The West Virginia Mountaineers (4-0, 2-0) host the Kansas Jayhawks (2-3, 0-2) on homecoming weekend. The Mountaineers are 6-1 all-time versus the Jayhawks, and won last year’s meeting in Lawrence 56-34.
Kansas is seeking their conference win on the season, while West Virginia is looking to remain unbeaten. The Mountaineers are coming of a win in Lubbock over then-ranked, number 25 Texas Tech. Meanwhile, Kansas is coming off back to back losses including a loss at home to Oklahoma State.
The Jayhawks struggled in the passing game until Carter Stanley got the start under center last weekend. It was the first time Kansas had broken the 200-yard mark in passing went 24-32 for 247 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-28 loss against Oklahoma State.
Stanley has play-makers on the outside in Steven Sims, Kerr Johnson, and Jeremiah Booker and will look to get loose in the secondary. All three have the capability to win one on one match ups. Kansas has yet to throw an interception on the year.
Kansas has done a great job taking care of the ball this year and lead the nation in turnover ration at +12. The defense has been opportunist forcing 14 turnovers on the season. Eight different players have an interception.
The Jayhawk defense is led by preseason All-Big 12 defensive team selections Joe Dineen and Daniel Wise. Dineen patrols the middle of the defense and leads the team in tackles (63). Wise is a force in the middle of the defensive line. He has 13 tackles on the year, 3 tackles for a loss and a sack.
The secondary is full of veterans except freshman Corione Harris. They rotate four corners in throughout the game and only give up 202.4 yards passing per game.
The Mountaineers started fast scoring 28 points in the first quarter and accumulating 279 yards of total offense. WVU was winning 35-10 at halftime. They came out in the second half showing a lack of focus and energy that allowed Texas Tech to get back in the game.
Despite the poor offensive showing in the second half last week, the Mountaineer offense has been one of the most efficient offenses in the country. They rank first in the Big 12 and fourth nationally in third down conversions (59%). WVU has scored 25 of their 44 drives this season and is 15-15 in the red zone, 12 have gone for touchdowns.
Quarterback Will Grier has guided his offense to a tone of 531.3 yards per game, ranking them ninth nationally. He is third among the nation’s quarterbacks with 367.3 passing yards per outing and in touchdowns (17).
Marcus Simms had a career day last week with nine receptions, 138 yards and a touchdown. That marked his third straight game with over 100 yards receiving.
The Mountaineers have of trio of running backs that combine for 153.8 rushing yards per game. Kennedy McKoy is averaging 6.4 yards a carry and Martell Pettaway is at 5.5 yards per rushing attempt.
West Virginia’s defense has been tormenting offenses this season. They’ve held every team under their averages and is third in the nation in tackles for loss, averaging 10 a game.
They’re coming off an impressive performance against the nation’s number one offense in total yards, holding them to nearly 200 yards below their season average. They put a lot of pressure on freshman quarterback Alan Bowman and knocked him out of the game in the second quarter, when Ezekiel Rose and Josh Norwood sandwiched him in the backfield.
Keys to the Game for Kansas
Balanced Offense – Establish the running game but get the Mountaineers defense on their heels with the new found passing game. The West Virginia defense as been aggressive this season. Use their aggression against them. Find the holes and turn up field for a big gain.
Win on Special Teams – Kansas has to create extra opportunities and if they hold the Mountaineer offense to a punt, they need to take a chance and go after it. Set up the kickoff return and give your offense short field to work with. A field goal or punt to keep a drive alive might be a difference maker.
Contain Will Grier – No one has come close to stopping Grier, but make him be patient and check down to receivers in the intermediate passing game. The WVU receivers have had some drops the last couple of games and most of them have mid in the mid-range passing game. Keep everything in front of them and looked for tipped balls over the middle.
Keys to the Game for West Virginia
Play An Entire Game – It’s been a priority all week in practice to not only start fast but to finish strong. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen emphasized all week that the Mountaineers had to play a full 60 minutes and should be excited to play every week no matter who the opponent is.
Stop The Run – Pooka Williams has been lightning in a bottle to start the season and he’s what made the offense go. The Mountaineers gave up 367 yards rushing last year against Kansas in a power formation. Load up in the box and make Stanley have to be effective in the passing game.
Keep Grier Clean – The offensive line didn’t have a good game last week in the second half. Texas Tech got to Grier several times in the second half. The O-line needs to stay physical up front, creating holes for the running backs and keep a solid pocket for their quarterbacks.
The WVU coaching staff have stressed playing four quarters all week long and the Mountaineers will receive the message and stay focused the entire 60 minutes. I anticipate the Mountaineers will cruise their way to a victory.