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WVU quarterback Geno Smith has seen his Heisman Trophy hopes nearly vanish after rough outings in consecutive games against Texas Tech and Kansas State, but he's hardly been the Mountaineers' only problem, or even its primary one. Above all, West Virginia simply can't play defense, and even if Smith had performed better in his last two games, WVU's tendency to give up touchdowns in, seemingly, almost every possession would have eventually caught up to it.
Smith's head coach, Dana Holgorsen, is understandably trying to deflect blame from his quarterback, who seems to be having a tough time with his team's struggles.
"Yeah, me and him have talked. He doesn’t need to say that," said Holgorsen during his Tuesday press conference with media. "His is one of many positions that play football here. If he thinks that all this falls on his shoulders he’s sadly mistaken.
"He’s one of our leaders. He’s a tremendous football player, he cares more than anybody. This doesn’t fall on his shoulders. This falls on my shoulders. It falls on all of our coaches and all of our players. He’s only one."
Even if Smith deserved more blame than he actually does, he still needs to maintain his confidence. Besides, with plenty more Big 12 football on the schedule, beginning next week against TCU, Smith will get his chance to make some noise.
After losing back-to-back games in blowout fashion, the No. 25-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers' football program is patching together its sieve-like defense with a handful of true freshmen. According to a report by Charleston Daily Mail's Mike Casazza, the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2 Big 12 Conference) are playing six true freshman and three redshirt freshman to fill voids caused by poor play and injuries.
WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest says it's a matter of the Mountaineers trying to figure out the best grouping for their defense.
"We were just trying to find guys that can play," DeForest said. "We had six true freshmen playing together - and that's not an excuse by any stretch."
Currently, West Virginia is dealing with issues surrounding senior defensive end Will Clarke, who was replaced Saturday by freshman Kyle Rose, and an injury to junior cornerback Brodrick Jenkins (knee injury), who was replaced by the freshmen duo of Nana Kyeremeh and Rick Rumph.
Those moves were one of a handful that DeForest had to make in Saturday's 55-14 loss to Kansas St. Wildcats.
"We have to reevaluate everything - who's on the field, the scheme, how much we can do and not do - and in the end we've got to do something and try to get better quick," co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "We've got to try to get someone out there who can make a play and challenge receivers."
The Mountaineers have a week off before they return to action Nov. 3 when they host the TCU Horned Frogs (5-2, 2-2). The hope is that will be enough time for WVU to figure out a better defensive strategy.
After proving explosive early, the West Virginia Mountaineers offense has sputtered in back-to-back games, combining for 28 total points in a pair of losses.
Through five weeks, Dana Holgorsen's offense was clicking like few college football offenses in the sport's history. The team had put up 40 every week and was undefeated, coming off 70- and 48-point outings against ranked Baylor and Texas squads, and Geno Smith was everybody's Heisman frontrunner. But the team has only three offensive touchdowns in its past two games, and now sits at a disappointing 2-2 in its first Big 12 season. Saturday, Smith threw a pair of picks and for only 143 yards, leaving offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson without any answers, as reported by John Harris of the Tribune-Review:
"I’m not a psychologist, but we’re going to evaluate the whole group," Dawson said. "I don’t know if I have any answers. If I did, I would have answered it earlier in the game.
Smith was also disappointed in the worst outing of his season:
"I am the leader of this team, and I am the leader of the offense... As an offense, we didn’t do enough."
The defense gave up 55 points, but earlier in the season, that had been OK. The Mountaineers allowed 63 and 45 points in those big wins against Baylor and Texas, but the offense held up its end of the bargain. Now, the team is 118th in scoring defense with an offense that seems to have lost direction. They need to figure out what's wrong on the offensive side of the ball if they want to get back into the Big 12 title race.
After a second straight blowout loss, the Mountaineers fell, again, in the latest USA Today Coaches' Poll.
For the second week in a row, the No. 13 West Virginia Mountaineers fell by a wide margin to a Big 12 foe. This week, WVU lost at home to the No. 4 Kansas State Wildcats, 55-14. The loss was due largely in part to an offensive performance by the Wildcats' Collin Klein, who had seven total touchdowns during the contest.
Mountaineers fans at The Smoking Musket, SB Nation's West Virginia Mountaineers community, feel that the WVU coaching staff has some tough decisions to make in the wake of the loss. In reaction to Mountaineers head football coach Dana Holgorsen saying that Kansas State was "the better team" yesterday, the fans were unsure about the season moving forward.
[We] don't know how many times Coach Holgorsen will have to say this in his career at WVU, but if we continue on this path his post-game comments will likely often include these sentences. Over the past two weeks, Mountaineer fans have experienced a crash that makes his daily comedown from 10 Red Bulls seem like nothing.
Regarding the poor defensive performances seen out of West Virginia during the month of October, West Virginia fans think immediate staff changes are in order:
This isn't the NFL, but I wouldn't be completely surprised if [Head coach Dana Holgorsen] ... made the move [to fire WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest] soon.
