West Virginia at Kansas State
When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 17, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Ks., 3:30 p.m. EST.
Looking to stay in the upper half of the Big 12 Conference, Kansas State looks to add to West Virginia's woes Saturday and send the Mountaineers to their first six-game losing streak in 41 years.
The Wildcats (6-3, 3-3 Big 12) are already bowl-eligible but out to rebound from a back-and-forth 27-24 loss at Texas last Saturday. Skylar Thompson helped Kansas State to a 14-0 lead with a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes and then had to rally his team from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, only to lose on a field goal as time expired.
Thompson continues to make strides year upon year, having already set a career-best with 1,589 yards and matching another with nine TD passes to go with his 331 rushing yards and 10 scores. The junior has thrown only one interception in 204 pass attempts and none in his last four games.
Neal Brown's first season in West Virginia following Dana Holgorsen's departure to Houston has not gone according to plan. The Mountaineers (3-6, 1-5) are likely to miss out on a bowl appearance for the first time since 2013, which is also the only season in the last 17 they have failed to win at least five games.
West Virginia's losing streak hit five games following last Saturday's 38-17 home loss to Texas Tech. Austin Kendall threw for 335 yards but was intercepted twice and committed a third turnover via fumble.
The Mountaineers, who have not lost six in a row since a seven-game skid in 1978, finished with four turnovers and turned the ball over on downs on another four occasions, negating most of the season-high 549 yards gained.
Brown also gave quarterback Jarret Doege his Mountaineers debut in the second half, and the Bowling Green transfer completed 11 of 17 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. Brown had previously stated his preference would be to redshirt Doege, which means he could still play three more games without losing a year of eligibility.
West Virginia has won the last three meetings after losing the first four since joining the Big 12 in 2012. The Mountaineers rolled to a 35-6 victory last year as Will Grier threw five touchdown passes -- three of them going to David Sills V.
Brown mum on QB plans for MountaineersAfter giving Doege his season debut versus the Red Raiders, it appears likely Brown will continue to give his transfer playing time over the next three games to integrate him into the offense to at worst be a backup to Kendall in 2020 or perhaps even compete for the starting job against him.
Brown, though, is keeping quiet on if he plans to do that against the Wildcats.
“We’ve got a plan,” he said to reporters during Tuesday’s press conference according to the Charleston Mail Gazette. “I don’t think it does me any good to share it with y’all or Kansas State, but we do have a plan and we’ll start it [Tuesday] and go.”
The biggest issue for West Virginia was efficiency in the red zone. The Mountaineers were 2 for 5 on such drives, resulting in just 10 points. For the season, they are tied for 113th among FBS teams with a red zone success rate of 72 percent, scoring points on 18 of 25 trips.
“I said this after the game, and I really wasn’t trying to be a smart aleck, but we’ve got issues on offense,” Brown said. “Our quarterback play hasn’t been tremendous, but it hasn’t been the reason we’ve struggled, either. In the areas we’ve got to get fixed, that’s not No. 1 on the list.”
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Sam James is coming off the best game of his career, totaling 14 receptions and 223 yards against Texas Tech. James has team-highs of 58 catches and 623 yards and had totaled 178 yards combined in West Virginia's previous five games.
Brown's problems are not relegated to offense -- the Mountaineers have allowed an average of 458.6 yards during their five-game losing streak while yielding 37.4 points per game.
Klieman trying to get Wildcats to bounce backFirst-year coach Chris Klieman has arguably gotten Kansas State to perform above expectations since arriving from North Dakota State. The Wildcats have avoided missing out on back-to-back bowls for the first time since 2007-09, and Klieman is eager to close out the regular season strong.
“There’s a ton of fight in them and we’re continuing to improve," he said at his Tuesday media availability. "Obviously, we played a really good football team in Texas and didn’t come out on the correct end, but the guys battled and fought. We are getting better, we’re getting some good play out of some young people, and so I’m excited about that. In the same respect, we have to wipe the slate clean and get ready for a new week.”
Klieman will have to get Kansas State's ground game going again after the Wildcats were limited to a season-low 51 yards by Texas. It was just the second time K-State was held below 100 yards, and Klieman's team is averaging 198.8 rushing yards on the season.
The Wildcats hope to have leading rusher James Gilbert back for this game after missing the last two with a lower-body injury. A graduate transfer from Ball State, Gilbert has 558 yards in seven games while averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
Receiver Wykeen Gill, who is fourth on the team with 12 catches for 146 yards, is doubtful to play with an undisclosed injury on an illegal hit by Texas defensive back Jalen Green. Klieman was upset about the hit, telling the Wichita Eagle, “Wykeen is probably going to miss a game and you have a hit like that and somebody only misses a half. I don’t think that is very fair.”
Kansas State has gone 4-1 at home, averaging 37 points and 425.4 yards in those contests.
West Virginia is:
- 2-5 ATS in its last seven games vs. West Virginia.
- 2-5-1 ATS in its last eight road games.
- 7-15-2 ATS in its last 24 games following a straight up loss.
Kansas State is:
- 5-1 ATS in its last six home games.
- 7-2 ATS in its last nine games following a straight up loss.
- 6-1 ATS in its last seven games following an ATS win.