With versatile Klein, K-State offense attacks from the ground up
MORGANTOWN -- The scheme West Virginia's defense is facing Saturday when Kansas State visits Milan Puskar Stadium may be different than the Mountaineers have seen in recent weeks, but the desired result - something WVU has not done well so far - is the same: stop the other team from scoring.
Against Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech it was the WVU secondary that received the bulk of the scrutiny after allowing 1,358 combined passing yards in its three Big 12 games.
K-State does not figure to put up huge numbers through the air when the No. 4 Wildcats take on the Mountaineers in front of a national television audience on Fox, but K-State quarterback Collin Klein has been extremely efficient in leading his team up the polls, including a marquee win at then-No. 6 Oklahoma.
Through six games, K-State averages 40.8 points but is last in the Big 12 with 179 passing yards per game. The Wildcats have excelled in the running game with Klein and running back John Hubert leading the team to 248.5 yards per game on the ground (good enough for second in the conference behind Oklahoma State).
Mountaineer defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said Tuesday during the team's open interview session that his defensive unit could be in for another long day if it can't improve immediately.
"We have a lot of things to correct but they're all correctable," DeForest said. "Our kids saw that on tape. We pointed out the things that need to be corrected both effort-wise and technique-wise. That's why we weren't successful last week."
DeForest said he has seen some improvement in spots but the defense needs to do better as a group after allowing 158 points through three Big 12 games.
"You see [improvement] in some areas but obviously not in all the areas we need to have corrected or improved," he said. "Unfortunately that comes with time and we don't have time. We've got to fix it now and it's got to be immediate. It's got to be fixed as a mindset. This is how you practice and this is how you play."
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen announced Tuesday that defensive back Brodrick Jenkins would be out with a knee injury for some time, which leaves an already thin WVU depth chart even thinner with the Big 12's only undefeated team coming to town.
"We don't have many guys left so it's open for competition this week," DeForest said. "You look at the depth chart and you go to the next guy up. Whoever that may be, whether it's another true freshman, so be it. That's what we have to deal with, unfortunately."
Mountaineer secondary coach Daron Roberts said competition for Jenkins' playing time was open and the team would not know who would be taking his place until the end of the week.
"Guys are competing," Roberts said. "We'll make a decision by the end of the week. Guys aren't excited about being without Brodrick for a while but they're excited about playing time. We'll see who emerges by the end of the week and they'll play on Saturday."
While the secondary is depleted and has been on its heels more often than not, the front seven for WVU has escaped some of the negative attention that comes when a team gives up yards and points the way the Mountaineers have so far this season.
DeForest, however, said the problems West Virginia has had stopping opposing offenses does not rest with one part of the defense and that the whole unit has to improve.
"It's not the secondary per se or the rush per se - it's a team thing," he said. "Someone's got to win one-on-one up front and someone's got to win one-on-one in the back end. If you're in Cover 1 or you're in man coverage and a guy runs down the field, it's your job to cover him. How hard is that? It's very difficult, obviously, but that's your assignment."
Reach Tom Bragg at email@example.com.