The Smoking Musket also points out that many of the postseason aspirations of this program, including Geno Smith's Heisman Trophy candidacy, a possible BCS bowl berth, and contention for Big 12 championship, are all but gone as a result of the past two weeks.
This loss will surely impact West Virginia's BCS ranking and could possibly drop them out of the top 25 altogether.
Next week, the Mountaineers host the TCU Horned Frogs. Game time for that contest is yet to be determined.
The Kansas State Wildcats completely shut down the vaunted West Virginia Mountaineers offense en route to a 55-14 victory on the road Saturday night. The victory seems to firmly place Kansas State in the national discussion, as the Wildcats also have marquee wins over Oklahoma, Iowa State and Miami.
While it's typically the Mountaineers that put up big passing numbers, Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein was unusually prolific through the air on Saturday night. The senior carved up West Virginia's secondary for a season-high 323 passing yards and three touchdowns in addition to rushing for 41 yards and four touchdowns.
Considered a possible Heisman candidate coming into this game, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith will likely have a hard time convincing voters after this week's clunker. The senior completed 21-of-32 passes for just 143 yards, he threw his first two interceptions of the season and he accumulated -15 yards on seven rushing attempts.
Other than a kickoff return touchdown by Anthony Cantele, it's difficult to find anything positive about West Virginia's performance in this game. The team totaled just 14 points for the second consecutive game, a miserable figure compared to the 52 points the Mountaineers averaged over their first five games.
Kansas State is now 7-0 this year, while West Virginia has dropped consecutive Big 12 conference games in brutal fashion. Over the past two weeks, the Mountaineers have been outscored 104-28.
Box Score Hero: Klein was the big star of the game with 364 yards and seven touchdowns through the air and on the ground combined, but Kansas State wideouts Tyler Lockett (nine catches, 194 yards, two touchdowns) and Chris Harper (six catches, 96 yards, one touchdown) stood out as well.
Rankings Ramifications: Given that No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Oregon all won this week, it's hard to imagine Kansas State moving up from the No. 4 spot in spite of its blowout win. Expect the Mountaineers to fall hard after a second straight lopsided defeat, though.
But Did They Cover? West Virginia was actually favored by four points to win the game, so obviously the Mountaineers didn't cover.
For More On This Game: For more on K-State football, visit Kansas State blog Bring On The Cats, plus SB Nation Kansas City. For more on WVU football, visit West Virginia blog The Smoking Musket, plus SB Nation Pittsburgh.
Next Week's Schedule: The Wildcats are hosting the Texas Tech Red Raiders next week, while West Virginia has a bye before facing TCU on Nov. 3.
This story originally appeared on SBNation.com.
Thanks to a dominant defensive effort, the Kansas State Wildcats are well on their way to a blowout victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday night. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Wildcats are leading 52-14 in Morgantown.
Senior quarterback Collin Klein has been superb so far for Kansas State, completing 19-of-21 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns in addition to rushing for 41 yards and four scores. Wide receivers Tyler Lockett (nine catches, 194 yards, two scores) and Chris Harper (six catches, 96 yards, one score) have also put up huge numbers.
Potential Heisman candidate Geno Smith has had by far his worst game of the season this week, completing 21-of-32 passes for just 143 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Coming into Saturday night, Smith had thrown 25 touchdowns with zero interceptions this season, but he's led the West Virginia offense to just 199 total yards against the Wildcats defense.
West Virginia did get on the board in the second quarter thanks to a kick return for a touchdown by Tavon Austin, but the Mountaineers were otherwise thoroughly dominated by Kansas State, which leads 31-7 at the half.
As I wrote last week when WVU faced Texas Tech, the Mountaineers' most crucial characteristic isn't its explosive Geno Smith-led offense. It's the fact that they can't play defense at all. Their play in the first half against a very disciplined Kansas State unit showed why. The Mountaineers just don't have any idea what's happening to them. Against the run, they fail to pick up which way the ball is going and charge in the wrong direction, leaving wide-open holes. Against the pass, they're even worse, as they'll bite on any tiny move from a wide receiver, who will then be free to start streaking through the secondary and into the open field. It got so bad that, in Kansas State's last drive, the Wildcats simply had Collin Klein, who isn't a particularly accurate passer, just chuck the ball downfield. That normally isn't his strength at all, and Kansas State was already up by 17, but with receivers that open, hey, why not? (Klein, by the way, is 14-for-16 with 226 yards and a touchdown. That's the sort of line Geno Smith is supposed to put up.)
In any case, the Mountaineers are floundering against a relentlessly competent team. If they can make a game of this one, it will qualify as a minor miracle.
The No. 13 West Virginia Mountaineers have gotten off to a slow start in their highly anticipated matchup against the No. 4 Kansas State Wildcats, trailing 10-0 after the first quarter in Morgantown.
