Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 18, 2018 at 10:57 pm.

Mountaineers refocus, get back to basics

When West Virginia’s game against North Carolina State last week was cancelled in advance due to safety concerns from Hurricane Florence, the Mountaineers were in the middle of installing their game plan and had to change tack.

Instead of sitting around and moping, West Virginia went back to work — training-camp style — and spent a little extra time preparing for its Big 12 Conference opener against Kansas State, which is set for Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.

“Tuesday and Wednesday we pretty much just turned them back into camp practices and went against each other,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “You have to keep playing, you need timing, you need conditioning and just a whole bunch of things. If you want them to improve or if you want them to stay the same, you have to keep doing it

“And then we practiced them over the weekend, which gave us a little bit of time to prepare. So, we got a little ahead on Kansas State as well.”

The off-week actually allowed AP poll voters to reconsider the Mountaineers’ first two games and elevate them to 12th from 14th in the most recent rankings. West Virginia comes off the impromptu off-week and a 52-17 win over Youngstown State on Sept. 9.

Heisman-hopeful quarterback Will Grier completed 21-of-26 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ win, connecting with seven different receivers in notching the 10th time in his 13 starts that he has finished with 300 or more yards passing. Grier threw touchdown passes of 11, 24, 33 and 40 yards, with three of the scoring tosses to Gary Jennings.

Grier will have to be more patient against the 2-1 Wildcats than he has been the first two games.

“They can do different things to you,” Holgorsen said of the Kansas State defense. “They’re blitzing more and pressuring more and playing man coverage more than what I’ve seen. So, there’s going to be opportunities for big plays.”

West Virginia’s defense will be tested by the Wildcats’ dual-threat offense but has been up to the task so far. The defense had 12 tackles for loss versus Tennessee and nine more against Youngstown State for 21 on the season, an average of 10.5 per game, which ranks No 2 in the Big 12 and No. 6 nationally.