This Kansas State week has always been a very fun and challenging week for me. Just knowing as much as I know about (Kansas State) coach (Bill) Snyder has always been very challenging, but I have always admired his work and how he ran his program. I grew up watching the University of Iowa. He was at the University of Iowa and then transferred over to Kansas State, and I watched him build that program from the ground up. For the eight years that I was at Texas Tech, they were rolling and winning a whole bunch of games, so it was neat to watch that. Maturing as a head coach, I understand a lot of the things that he does now. It’s always fun to compete against them and really study how they do things. This year is no different. When you put on the video, it still looks like a very competitive football team. They are without a doubt a competitive football team.
If you look at it, they were sitting at 3-0. They had Oklahoma State beat at Oklahoma State. They didn’t quite finish that game. They had TCU beat. They were up 10 late in the game, and they didn’t quite get that finished. They were right there and weren’t able to do so. They gave Texas everything they wanted. They gave Baylor everything they wanted and Texas Tech as well. They also figured out ways to beat Iowa State and Kansas the last couple of weeks. If you put it on video, it is the same stuff as you have seen out of them for a long, long time. They are very well coached. They are a very disciplined football team. The guys play hard. The guys care. It is a family atmosphere. They will be playing as well as they have all year this Saturday. Its senior day and the last regular-season game.
Offensively, I have studied them all year based on us kind of doing some different things with our offense. With the run game in general, we have watched them a good bit this year on our side. This week, we watched a lot of the defense and the special teams. It looks a lot like it has over the last couple of years. It’s the same stuff. They are very well coached. It starts with their quarterback. They have had a lot of issues with their injuries. He is very tough. They are very well disciplined. These guys play hard. They try hard. You have to do what you have to do in order to be successful. It starts with their quarterback (junior quarterback Joe Hubener). They have had lots of issues with injuries. That is a part of the game, and you just have to deal with it. Nobody knows that more than they do. (Junior quarterback Joe) Hubener is a good player that keeps getting better and better. He is very tough. He knows how to score. He is responsible for 22 touchdowns. He is kind of what makes them go. They have a big, physical offensive line. It is the same guys other than their centers that we have faced last year. We are pretty familiar with them. They have some backs that will continue to get better. They are a run first team that likes to control the clock. They have started throwing the ball just a little bit more, probably more than we are at this point, based on the score of some of those games.
Defensively, it’s the same look. The guys are in the same spot. They are never out of position. It is the same coverages. It is the same schemes. They have very tough, physical defensive linemen that do a great job of holding their gaps, playing hard and getting off blocks as good as anybody. It doesn’t look any different from what it looked like over the course of the last few years. They will put pressure on you when they need too, and they will put people in the box when they need to stop the run. They will play some man coverage and play off which is no different from what they have done.
Special teams, (associate head coach/special teams coordinator Sean Snyder) is as good as anybody out there. They are always top one and top two in the conference for each one of their units. This year is no different. They have the same specialists back that they have had. He is very solid. The return game is something that has always been good with them. If you want to know a difference between us and them, it is probably the consistency in the return game. They have two guys that average a bunch of kickoff returns. The punt return has been really good for them over the years, because their coverage units are as good as we have seen all year.
It should be an interesting game, again, one that I am looking forward too. If I had to circle one that I wanted to get at the beginning of the year, this would be it. We use the motivation of finishing strong and the last regular season game. Out of the respect that I have for (Kansas State) coach (Bill) Snyder, his program and the way he is doing things, this is one that we haven’t had in the last few years, and it is important for us to be able to do so.
On if he looked at Kansas State in order to implement more quarterback runs
Yes, we did. Like I mentioned a minute ago, when we are trying to study our opponent, we look at who they have played. We have had crossover with these guys a lot. We will reevaluate things here in the next two weeks in order to get ready for the bowl game. Moving forward, we have to figure out what we have to do to be successful and make some people happy. At that point, I will reevaluate and see where we are at with it. With that said, I used to study Texas Tech quite a bit, and now I am studying Kansas State. To answer your question, yes we have done that a good bit.
On Kansas State coach Bill Snyder’s evolving as a coach
There is quite a bit of creativity on offense, but not quite as much on defense and special teams, because that is more about doing the things that you believe in and knowing the game of football and be able to defend what you are trying to defend. Offensively, it is a little different. You can be more creative offensively and evolve a little bit. I remember when they used to use the standup tight end a lot. He did that Iowa, and he did that at Kansas State a good bit. It was more of a pro-style I-formation. A true tight end. Seriously, the tight end looked like I was standing right here right now. He was in this stance, while everyone else was in a three-point or receiver stance. They are not quite doing that very much anymore. It is a lot more spread, a lot more multiple and a lot more in the pass game. They do a lot on offense, not just pro-style stuff. He has evolved offensively a lot, where on defense and special teams they have stayed with their ends on that one.
On how junior quarterback Joe Hubener compares to the other running quarterbacks at Kansas State
He is not as fast, and he is not as dynamic. They have had guys that could make people miss all over the place going back to a long time ago. Back when I got into the league, Michael Bishop was one of them. That was just an outstanding quarterback, and they have had some here recently. I thought the guy they had last year, the junior college guy, was a really good football player. This guy is more of a downhill guy. He is tough. He moves forward. He will run over you. He will take shots and get right back up. He will do it again and again and again. There have been times where he has been hit so damn hard, I don’t think he will ever play football again, but he gets right back in there. He is a big, tough guy. He is a little bit different than the guys that they have had, but obviously, he is equally as effective.