Kansas State dominated possession in the quarter, holding the ball for 9 minutes, 33 seconds and rolling up 138 yards of offense. Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein started 7-of-8 for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Kansas State opened the scoring with a 33-yard field goal by Anthony Cantele. The field goal capped off a seven-play, 41-yard drive.
After West Virginia managed only one first down on its opening possession, Kansas State took the ball and drove 92 yards for a touchdown. Klein's 10-yard pass to Tyler Lockett finished off the nine-play drive that spanned 5:25.
West Virginia has managed just 16 yards and two first downs on offense in the quarter. Star quarterback Geno Smith completed 2 of 3 passes for 12 yards.
When No. 4 Kansas State takes on No. 17 West Virginia, the Wildcats will try to control the clock as much as possible. A slow tempo means that the dangerous Mountaineer offense spends less time on the field. In addition, it gives the K-State defense a chance to rest.
Kansas State fullback Braden Wilson said, "We are going to have to control the clock, play defense with a good offense, which is our game."
The Mountaineer offense runs 78.7 plays per game, and scores 45.7 points per game, which is seventh-best in the FBS.
Kansas State, meanwhile, runs a much slower offense generally. They average only 63.2 plays per game. Still, the Wildcats score 40.8 points per game.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen knows that Kansas State is going to try to use the clock to its advantage. Maryland tried the same thing a few weeks ago. The Terrapins won the time of possession battle, but fell, 32-12, to the Mountaineers.
The No. 13 West Virginia Mountaineers have one of the worst pass defenses in the country. This was on full display last week as they were trounced by the Texas Tech Red Raiders. However, going into a massive showdown with the undefeated and fourth-ranked Kansas St. Wildcats , WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen wants to play into his team's own weakness. He wants the Wildcats to throw the ball as much as possible. From the Charleston Daily Mail:
"We'll work hard on stopping the run and you want to make them pass.
"We try to stop everybody with the run and make everybody one dimensional," freshman linebacker Isaiah Bruce said. "It's been working in some cases and not so much in others, but that's our game plan."
In the Mountaineers' 49-14 loss to the Red Raiders last week, they allowed more than 500 passing yards, but Kansas State presents a different kind of animal. With star quarterback Collin Klein, the Wildcats are 11th in the nation in rushing yards and 112th in passing per game. Klein and starting running back John Hubert have each carried the ball 98 times and have scored 18 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,100 yards between them.
While Holgorsen appears crazy as a fox sometimes, forcing a team to throw the ball, even though its his own team's biggest weakness, doesn't appear to be a suicidal strategy. If the Mountaineers want to still have a shot at a BCS bowl, it will need to pay off against KSU.
West Virginia welcomes undefeated Kansas State to town for a key Big 12 matchup.
The West Virginia Mountaineers have a dynamic quarterback in Geno Smith, but their opponent on Saturday, the Kansas State Wildcats, have a signal-caller in Collin Klein who is reminding people of Tim Tebow.
Klein, who stands slightly taller and is a few pounds lighter than the former Florida Gator, has earned the comparison with his penchant for running through tacklers often and with success. In last weekend's 27-21 win over the Iowa State Cyclones, Klein ran 25 times, piling up 105 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He also threw for 187 yards, completing 16-of-24 pass attempts.
"He actually reminds me a lot of Tebow," West Virginia linebacker Isaiah Bruce said of Klein in a report from the Charleston Daily Mail on Thursday. "We've been making that reference a lot around here. He's just like Tebow. He's always going to fall forward."
For the season, Klein has rushed for 510 yards and 10 touchdowns, as the No. 4 Wildcats remain unbeaten to this point. He's also thrown for 1,074 yards so far, completing 66.9 percent of his throws with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
No. 13 West Virginia hosts Klein and Kansas State on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.
Bill Connelly has an excellent preview of Saturday's showdown between Kansas State and West Virginia in Morgantown, noting that the two teams' styles couldn't be more different.
No other team in the country reflects its own coach's personality as much as both Kansas State and West Virginia reflect theirs'. Kansas State is crafty, conservative, and opportunistic. Under Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia is cocky, aggressive and explosive. The first-time head coach has led the Mountaineers to a 15-4 record in his first season and a half, and despite some ugly defensive play, WVU could once again be the favorite in the Big 12 if they are to take out Snyder's Wildcats on Saturday.
Connelly is right to note that it would be a shock if Geno Smith and the West Virginia offense were to put up another pedestrian performance after a very rough week against Texas Tech. But they'll still have to watch out for the Kansas State defense, and an important part of the battle will be on the Mountaineers' offensive line. Smith needs better protection this time out -- the Red Raiders got to him, and despite WVU's offensive outburst against Texas, the Longhorns sometimes got to him too, sacking him three times and forcing a fumble in the second quarter alone.
Ultimately, Connelly picks WVU to win by six, in part because Kansas State's margin for error always seems to be so small. But Mountaineers fans have to be nervous, particularly after last week's drubbing by a lesser team.
The West Virginia Mountaineers are preparing for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein on Saturday. What does a player like him bring to the table for the Wildcats?
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