West Virginia quarterback Will Grier would prefer not going down to the wire this time against Kansas State.
Grier struggled in the second half a year ago against the Wildcats’ defense, West Virginia didn’t score after halftime and was lucky to escape with a 28-23 win in Manhattan, Kansas.
After No. 12 West Virginia was forced to take last week off thanks to Hurricane Florence, Grier would like to continue the momentum he enjoyed at the start of the season when the Mountaineers (2-0) play Kansas State (2-1) in their Big 12 opener Saturday. Grier has thrown for nine touchdowns this season with one interception.
West Virginia punted on its first five possessions of the second half last year against the Wildcats. Grier needed to convert a key fourth down and West Virginia ran out the clock near the Kansas State goal line.
“I think they played harder than us,” Grier said. “That’s an emphasis this whole year and will continue to be an emphasis — that we have to show up to play and play harder than the other team we’re playing against. I have to do a better job of getting us in higher percentage plays and more efficient plays, and taking what they give us.”
West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital echoed that the second half provided a lesson in how to prepare for this meeting.
“That’s something that we have to be on point with this week is making sure that we have a physical edge, we’re taking care of the football, making sure we’re taking high percentage throws, being efficient with the football and pick-and-choose when we want to big-play them,” he said.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is stressing ball security as well as the Wildcats play their first road game after three home contests.
Kansas State has lost four of seven fumbles and two quarterbacks have combined to throw three interceptions. All but one of the lost fumbles was “just being careless with the football,” Snyder said. “That’s probably a significant indication in regards to self-discipline or a capacity to focus. That’s something we’re working on.”
West Virginia is a heavy favorite, although the teams’ last four meetings have been decided by a total of 13 points.
Some things to know about West Virginia and Kansas State:
Kansas State’s Isaiah Zuber had a career-high 144 receiving yards and two TDs last week in a 41-17 win over UTSA . In the opener against FCS South Dakota he returned a punt 85 yards for a score and caught the go-ahead touchdown pass in the 27-24 win.
Zuber “has made some people look pretty silly here in the last few weeks,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.
West Virginia will get its first look at a mobile quarterback this season. Skylar Thompson ran for 53 yards against the Mountaineers in his first career start last year and is the Wildcats’ second-leading rusher this season, averaging 53 per game. Kansas State’s other quarterback, Alex Delton, averages 29 rushing yards per game.
“They don’t do anything different than what anybody else does from a quarterback run game prospective,” Holgorsen said. “They’re just not afraid to do it a lot.”
HALTED BY HURRICANE
West Virginia’s Sept. 15 game at North Carolina State was called off due to the approaching hurricane. Holgorsen said the extra practice time allowed his team to “get a little ahead on Kansas State as well.”
SO MANY TARGETS
Grier has completed passes to 11 different receivers. Gary Jennings has four touchdown receptions after catching one scoring pass a year ago. Teammate David Sills, who tied for the national lead a year ago with 18 TD catches, has two.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS
Before the game, West Virginia will induct an 11-member Sports Hall of Fame Class, including quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton. They were teammates from 2005 to 2007 and helped WVU to wins in the Sugar, Gator and Fiesta bowls. White finished his career with a win in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.