On how close his team is to where he wants them to be in the final season
I thought we would’ve thrown it more. What else do you want me to say? I like where our team is at. It’s not surprising to me on where the team is it contrary to some people’s beliefs. We are a very tight team. We have guys that like each other. We have great continuity on the coaching staff. The players are in a good place. I really like our team. I think we have a really good team. That’s not surprising to me at all. We anticipate finishing strong. Getting to eight wins is really important to us. One of the awesome things about getting to a bowl game and being in the Big 12 is that you have a lot of good bowl games to choose from unlike the previous conference. We will get to a good bowl game, and hopefully, we will play a quality opponent like we did last year. If we can win that one, and then we can talking about winning nine games in this situation. That’s pretty dang good. I don’t care what your expectations are. That’s pretty good. That is not surprising with where we are at, and I think we will continue to move forward with that. Offensively, I wish we could be able to execute the forward pass a little better, and we will keep working hard on that
On what eight wins means to the team
Isn’t that a sign of improvement? Doing things that you haven’t done in the last couple of years. That is a sign of improvement. It means improvement. It’s the name of the game. The seniors are important to me. I would do anything for each and every one of those 20 guys. They have been through a lot. Last week was awesome. I never seen this as a coach, and think this is a sign that shows that your team is in a good place, they care about where they are at and who they are playing with and for. The 20 seniors came off the mantrip down on to the field, and they had their teammates down there. That was an exchange that I have never seen before. There was a lot of tears and a lot of hugs. There was a lot of gratitude on what those guys have done for each other. That was good to see. 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. 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. They have a chance getting to that this week, and they have a chance in extending that throughout the bowl season.
On improvement with the younger quarterbacks
We can’t rep them all. (Freshman quarterback Chris Chugunov) Chugs is getting a lot of reps. He had a lot of reps last week. (Junior quarterback) Skyler (Howard) and (redshirt freshman quarterback William Crest Jr.) Will were injured in the Kansas game. (Redshirt freshman quarterback William Crest Jr.) wasn’t at a 100 percent all week. He was good in the game, but he wasn’t ready to go. (Junior quarterback) Skyler (Howard) has been kind of touch and go. He doesn’t have as much zip on the ball, and there is a reason for that. He is a competitor, and he’s going to do everything that he possibly can to prepare the right way. With that said, we need somebody to take some quarterbacks reps. (Freshman quarterback Chris Chugunov) Chugs has been getting in there and taking some reps, and he looks really good.
On redshirt senior offensive lineman Stone Underwood improvements
He just went through senior day, so he is going to graduate, he’s going to be a good something. I’m not quite sure what his degree is. I was so happy for him. He was a realist. He hasn’t played a lot in his career at West Virginia. He has been a solid No. 2 back up. We have a great center (redshirt junior Tyler Orlosky) that stays healthy. He is tough, and it means a lot to him. If he has a bruise, he doesn’t look for the sidelines. He gets out there and he plays. We didn’t need (redshirt senior offensive lineman) Stone (Underwood) to do a whole lot. With the injury situation that we had to address upfront, (redshirt senior offensive lineman) Stone (Underwood) moved to guard and played, so we moved him, and he played some ball. He did well, and I was proud of him.
On comparing junior quarterback Skyler Howard from last year’s Kansas State game to this year
We have studied that a good bit. I vaguely remember it, but I remember him going in and playing well. Clint (Trickett) wasn’t in a great spot at that point in the season. We didn’t play very well. We had three points at halftime, and then (junior quarterback) Skyler (Howard) went in there. I specifically remember this, I looked at him and said ‘are you ready to go?’ He said ‘let’s do this.’ I told him to get in there and run the offense, and then he took us down there and scored. I thought he played good enough that day for us to beat Kansas State. We clearly didn’t play the whole game on offense, and we gave up some stuff in the pass game from that (Tyler) Lockett kid, who we could never stop in three years. They beat us, but I think (junior quarterback) Skyler (Howard) did his part in that situation as a backup quarterback. He has continued to progress from there. He knows more about the offense and the run game. We are using him more in the running game, and I feel like he will continue to improve as well.
On the facility upgrades around the stadium and what is next on his wish list
There is a lot of construction. I’m not quite sure what is going on with the stadium to be honest with you. I’m not being facetious in any way. That doesn’t affect my world. That’s an administration role, and I know they put a lot of time and resources into making that better. I know the Coliseum is going through some of the same stuff. When you don’t address anything for three decades, it is going to catchup to you. I know these practice fields are getting done. They look really good. They are not quite done yet, and we can’t get on them yet. The next step is to flatten the crown, and that affects us because we actually play football on that. That’s the next step. It’s critical. Most of you guys travel with us, not everybody, you should see some of the facilities of the team’s that we are playing. Not only from a recruiting perspective, but from a player development perspective. The guys come in the building and have what they need in order to develop as a student-athlete. That’s very important. I have always said from day one, if you just give us somewhere where we can practice, eat, lift and study the right way then you have a chance to develop them the way that you want too. We are getting closer to having that done. The next step is the training room whether that happens a year or two from now. There are fund issues, and everyone has issues. Why is that important? Your players have to have top notch facilities in order to get treated physically from a health perspective.