve been trying to say about our offense — we need to as well. You see the difference of their defense between Week 1 and Week 3, they’re playing at a higher level than what they were at the beginning of the year.”

Grier completed 27 of 46 pass attempts for 372 yards and four touchdowns last season at K-State, but also threw two interceptions in the game as the Mountaineers went scoreless in the second half, hanging on for the win. A Heisman Trophy candidate this season, Grier said being efficient and patient will be a key for him this week.

“(Audibles at the line) have been on my plate all year,” Grier said. “There may be more this week; I think what (Spavital) is saying is they do a lot of different things and they don’t have a whole lot of tendencies, so a lot of it is going to be on me just getting out there and seeing it then taking what they give me — just trying to be as efficient as we can as an offense.”

Kansas State started the season slowly with a narrow 27-24 win against South Dakota before a 31-10 loss against Mississippi State. Last week, the Wildcats started to click in a 41-17 win over UTSA.

Grier said he sees a hard-nosed defense that will challenge him, but re-emphasized his need to do the little things in order to get the Mountaineers where they need to be on each play.

“They get off blocks, they make tackles,” Grier said. “They’re a really solid football team, so we have to do the little things right. We have to be ready to play hard and play tough. I have to do a better job of getting us into high-percentage plays and more-efficient plays — taking what they give me rather than just trying to hit the big play every time.”

Kansas State (2-1) at No. 12 West Virginia (2-0)

3:30 p.m. Saturday, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown


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