New QBs a different challenge for West Virginia

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After being surprisingly effective for the first month of the season, the West Virginia defense hurtled back to earth, allowing more than 300 passing yards in three consecutive games for the first time since 2006.

Today with a visit to Manhattan, Kan., to face Kansas State, West Virginia is on the hunt for its first road win of the season. The Wildcats are looking for their first Big 12 win of the season. And both teams are hoping to inch closer to bowl eligibility.

Kansas State gives the Mountaineers a reprieve from the pocket passers who have picked apart the defense to the tune of 1,180 yards the past three weeks.

The Wildcats have a couple of options at quarterback to fill the shoes of last season's sensation Collin Klein. Klein passed for 323 yards, ran for four scores, and threw more touchdown passes (three) than incompletions (two) in a 55-14 victory last October in Morgantown.

Kansas State quarterbacks Daniel Sams and Jake Waters have combined for 1,297 passing yards, 673 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in six games.

"You have to prepare for it all with them," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.

Holgorsen said it appears the Wildcats are "settling in on Sams," the team's leading rusher and a more mobile option.

"We'll have to keep him in check," Holgorsen said. "He's 6 feet 2, 210 pounds, really fast, very athletic and will hurt you with his feet."

Waters is still finding his feet in the Big 12 after an offseason transfer to Kansas State from Iowa Western Community College, where he was a junior-college All-American in 2012 and a former teammate of Mountaineers nose tackle Shaq Rowell.

"We used to call him Tim Tebow," Rowell said. "The offense he's running is what [Tebow] was good at doing. He could run the ball, throw it. That's why I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Rowell paused, grinning.

"I want to hit him. He knows I'm coming for him."

The West Virginia secondary should get a break today, as the focus on both sidelines will be on getting the ground game going and establishing the line of scrimmage.

Kansas State averages 184 rushing yards per game, has eclipsed 300 passing yards only once and has thrown more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (six).

"It's something I look forward to, honestly," Rowell said. "I get tired of pass-rushing and trying to get those quarterbacks. This is smash-mouth football. They're going to pound the ball every play, they aren't going no-huddle, and they'll take their time with 4 yards a play and first downs that way.

Stephen J. Nesbitt:, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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