PREVIEW: Kansas State Visits WVU Aiming to Avenge Last Season’s Upset Loss
West Virginia football’s biggest win in 2019 on Nov. 16 in Manhattan, Kansas when the Mountaineers pulled a 24-20 upset against then-No. 24 Kansas State.
The victory was WVU’s only win against a ranked opponent last season and ended a five-game losing streak. The game was quarterback Jarret Doege’s first start as a Mountaineer and played well, completing 20-30 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. He threw the game-winning 50-yard touchdown to Bryce-Ford Wheaton with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
This week, Kansas State (4-1, 3-0 Big 12) assistant head coach Van Malone said the Wildcats are ready for Doege this season.
“Him coming into the game last year was a difference,” Malone said. “Into this season, he’s definitely improved. He has a pretty good arm. He’s active with his feet and doesn’t get sacked much. He’ll be a challenge for us, but speaking to last year, it did throw us a little bit. At this point, from what we’ve seen so far, he’ll be an extreme challenge for us.”
Doege has started all five games for the Mountaineers (3-2, 2-2) this season, throwing for 1,389 yards and nine touchdowns. Malone said it is WVU’s running game that has him concerned, however.
“They have really good offensive linemen. They play together well as a group,” Malone said. “The running backs, both guys that play a lot right now, are powerful and strong runners. They have good speed. You’ve seen them have a few breakaway runs. We’ll have to do a good job of wrapping up and tackling those guys well.”
The West Virginia running game has taken off this season, with junior running back Leddie Brown currently second in the Big 12 with 592 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He also has 138 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Brown’s counterpart will be the 5-foot-5 Deuce Vaughn. Just a true freshman, Vaughn leads the Wildcats in both rushing (319) and receiving (360) yards so far this season. He will be joined in the backfield by fellow true freshman quarterback Will Howard, making his third career start in place of the injured Skylar Thompson.
“Will does just as good a job as anyone,” K-State lineman Noah Johnson said. “Obviously losing Skylar (Thompson) you lose so much. Skylar brought so much to our program, and he’s just an excellent teammate and an excellent leader. But, Will is doing a great job. I’ve said it before, but there has never been any moment where I felt that he was not too big for the moment he was in.”
Howard has thrown for 557 yards and three touchdowns this season. He has also rushed for 116 yards and another score.
WVU football coach Neal Brown said that it is the Wildcat defense he is most impressed with.
“Extremely well-coached in my opinion,” Brown said Tuesday. “They’ve got answers for everything that you do. They’ve always played the run well. They’ve played a lot of guys in the secondary. They’ve had some COVID issues and you can’t really tell. They rotate a bunch of guys in and all of them have been productive. They’ve difficult to move inside, I think that’s why people have a hard time running the football on them, they’re difficult to move.”
WATCH: WVU Coach Neal Brown on Kansas State’s Style of ‘Complimentary Football’
K-State is led on defense by defensive end Wyatt Hubert, an All-Big 12 selection this preseason. Hubert has 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks this season. The Wildcats also lead the Big 12 in interceptions, with seven this season. Defensive backs Jahron McPhearson and Justin Gardner both have two.
West Virginia and Kansas State will kick off at noon on Saturday in Morgantown. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. WVU opened as slight favorites over the Wildcats at home.