|Dana Holgorsen seems to have settled on junior quarterback Clint Trickett under center. He passed for 254 yards and a touchdown in West Virginia's 37-27 loss to Texas Tech last weekend.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Kansas State and West Virginia have a lot more in common than just two winning football programs with sub-.500 records looking for a win this weekend.
It’s now two months into the season and both are still searching for offensive identities, and a lot of that can be attributed to the usage of multiple quarterbacks, says West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
“You lose a quarterback of the caliber of what they had last year (Collin Klein) and it will take some time before you find some rhythm,” he said. “They have been searching with the two kids they have been playing.”
Holgorsen has tried three different starters so far himself with mixed results, although Florida State transfer Clint Trickett
seems to have settled in as the regular now after his 254-yard, one-touchdown performance in last weekend’s loss to Texas Tech.
Trickett led West Virginia (3-4) to a 30-21 upset victory over then-11th-ranked Oklahoma State back on Sept. 28 by passing for 309 yards and a touchdown – WVU’s best performance by a quarterback this year.
Junior Paul Millard
started the first two games of the season against William & Mary and Oklahoma before giving way to freshman Ford Childress
, who started games against Georgia State and Maryland before tearing his pectoral muscle.
On the other side of the field, Kansas (2-4) has gone with both Daniel Sams and junior college transfer Jake Waters under center this season. Waters came to Manhattan with lofty credentials and threw for more than 275 yards in his first two games against North Dakota State and Louisiana. He also passed for 275 yards in a 31-21 loss to Texas.
“What they do with Jake Waters is that they go a lot of empty and spread it around,” said Holgorsen. “It’s more of a pass game. They let him throw it around and distribute the ball.”
Daniel Sams has also been used as a dual-threat quarterback. Sams got the bulk of the snaps in K-State’s last two games against Oklahoma State and Baylor, completing 15-of-21 passes for 181 yards with two touchdowns in the loss to the Cowboys and then running 30 times for 199 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 35-25 defeat to Baylor.
“With Sams, it’s more of a run threat,” said Holgorsen. “What they do is going to change with the personnel. You have to prepare for it all. You don’t know. If you take just what they did against Baylor, and you can do that, but they have the potential to do other stuff as well.”
Sams’s yardage total was the second-most ever by a Wildcat quarterback and his 6.1-yards-per-carry average ranks sixth among quarterbacks with at least 60 rushing attempts so far this year.
Against the Bears two weeks ago, Sams didn’t have a single negative yardage run – an impressive feat for any quarterback.
“Daniel Sams presents problems from an athletic point of view,” said Holgorsen. “He averages over six yards per carry. He has run the ball 86 times. We will have to keep him in check. He is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, really fast, very athletic and will hurt you with his feet. The last game against Baylor, he controlled the game and the clock.”
With two weeks to prepare for this Saturday’s game, the question is will Coach Bill Snyder use Sams and control the football and try and keep West Virginia’s offense off the field, or will he bring in Waters and try and take advantage of a WVU secondary that is giving up 257.1 yards per game and 10 touchdowns through the air?
WVU’s run defense has also been a cause for concern, despite tightening things up a little bit last Saturday against Texas Tech by allowing a respectable 111 yards on 31 attempts. For the season, West Virginia is giving up an average of 196 yards per game on the ground, and that may be too inviting for Snyder to turn down with the athletic Sams.
Oklahoma ran for 316 yards in a 16-7 win against WVU on Sept. 7, and Baylor had its way on the ground by rushing for 476 yards and eight touchdowns.
On the flip side, the Mountaineer secondary has allowed at least 322 yards passing in their last three games against Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech, including a season-high 462 yards in last weekend’s loss to the Red Raiders.
Based on those numbers, Snyder clearly has some options, despite his team’s lack of offensive balance so far this season.
“It is truly defined by how somebody lines up and plays on defense,” Snyder pointed out earlier this week. “If they line up and take certain things away then if you have some balance, in other words, the capacity to do a number of different things, then you can move on to whatever seems to fit the moment, so to speak. I think we have been able to do that to a certain degree, not totally successfully, because we have lost four ballgames. That enters into it as well.”
As for West Virginia’s defense, Snyder sees a unit that is still trying to find an identity.
“I think they are trying to latch on to who they really are as much as anything,” he said. “They have good players. Their players are seemingly motivated to play hard. They run well and are good pursuit team. They will get nine, 10, 11 guys around the ball. And every snap they do an awful lot of things. There is movement and changeup in their coverages.
“Statistically, they do not rank real high in our conference, and I cannot tell you exactly why that is the case,” Snyder continued. “I also see them kind of starting to settle into some things which probably will make them a little bit more confident and secure about the things that they are capable of doing.
“I think that is just part of what they are going through in trying to find what they do best, and maybe that is what we are going through as well.”
For Holgorsen, he is confident that West Virginia will be facing a fundamentally sound football team in Kansas State at a place that is football crazy this Saturday.
“I have been to Kansas State several times and they have built that up from nothing to what you see there today,” he said. “It is a heck of a place to play a college football game. There are going to be 53,000 people in there – they are loud and they are rowdy. Their student section is great, which is right behind our bench.
“It’s a challenging place to go play. All venues in the Big 12 are challenging places to go play. It will be a tremendous challenge for our football team.”
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. (ET) and the game will be televised nationally on FOX Sports 1.