Game Preview: WVU vs. Kansas
Series: WVU 2-0
Last meeting: 2012: WVU 59, KU 10 F
Television: 12 p.m., FSN (Brendan Burke - play-by-play, Ben Leber - analysis, Leslie McCaslin - analysis)
Line: -7 West Virginia
West Virginia (4-6, 2-5) will travel to Kansas (2-7, 0-6) for the first time in a must win matchup for the Mountaineers bowl chances.
The Mountaineers are facing a Jayhawks team that has not won a Big 12 Conference game since 2010, but has shown improvement under head coach Charlie Weis. West Virginia is sitting at four wins and must win this weekend and at home against Iowa State to return to a bowl for the 12th consecutive year.
"They've played six really good teams in a row and have played competitive. We've got our hands full. We need to move forward. We still are playing for something. It's at the point, where I'm talking about bowl games. We need to win the next two to go to a bowl game," head coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Weis has a career record of 38-45, including 3-18 during his time trying to rebuild the Kansas program. Weis previously has served as the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets while also spending five seasons as the head coach at Notre Dame leading the Irish to two BCS bowl appearances.
The Jayhawks are much like the Mountaineers in the sense that they are still searching for an identity offensively and have used two different quarterbacks this season with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart.
"What they do with the two is different. They have the Heaps kid, who's a pocket guy and comes in to throw it around. He's got a couple of weapons. The two who we are concerned about last year, (James Sims) who's a running back and (Tony Pierson) who's a receiver. Then when they put Cozart in it turns into more of a running quarterback game. They are going to utilize him to try and move the ball forward," Holgorsen said.
The offense will change depending on which signal caller is in the game, but the key to the Kansas offense is running back James Sims.
Sims leads the Jayhawks in rushing with 703 yards and four touchdowns and has developed into one of the best running backs in the entire Big 12 Conference.
On defense the Jayhawks continue to take steps forward and have been a difficult challenge for teams in recent weeks, holding opponents to under 300 total yards.
"Defensively, they are playing well. They're playing with tremendous effort, and their defense is keeping them in games. They are really good against the run. They're going to play similar to Texas last week. They are going to try to outnumber us in the box. Their corners and safeties are going to try and man you up. Teams have been having trouble getting behind them in those situations," Holgorsen said.
West Virginia defeated Kansas last season 59-10 in the season finale, with Geno Smith tossing for four touchdowns en route to the Mountaineers seventh win.
Kickoff is set for noon.
West Virginia Depth Chart:
QB - 9 Clint Trickett (r-Jr), 14 Paul Millard (Jr), 7 Ford Childress (r-Fr)
RB (A) - 3 Charles Sims (r-Sr), 4 Wendell Smallwood (Fr), 2 Dreamius Smith (Jr), 29 Dustin Garrison (Jr)
FB (B) - 88 Cody Clay (r-So), 42 Garrett Hope (So)
WR (X) - 5 Mario Alford (Jr), 19 KJ Myers (r-So)
WR (Z) - 11 Kevin White (Jr), 85 Ivan McCartney (Sr.)
IR (Y) - 6 Daikiel Shorts (Fr), 10 Jordan Thompson (So)
LT - 79 Nick Kindler (r-Sr), 63 Mike Calicchio (r-Jr)
LG - 67 Quinton Spain (r-Jr), 78 Marquis Lucas (r-So)
C - 76 Pat Eger (r-Sr), 65 Tyler Orlosky (r-Fr)
RG - 64 Mark Glowinski (r-Jr), 78 Marquis Lucas (r-So)
RT - 62 Curtis Feigt (r-Sr), 57 Adam Pankey (r-Fr)
DT - 98 Will Clarke (r-Sr), 97 Noble Nwachukwu (r-Fr)
NT - 90 Shaq Rowell (r-Sr), 49 Darrien Howard (Fr)
DE - 93 Kyle Rose (r-So), 45 Eric Kinsey (So)
BUCK - 2 Brandon Golson (Jr), 18 Marvin Gross (Fr)
SPUR - 31 Isaiah Bruce (r-So)
WILL - 53 Tyler Anderson(r-Sr), 11 Sean Walters (r-Fr)
SAM - 35 Nick Kwiatkoski (r-So), 56 Jewone Snow (r-Jr)
FCB - 34 Ishmael Banks (r-Jr), 20 Brandon Napoleon (r-Fr)
FS - 8 Karl Joseph (So), 43 Jarrod Harper (r-Fr)
BS - 25 Darwin Cook (r-Sr), 41 Ricky Rumph (So)
BCB - 7 Daryl Worley (Fr), 26 Travis Bell (r-Jr)
PK - 86 Josh Lambert (r-Fr)
P - 91 Nick O'Toole (So)
KO - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Jr)
LS -87 John DePalma (So)
H - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Jr)
PR - 10 Jordan Thompson (So)
KR - 5 Mario Alford (Jr), 4 Wendell Smallwood (Fr)
Sixteen Mountaineers earned their first career starts this season with Mario Alford (WR), Ronald Carswell (WR), Ford Childress (QB), Mark Glowinski (RG), Brandon Golson (BUCK), Marquis Lucas (LG), Paul Millard (QB), KJ Myers (WR), Tyler Orlosky (C), WR Daikiel Shorts (WR), Charles Sims (RB), Dreamius Smith (RB), Clint Trickett (QB), Daryl Worley (CB), Josh Lambert (K), Nick O'Toole (P).
