Grading The Mountaineers: WVU-Kansas

West Virginia defensive back Daryl Porter and Kansas' Kwamie Lassiter trade helmet grabs

LAWRENCE, KANSAS – Kansas battled West Virginia to the end, but when the Mountaineers secured a Jayhawk onside kick attempt with 1:46 left, WVU also secured a 34-28 victory as well as bowl eligibility that goes with its 6-6 record as the regular season concludes.

Bowl berths will be announced over the course of the next week.

With the loss, KU finishes its first season under head coach Lance Leipold with a 2-10.

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Atmosphere – In a regular season that has featured outstanding weather for most every Mountaineer football game, the finale also brought a wonderful late November evening to Kansas. While temperatures were in the mid-30s back in the Mountain State on Saturday, Lawrence saw the thermometer rise to 66 during the afternoon, though it dropped into the 40s by game’s end. Still, for a post-Thanksgiving contest, it was a very nice night. Unfortunately Kansas fans didn’t take advantage of the outstanding weather. Though this was KU’s first home game since its upset of Texas on Nov. 13, it didn’t entice many of the Jayhawk faithful to show up at Memorial Stadium, the attendance was only 23,117. Even with the nice weather, the lack of fans in the stands made for a very blasé atmosphere. Grade: D

Offense – The Mountaineer ground game was as good as it has been all season, as it powered its way right through the heart of the KU defense, netting a season-best 261 yards. It’s the most rushing yards by WVU against an FBS foe in Neal Brown’s three years as head coach. Quarterback Jarret Doege was on target in the first 30 minutes, completing 13 of 16 passes in the first half for 157 yards. Things went south for the WVU QB in the second half, though, as he connected on just three of five passes in the final two quarters for 13 yards. Even worse, he didn’t see KU linebacker Gavin Potter undercutting a slant route, and Potter’s 28-yard pick-six TD return allowed the Jayhawks to claw back and tie the contest at 21-21. From that point, though, the Mountaineers leaned on their offensive line, and those five big men up front allowed Leddie Brown and Tony Mathis to slash and dash their way victory. Brown finished with 156 yards on the ground, and Mathis added 118. Leddie and Doege did mishandle a handoff on WVU’s opening offensive play, and KU pounced on the fumble. The turnover wasn’t too costly, though, as the Mountaineer defense rose up for a stop that bailed out the offense. West Virginia’s two turnovers hurt, but its ground game made up for any mistakes. Grade: B+

Defense – The Mountaineer defense missed several opportunities to create early turnovers, as Kansas put two fumbles on the turf and Daryl Porter failed to secure a sure interception. The Jayhawks took advantage and posted points on all three drives that otherwise could have been much different if WVU had gained a turnover or two. While Kansas moved the ball, the WVU D did hold strong in the red zone, limiting KU to a pair of field goals and a fourth-down stop instead of allowing TDs. The stops continued for West Virginia in the second half, as it limited the Jayhawks to scores on only three of their six redzone trips and allowed them to convert just four of 12 third downs. KU did throw for 249 yards on the Mountaineers and had several big plays through the air, but the home squad could rush for only 87 yards, and in the end, WVU got stops at key moments. Grade: B

Special teams – West Virginia’s special teams had issues, as a kickoff out of bounds gave KU good starting position on one drive, and Casey Legg missed a 44-yard field goal. Legg did convert kicks from 37 and 38 yards later in the second half to give WVU a little breathing room. The Mountaineers’ biggest special teams problem, though, was their continuing struggles in giving up outstanding field position to their foes on kickoff returns. On the plus side, Winston Wright fielded KU’s onside kick to seal the win for the Mountaineers. Grade: D+

Coaching – A Mountaineer team that was 2-4 at the midway point in the season, responded with a 4-2 record in the second half to achieve bowl eligibility. WVU showed significant improvement during that six-game stretch, and while it was certainly never perfect, including Saturday’s win at Kansas, West Virginia’s coaches deserve a lot of credit for righting the ship, especially in the face of the many injuries WVU suffered in that period. Grade: A-

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