West Virginia must slow down Kansas State’s quarterbacks

MORGANTOWN — Even the least knowledgeable football fan knows that ‘to stop Kansas State, you have to be able to stop the quarterback run’.

“Well, they block,” said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen when asked how teams stop KSU’s quarterback run. “The most important aspect of offensive football is blocking. They do a good job with their technique. Their schemes are sound. They don’t do anything different than what anybody else does from a quarterback run game prospective. They’re just not afraid to do it a lot.

“Even when I had Skyler Howard here, we did a lot of quarterback run game, but I was still a little bit leery of doing too much of it because I didn’t want to get to No. 2 (quarterback). They have the luxury of having two of them, so it looks to me like they’re sound with what they do. They do a good job up front. They’ll run that quarterback every play if they feel like it’s necessary. I guess that’s the reason of having more than one of them. It’s certainly not something we’re going to be doing.”

During the Mountaineers’ two-game winning streak over the Wildcats, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and his unit has done a solid job of keeping the KSU signal-callers from hurting it with their legs.

“It’s tough,” Gibson said. “They do a really good job with that, and they have their whole offensive line back. So, we’re going to have some issues. We have to load the box up a little bit, bring an extra safety down in and try to account for him (the quarterback).

“We’ll try to penetrate gaps and get up the field more. We’ll try to get in the backfield. We have had success with that the last few years with negative plays, but the quarterbacks do a really good job. They’re patient. Then, when they find their seam, they’ll go. I think (Alex) Delton runs a little better than (Skylar) Thompson. We have to be ready for that.”

Then-redshirt freshman Skylar Thompson rushed for 53 yards on 18 carries but, overall, the WVU defense limited the ‘Cats to 173 yards on 42 attempts (4.1 ypc).

“They’re going to be physical,” Gibson said. “They’re going to run the ball. They’re not going to be a team that’s going to be in a four- or five-wide set and tempo you like the rest of the Big 12. I think they’re more double tight, fullbacks, tight ends. We’re going to see a lot of things, and they’re going to be physical and try to control possessions and the clock.”

The key, however, is to accomplish stopping the quarterback run without giving up huge chunks of yardage to K-State’s other running backs.

“Offensively, what they’re doing, we know about the two quarterbacks, Skylar Thompson and the (Alex) Delton kid,” Holgorsen said. “We’ll be ready for both of them. They’ve kind of settled on Thompson from what I’ve seen last week, in particular. Really, they don’t do a ton different with either one of them that’s in there, so we’re going to prepare for these guys like we normally do and expect both of them to play.

“They have several running backs that they can go to as well. They’re going to play tight ends, going to play fullbacks, going to more than likely huddle up and control the ball like they always have – and they’re as good at it as anybody. But, they’re getting better offensively, and they’ll continue to get better. I think their quarterback has a chance to be a good player. They have basically all of their offensive linemen back, so they have really good continuity up front. There’s a couple of receivers that look good to me. They have really good speed; the (Isaiah) Zuber kid, No. 7, has made some people look pretty silly here in the last few weeks, so he looks good.”

Junior Alex Barnes leads the team in rushing with 228 yards and one touchdown on 51 carries, while junior Isaiah Zuber leads a balance receiving corps with 14 catches for 223 yards and a trio of scores.