True freshmen that have played include: Marvin Gross (LB), Darrien Howard (DL), Carlton Nash (CB), Wendell Smallwood (RB), Daikiel Shorts (WR), Jeremy Tyler (S) and Daryl Worley (CB).
In total, 31 Mountaineers saw their first game action this season including Mario Alford (WR), Justin Arndt (LB), Michael Calicchio (OL), Ronald Carswell (WR), Ford Childress (QB), James Gayeski (DL), Brandon Golson (BUCK), Mark Glowinski (RG), Jarrod Harper (S), Darrien Howard (DL), Dontrill Hyman (DE), Josh Lambert (K), Devonte Mathis (WR), Logan Moore (WR), Carlton Nash (CB), Brandon Napoleon (CB), Noble Nwachukwu (DE), Tyler Orlosky (C), Nick O'Toole (P), Adam Pankey (OL) Daikiel Shorts (WR), Charles Sims (RB), Wendell Smallwood (RB), Dreamius Smith (RB), Clint Trickett (QB), Jeremy Tyler (S), Sean Walters (LB), Kevin White (WR), Daryl Worley (CB) and Maurice Zereoue (RB).
Injuries: QB Clint Trickett will be monitored throughout the week with symptoms of a concussion. His status for Saturday is undetermined although he is expected to practice. Junior linebacker Jared Barber is out for the season with a torn ACL. Sophomore safety KJ Dillon is also out for the season with complications from severe dehydration. Senior linebacker Doug Rigg has been ruled out with a concussion, while Junior running back Dustin Garrison has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Redshirt freshman Ford Childress remains out with a torn pectoral muscle. Redshirt junior Wes Tonkery will be out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder surgery. Sophomore Christian Brown is out for the remainder of the season with a foot injury and will receive a medical redshirt. Redshirt senior and back up BUCK linebacker Dozie Ezemma broke his lower leg and foot against William & Mary and will miss the remainder of the season. West Virginia also will be without junior linebacker Shaq Petteway who will miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Sophomore cornerback Nana Kyeremeh also will miss the entirety of the season with a shoulder injury.
Redshirts: Players that will be redshirting this season include: junior running back Andrew Buie, sophomore defensive lineman Christian Brown, junior linebacker Shaq Petteway, sophomore running back Rushel Shell, junior offensive lineman Stone Underwood, freshman wide receiver Shelton Gibson, freshmen linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton, freshman fullback Elijah Wellman, freshman safety Isaac McDonald, freshman wide receiver Jacky Marcellus, freshman linebacker Hodari Christian, freshman safety Malik Greaves, freshman offensive lineman Marcell Lazard, freshman offensive lineman Tyler Tezeno and freshman offensive lineman Grant Lingafelter.
Points to click:
* Keep the goal in mind. West Virginia needs to win it's final two games to go bowling and the Mountaineers must go on the road and take care of a Kansas team that has struggled in recent seasons. The Mountaineers have been to 11 consecutive bowls and must win this game in order to have hopes of reaching its 12th.
* Start quick. West Virginia has struggled quite a bit on the road to this point, but this will be an opportunity for the Mountaineers to start fast and continue to develop the offense.
* Stop the Kansas running game. The Jayhawks want to run the football and it will be essential for the West Virginia run defense to continue their strong play against the run. Forcing the Jayhawks into long yardage situations will give the Mountaineers the opportunity to pin their ears back and get to the quarterback. Still, with two quarterbacks that will see snaps the defense must be ready to defend all aspects of the game.
* Protect the football and capitalize on mistakes. West Virginia hasn't played well on the road to date, but against a Kansas team that hasn't won a Big 12 Conference game since 2010 the Mountaineers will need to avoid turning the ball over and giving any extra momentum to a team that doesn't have much to play for outside of pride at this point.
* Bounce back. West Virginia had a crushing defeat to Texas last weekend, but the Mountaineers will need to put the disappointment of a week ago behind it and take care of business on the road.