Don’t feel bad if you gave up on West Virginia at the end of October. You aren’t alone.
The Mountaineers had lost four in a row and some wondered if coach Dana Holgorsen would return for another season. Even though those four losses came to the class of the Big 12 — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU — things appeared bleak in Morgantown.
Quite the contrast to now. West Virginia has won four in a row, including three straight convincingly, to establish itself as the clear No. 5 team in the Big 12. It is the hottest team in the league, after Oklahoma, and it can finish the regular season 8-4 if it beats Kansas State at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
“I like where our team is at,” Holgorsen said at his news conference earlier this week. “It’s not surprising to me on where the team is, contrary to some people’s beliefs. We are a very tight team and we have guys that like each other. The players are in a good place. I really like our team. I think we have a really good team.”
The Mountaineers have never been more confident. They have outscored opponents 148-52 during their winning streak, and they have done it their own way. Unlike past years in which West Virginia’s offense mimicked Texas Tech’s and Holgorsen tried to win high-scoring games, the Mountaineers now lean on their running game.
They also take pride on defense.
“West Virginia has always been known for their pass, but this year they have started to run the ball really well,” K-State center Dalton Risner said. “They ran for 400 yards on Kansas, so on defense, we have really got to stop that and make them pass a little bit with their quarterback.
“On offense, we just need to establish our game. Every game we have established our run game we have done well. If we can get the run game going early, then I think we will be alright.”
What makes this game interesting is that both teams are riding waves of momentum.
K-State lost its first six conference games and has since rebounded with back-to-back victories. The Wildcats can finish 6-6 and clinch a traditional bowl berth with a win. They have plenty to play for.
“We can do it now. It gives the guys confidence,” linebacker Will Davis said. “Guys definitely have more pep in their step. A win is way better than a loss.”
West Virginia is also motivated. A victory will give the Mountaineers their first winning record in conference play since joining the Big 12.
“Those guys set a goal when we sat here at 3-4 and we clearly were not in the best place that we have been in,” Holgorsen said. “We wanted to be remembered for something a little bit better than not being successful in the Big 12. They set the goal to finish better than any other West Virginia team has finished in the Big 12. There have been some great teams at West Virginia, there is no question, but this would be the best Big 12 team that we have had. That’s what they want to get to.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
West Virginia at Kansas State
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan. (FS1)
Other story lines
Recent success: K-State has never lost to West Virginia since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12. Dana Holgorsen said beating Bill Snyder is a goal. West Virginia last beat K-State in 1930.
Winning record: The Wildcats can still secure a winning record if they win on Saturday and claim victory in a bowl game. K-State has finished .500 or better every year since Snyder returned in 2009.
Final home game? There is a chance this will be Bill Snyder’s final home game as Kansas State’s coach. Though he has given no indication he wants to retire, he said earlier this week he will decide his coaching future after the season when he has time to consider his options.