West Virginia is one of four Power Five teams that are undefeated and unranked in this week’s Associated Press poll. Not that it matters to Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen.
“I really haven’t thought about it,” he said. “We worry about what we can control.”
The poll voters are likely to notice if West Virginia ends a four-game Big 12 Conference losing streak to Kansas State. The Wildcats visit Morgantown Saturday (2:30 p.m. Central, ESPNU) for a game that will be an early indicator for the league race. K-State is No. 1 in the FBS in total defense and will try to slow the Mountaineers (3-0), who are 12th in total offense with 533 yards per game.
West Virginia has its typical array of fast and physical skill players. Senior quarterback Skyler Howard has been outstanding.
“We watched the BYU game and then we turned on the Kansas State game from last year and it’s a completely different person,” Holgorsen said of his quarterback. “He’s got good zip on the ball. He threw the ball as accurately as he ever has last week and, again, the receivers are in the right spots and he’s got some time to throw it so that makes a difference as well.”
The Mountaineers’ offensive line has given Howard sterling protection, allowing just one sack in 110 pass attempts. Last season, WVU was 90th in the FBS, allowing 32 sacks in 429 pass attempts. Holgorsen hired veteran assistant Joe Wickline to oversee the offense and the O-line.
“We’ve got good continuity there, and coach (Joe) Wickline has done a good job of widening the pocket and I think Skyler is doing a great job,” Holgorsen said. “He’s getting us in plays, we’re getting the ball out of our hands quick, our receivers are in the right spots and it’s just 100 times better than it was last year.”
The major factor in Kansas State’s defense has been the return of safety Dante Barnett, who missed most of last season with an injury. In Big 12 games in 2015, K-State allowed 484.8 yards and 36.4 points per game.
“I wouldn’t say I am concerned about anything,” K-State sophomore defensive back D.J. Reed said of facing West Virginia.
“We have high expectations for ourselves. I just feel like we are closely knitted. Nothing can break us. Our defensive line is really good. They can get to the quarterback fast. That is making our job in the secondary easier.”
Washington seeing double
Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington is averaging 122 yards per game. That leads the Big 12 and ranks sixth nationally. But in the Cowboys’ loss at Baylor Saturday, Washington found out what it’s like to produce such big numbers.
“He’s going to start to see some coverages,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “If so, we’ve got to be able to run the football.”
Washington finished with six receptions for 89 yards, but the Bears’ secondary made sure there were two defenders shadowing Washington. As a sophomore last season, he had 53 catches for 1,087 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s just as dangerous this season – which means that when Oklahoma State takes on Texas Saturday, the Longhorns will make sure they’re covering No. 28.
“I think he kind of knew coming in that there was going to be a target on his back for how well he performed last year,” Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph said. “He’s responded well. He’s done a great job. Any game plan a defense has to take him away, he’s never let it get to him. He always finds a way to get the ball in his hands.”
Longhorns will suit up
When Texas travels to Stillwater for Saturday’s game at Oklahoma State, the 400-mile flight will take about 90 minutes. The Longhorns will be wearing suits. Charlie Strong will make sure that edict is followed.
When UT flew three-and-a-half hours to Berkeley for its previous game against California, Strong decided to give his players a break and allowed them to wear comfortable warm-up gear instead of the usual suits and ties. That’s not why the Longhorns lost … but you know how coaches think.
“It’s something small,” Strong said last week. “But you know what, I don’t care if we’re flying 8,000 miles, we’re wearing coats and ties. It’s your approach to things. The way they see it, (wearing sweats) maybe they didn’t think it’s not important, we can just go out there and relax.
“We say it’s business trip. A game is like an interview. What do you wear to an interview? Coat and tie.”
Two touchdowns, two results
Kansas State running back Charles Jones found that coach Bill Snyder is serious about “touchdown etiquette.”
Jones scored the Wildcats’ first touchdown in Saturday’s storm-shortened 35-0 victory over Missouri State. He took a handoff, ran toward the left pylon and went in untouched. But he dropped the ball just after crossing the goal line and a review was needed.
Jones’ stat line for the rest of the game: DNP, coach’s decision.
“You score, you give the ball to the official and then you go celebrate with your teammates,” Snyder said. “There are consequences if you don’t.
“The last time we met as a team I went back over (touchdown etiquette) and was explicit with the entire team. Charles has since issued an apology to his teammates, but that is part of the discipline that goes along with it.”
TCU wide receiver John Diarse broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown catch and run in the first half against SMU Friday night. After reaching the end zone, he immediately handed the ball to the side judge.
“I guess somebody taught him to do that,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Indeed. Here’s what Diarse said about his touchdown “celebration”:
“I’ve always done that. My dad taught me that. There’s no need to celebrate. Everyone saw what you just did. Just hand the ball to the official as quickly as you can.”
Iowa State senior Cole Netten made a school-record 12th consecutive field goal in the Cyclones’ victory over San Jose State. He’s the most accurate kicker in school history – 76.4 percent, 42 of 55.
Last season Netten missed a 32-yarder that led to a 30-23 double-overtime loss last season at Toledo (coached, ironically, by new Iowa State coach Matt Campbell). The kick would have won the game, so fickle fans (are there any other kind?) picked up their social media weapons and opened fire.
“There were some hate tweets,” Netten said. “There were hate Snapchats, hate Instagrams – basically hate everywhere for a while on social media.”
Kate Britten, Netten’s high school sweetheart, stood by him through the noise. And no, that’s not why they got married last summer. Netten’s proposal, which happened at his family’s lake house in Okoboji, Iowa, split the uprights.
“The proposal happened on a Sunday, but I didn’t really decide to ask her until the day before,” he said. “We went out to a nice dinner at Maxwell’s in Arnolds Park. After that, I had a private boat pick us up. The boat had flowers in it, and we drove off into the sunset.
“Luckily for me, she said yes.”
Britten, who is on the Cyclones’ dance team, had the perfect comment after last season’s miss against Toledo. “She said, ‘I still love ya,’ ” Netten said.
T. Boone Pickens, the Oklahoma State mega-booster who has donated over $500 million to his alma mater, on his relationship with coach Mike Gundy:
“I don’t have any conversations with Gundy. (Is there a rift?) I don’t know, but Mike doesn’t handle people relationships very well. And he gets mad about things. I’ve heard he’s written some notes about me that weren’t very complimentary.”
Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has been with the Cowboys since 2008 and says this Texas offense is “one of the most physical” he has encountered:
“When they decide to run power and come right at you, they’re going to do it,” Spencer said. “They could care less what front you’re in, they’re going to come at you and try to mow you over.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson on playing at home:
“One thing you can’t take for granted, the home crowd can give you emotion but it can’t be your emotion. That’s one thing a young team needs to learn. You can feed off your home crowd but you already have to have the emotion to play.”