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West Virginia plans for rushing attack against Kansas State

MORGANTOWN — If there’s a right time to catch Kansas State, it’s right now.
West Virginia opens Big 12 play against the conference’s traditional stalwart of physical football. For the Mountaineers, getting the Wildcats out of the way sooner rather than later is ideal. Every other Big 12 team approaches offense differently than Kansas State, so the thought is that this game is much less of a changeup than it would be after playing the likes of Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
“If you look at Youngstown (State), a lot of the stuff that Youngstown was doing, run game-wise, is a lot like what Kansas State does with a mobile quarterback that can run a little bit,” said WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “So, there’s a lot of carryover for our guys right now.”
That WVU’s defense is preparing for several of the same concepts as its last opponent is a bit of unexpected scheduling fortune in itself. The Mountaineers were supposed to face a more pro-style attack from NC State between the Penguins and Wildcats, but that was wiped from the schedule due to Hurricane Florence inundating the Carolina coast last weekend.
K-State’s philosophy is similar to both teams West Virginia has played so far.
“They’re going to run the ball first and try to take shots,” Gibson said. “They’ll get you one-on-one outside with double moves and different things like that. A lot of that stuff is what we’ve been preparing for. It’s totally different from the rest of the Big 12.”
Designed quarterback runs are a major part of that philosophy, just as they always have been in the 27-year tenure of Bill Snyder. Quarterbacks Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton have combined for 59 of Kansas State’s 126 carries this season.
That gives Gibson cause for concern with West Virginia’s lack of depth at linebacker.
JoVanni Stewart moved from safety to outside linebacker for the Youngstown State game, but the Wildcats have the size to exploit Stewart’s 5-foot-8, 195-pound frame. He’s likely swing back more to his natural position to make way for more traditional linebackers Shea Campbell and Exree Loe.
“That scares me a little bit going into this game with inexperience at our SAM linebacker,” Gibson said. “[Dylan] Tonkery and David [Long] know what to expect, but those SAM linebackers haven’t seen this kind of offense, the down-hill run game we’re going to get and the extra hat with running their quarterback so much.”
Gibson will still find ways to get Stewart on the field after solid performances against Tennessee and Youngstown State.
“We have to do a good job of mixing that up,” Gibson said. “And when we do use him, it will be coming off edges and maybe blowing through gaps – that kind of stuff.”
For Long, who had 11 tackles against the Wildcats last season from West Virginia’s other outside linebacker spot, this is one of the most enjoyable Big 12 match-ups. It’s less about scheme and more about matching the opponent’s physicality.
“They’re always physical and sound. It’s a nice team to play,” Long said. “We know what we’re going to get from K-State. They run the same thing, and they want you to stop it.”

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