Keys to the Game: Red zone success, winning the trench battle against K-State

Gold and Blue Nation

WVU’s offensive and defensive lines line up in the trenches before the snap at a spring practice on April 10, 2021 at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Following a pair of impressive wins coming off their bye week the Mountaineers ran into a buzz saw in their meeting with Oklahoma State. The good news there is still plenty to play for over the final three weeks of the regular season.  First up a trip to Manhattan and a matchup with Kansas State.

When it comes to total offense and defense the Mountaineers and Wildcats are basically even statistically. So, the Mountaineers will need to play a clean game to come out with a win.

First off, they must be able to protect quarterback Jarret Doege better than they did a week ago, when he was sacked eight times and hurried 17 more. K-State is second in the conference in sacks with 23, second only to Oklahoma State — so you know they are going to try to come with pressure like what the Cowboys employed.

Once again, the Mountaineers must be able to run the ball, which also goes to line play. When you add in the lost sack yardage, WVU finished with just 17 yards rushing in the loss to the Cowboys. The Wildcat defense is in the middle of the Big 12 pack in run defense, so hopefully the ‘Eers can find more success this week.

The Wildcats are in the bottom of the conference when it comes to red zone efficiency. They are only eighth-best on defense and the ninth-best on offense. That’s something the Mountaineers need to exploit.

Defensively, the Mountaineers will need to take care of running back Deuce Vaughn, who ranks sixth in the Big 12 in rushing but second with 12 rushing touchdowns, second only to Iowa State’s Breece Hall. The Mountaineers limited Vaughn to just 22 yards on nine carries a year ago in Morgantown. In fact, they limited the ‘Cats to just 41 yards rushing.

WVU did not face quarterback Skylar Thompson last season — the senior is ranked as the second-most efficient quarterback in the conference. He has been sacked 15 times this season, so WVU may be able to get in his face to pressure him.

Winning on first down on both sides of the ball will be critical for WVU. 

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