Mountaineers Look To Avoid Upset at KU
LAWRENCE, Kan. — This is the part — for all of you fans of the popular science fiction show ‘Lost in Space’ — where the robot would begin gyrating and announce ‘Danger Will Robinson, danger’.
That should be the message relayed by veteran West Virginia (2-1) coach Dana Holgorsen as he leads his Mountaineers onto the artificial surface at Memorial Stadium to open Big 12 play against the host Kansas.
David Beaty’s third KU squad (1-2) plays its conference home opener following yet another lackluster performance in a 42-30 loss at Ohio University on Saturday. But, one only has to look no further than last season’s shocking victory over Texas to understand that the Jayhawks are not a program you can overlook on your road to a Big 12 championship.
“Obviously, when you didn’t get the outcome you want, there is disappointment,” Beaty explained during Monday’s Big 12 teleconference. “The impressive thing to me is how the guys have stayed together. We know how we can get things corrected.”
A victory over a WVU squad that hasn’t faced a real challenge since a 31-24 season-opening loss to No. 13 Virginia Tech would go a long way toward correcting those issues.
“Obviously, there are things on all three sides where we need to improve,” Beaty said. “On defense it’s a few technique things here and a few technique things there.”
Not exactly what you want to have going into a game where your opponent is scoring points in bunches and has the ability to score from any point on the field.
“Very talented, very explosive. It’s always challenging facing a Dana Holgorsen offense.”
Receivers Gary Jennings Jr. (23 catches, 363 yards, 1 TD) and David Sills V (18-266, 5 TDs) rank fourth and eighth in the Big 12 after non-conference play and are only have of the weapons quarterback Will Grier has at his disposal in the passing game.
Senior Ka’Raun White (14-173, 2 TDs) has recovered nicely from a knee injury which ended his 2016 season early and sophomore Marcus Simms (5-143, 3 TDs) gives the Mountaineers another weapon that stretches the defense with the speed his possesses.
“(Sills) is a matchup issue because he is a tall, lanky guy,” Beaty said. “Every time I see the paper he’s doing something for them. Ka’Raun is back to his old self and Jennings and Simms are just two more speedy guys that you have to make sure don’t get behind you.”
The real problem, however, for a KU defense ranked last in scoring defense (34.3 ppg) is a rushing attack that returns both performers — Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy — that torched the Jayhawks for more than 100 yards apiece in a 48-21 victory in Morgantown.
Crawford has eclipsed the 100-yard plateau in all three WVU games this season while McKoy, who was suspended during the Mountaineers’ 59-16 thumping of FCS Delaware State, will be looking to get himself back into the good graces of offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
Throw in sophomore Martell Pettaway and true freshman Tevin Bush and the Mountaineers running game appears to be a strong as ever which is bad news for a Jayhawk defense allowing 134 yards per game.
Still, all Holgorsen and his staff have to do is point to 2013 when WVU traveled to Lawrence and helped KU break a 23-game conference losing streak when the Jayhawks embarrassed the Mountaineers by a 31-19 score — their only victory in a series which started in 1941 and sees WVU holding a 5-1 edge.
And, the Jayhawks have some weapons.
Junior quarterback Peyton Bender has completed 85-of-146 attempts for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns while junior linebacker Joe Dineen tops all defenders in the Big 12 with an average of 12.7 tackles per game.
And, they have recent history on their side with their 24-21 win over the Longhorns.
So, yes, ‘Danger West Virginia, danger’.