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Mississippi State creates blueprint on how to beat Kansas State

MORGANTOWN — When it comes to beating Kansas State, no one has provided a better blueprint this season than Mississippi State. The Bulldogs bludgeoned their way to 384 rushing yards in a 31-10 win in Manhattan, Kan., in Week 2.
While No. 12 West Virginia occupies a similar spot in the AP Top 25 as No. 14 Mississippi State, there doesn’t figure to be a ton of similarity between their respective game plans against the Wildcats. The Bulldogs, like the Wildcats, are built to overpower opponents on the ground behind a dual-threat quarterback.
WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said there was nothing tricky about what Mississippi State did — it was more a show of prodigious talent. Running back Kylin Hill had 211 yards on 17 carries and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald rushed for 159 yards on 19 carries.
“Mississippi State’s personnel is pretty good,” Holgorsen said. “They have dudes up front that can block you, they have a couple of backs that can hit the hole, that quarterback keeps you honest in the run game. They’re a pretty physical outfit. They schemed them up, and they blocked well, and they played well.
“Mississippi State matched them on special teams, and defensively, they have guys that can run around. Their (defensive) line is extremely big and extremely physical. That looked like a good team to me.”
K-State’s other two opponents, South Dakota and UTSA, gained 77 and 143 yards on the ground, respectively. Even with those respectable performances sprinkled in, the Wildcats were so battered by the Bulldogs that they rank 106th nationally against the run.
“They played a lot more man [defense] against Mississippi State, because they were doing a lot of quarterback runs,” said WVU offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “So, they’re going to get that added hat into the run defense just because of the threat of Mississippi State with QB run game. That’s a whole other dimension.”
That isn’t to say the Mountaineers won’t try to see if they can exploit some things in the run game, too. Through two games, the Mountaineers are 23rd in the country with an average of 5.58 yards per carry. Mississippi State ranks second at 7.6 yards per carry. Though the K-State game bolstered those numbers for MSU, the Bulldogs still averaged 6.56 yards per carry in their other two wins.
Whether WVU primarily throws or runs against K-State may come down to what quarterback Will Grier sees at the line of scrimmage.
“They do a lot of different things [defensively] and they don’t have a whole lot of tendencies,” Grier said. “A lot of it’s going to be on me seeing what they give.”
Based on available personnel, there will probably be more opportunities to attack K-State through the air. The Wildcats are expected to be without starting strong safety Denzel Goolsby and backup cornerback Kevion McGee for the second-straight game.
“Being short-handed is not something you envisioned and want,” Snyder said. “[West Virginia] is probably one of the worst teams you can line up short-handed against. A very prolific offense. They’ve developed a great deal of balance.”
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