Mountaineers Need Two Victories for Bowl
By JOHN RABY
AP Sports Writer
CHARLESTON – West Virginia must rely on a patched lineup to make a final push during its two remaining games to get bowl eligible.
Injuries have decimated the Mountaineers (4-6 overall, 2-5 Big 12), who have been hit hard on defense and aren’t sure who their starting quarterback will be on Saturday at Kansas (2-7, 0-6).
West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said he’s counted 15 injured players on defense, including 10 who are out for the season.
“You can’t use that as an excuse,” Patterson said. “We’ll just plug people in at those positions, get them up to speed as fast as possible and try to win a game.”
Winning is a must for the Mountaineers to have a chance at going to a bowl for a 12th straight season. But they’ll have to defeat both Kansas and Iowa State in the regular-season finale at home on Nov. 30.
The latest injuries on defense include linebacker Jared Barber, who is tied for the team lead with 71 tackles, including 14 tackles and a forced fumble in a 47-40 overtime loss to Texas. But the junior will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury that will require surgery.
Sophomore safety K.J. Dillon, who had four starts this season, also is done after being hospitalized with issues related to severe dehydration after the Texas loss.
The Mountaineers had already lost linebackers Doug Rigg, Wes Tonkery and Dozie Ezemma and defensive lineman Christian Brown with season-ending injuries, and cornerback Nana Kyeremeh and linebacker Shaq Petteway were injured in fall camp and were done for the season.
Barber’s absence means more playing time for backups Tyler Anderson and Jewone Snow, who have a combined 14 tackles this season. On special teams, Snow blocked a Texas punt that resulted in a safety.
“They don’t have the experience to have been playing at the level that Barber and Rigg have,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We have bodies. Are they seasoned vets? No, but you have to line them up and they need to go play.”
Snow will see his most extensive playing time since the 2011 season, when he started seven games as a freshman. He missed the final eight games last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
Nick Kwiatkoski and Brandon Golson are the two remaining healthy starting linebackers. Golson has started all 10 games and is second on the team with four sacks. Kwiatkoski has started all eight games he’s played. He’s third on the team with 64 tackles and has two interceptions.
“Nick Kwiatkoski has played at an extremely high level,” Holgorsen said. “We are thankful that he has.”
The offense is mostly healthy, but the one question mark is a big one.
Quarterback Clint Trickett sustained a concussion in the first quarter last week. Backup Paul Millard finished the game, meaning the Mountaineers were left with scout-team quarterback Logan Moore as the emergency backup. Ford Childress, who started two games earlier this season, is still recovering from a chest muscle injury.
Trickett participated in practice this week and Holgorsen said he’ll undergo tests before being cleared for Saturday’s game. Millard would get his third start of the season if Trickett is unable to play.
Holgorsen personally has been to 13 consecutive bowl games and wants to reward his seniors with another postseason trip.
“We are going to do everything in our power to get there,” he said. “We are going to put forth effort, try hard, coach hard and hopefully put it all together and play hard to win the next two games. It’s certainly the expectation here, and it should be.”