WVU gaining more offensive line depth

October 14, 2018

MORGANTOWN — The very first snap of the game during West Virginia University’s win against Kansas last week came in a little low, and WVU quarterback Will Grier got hit hard on the play.

The next snap was also bad, with Grier unable to get a handle on it and receiver David Sills eventually recovering the ball. It was a bad sign of things to come as Kansas exploited the Mountaineers’ weakness up the middle for five sacks.

With a visit to Big 12 rival Iowa State (2-3,1-2 Big 12) on deck at 7 p.m. Saturday, No. 6 WVU (5-0,3-0) knows it needs to do better along the line to keep its record unblemished and to keep pace in the race for a place in the Big 12 championship game. The game is an FSI telecast.

With junior guard Joe Brown due back from injury this week, that group should get some much-needed depth with the Cyclones on deck.

″(Brown’s return) just adds more depth, and you can start practicing these guys more in certain positions,” WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said.

“When you get into Joe being out, now you have to take (red-shirt sophomore) Jacob Bucci-grossi and have him play some guard and get center reps where you are stealing reps at center for him. Now, you’re starting to gain more depth, and we can work more bodies and let them get good at their craft for that week. We’ve always been opposed to having these guys work multiple positions throughout the course of a week, but that’s what we were forced to do the past couple of weeks.”

Iowa State’s defensive front is an improved unit this season, with 11 different players collecting sacks so far. Defensive end JaQuan Bailey leads with 2.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss. As a team, Iowa State is tied for ninth nationally with 44 tackles for a loss.

WVU ranks fourth in the nation with 48 tackles for a loss, and coach Dana Holgorsen sees some similarities between the two groups.

“They’re disruptive up front,” Holgorsen said. “The biggest difference in what they’re doing this year and what they did last year is their front is a lot better. It’s similar to our stuff, it really is. They’re playing good up front, and we’re playing good up front with those three. And they’re creating some stuff with that three, but then they bring second-level bodies from everywhere — corners, safeties, linebackers. And you don’t know where it’s coming from.”

Holgorsen said the ability of WVU’s line to pick up on where the Cyclones’ attack is coming from will be a key.

Buckeyes seeking more from ground game vs. Minnesota

COLUMBUS — Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. has been lighting up the scoreboard with touchdown passes. Next up is Minnesota, and the No. 3 Buckeyes will try to get their running game back on track.

Star tailbacks J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber combined for just 3.2 yards per carry in the last two games. The focus will involve more push from the offensive line when the Buckeyes host the Gophers (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) at noon Saturday (FSI). Short-yardage situations have triggered some stress on the Ohio State sideline.

Haskins leads the nation with 25 touchdown passes and is on track to break school records this season. He’s also a drop-back guy and less likely to grind it out in short-yardage situations for the Buckeyes (6-0,3-0).

Head coach Urban Meyer liked having the “Qrun” in his back pocket when dual-threat quarterback J.T. Barrett was there. The coach acknowledged some talk among coaches about having shifty backup quarterback Tate Martell come in the game on short-yardage situations.

“Third-and-1 is tough right now,” Meyer said. Minnesota (3-2,0-2) has deeper problems, having absorbed season-ending injuries to two of its best players — running back Rodney Smith and safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

Kentucky using bye to regroup

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky players and head coach Mark Stoops are pleased with the strong start to the season that has the No. 18 Wildcats ranked for the first time in 11 years and contending in the competitive Southeastern Conference.

Last week’s overtime loss at Texas A&M revealed flaws that need correcting, so the Wildcats plan to use this week’s bye to address those issues.

Kentucky (5-1,3-1 SEC) hosts Vanderbilt on Oct. 20 to begin a second half it hopes will exceed its second consecutive 7-6 finish.

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