The Chalkboard: West Virginia Mountaineers – Kansas Jayhawks

Teams closing out the season with a 2-9 record often don’t have much motivation, but when coming from the depths that Kansas has inhabited over the past decade, the story this year is different. The Jayhawks have been competitive in seven of their 11 games this season, even though the final score might not have been reflective of that analysis.

Even more encouraging for KU fans, their team has been building as the season wound down, producing a win over Texas and a last-second loss to TCU. West Virginia has its own motivation in terms of playing for bowl eligibility, but this is not going to be the moribund walkoff that past Kansas teams have produced. The Jayhawks are building for the future, and two league wins in their final three games would be akin to a bowl victory. KU has not won more than a single game in conference play since 2008.

West Virginia (5-6 / 3-5) vs. Kansas (2-9 / 1-8) Sat Nov. 27 7:00 PM ET
Memorial Stadium Lawrence, KS TV: FS1
Rank: WVU: NR KU: NR Series: WVU 9-1 Last Game: WVU 38-17
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We could well be calling this the attrition bowl, and even though WVU is critically thin at a couple of spots, KU is even moreso. The Jayhawks could be missing scholarship tight ends Mason Fairchild and Trevor Kardell, which could elevate walk-on Jared Casey to the starting lineup. That might not be a bad thing, though, as Casey was the hero of the overtime win over the Longhorns, catching the clinching two-point conversion pass in overtime. He also had a touchdown reception against TCU.

The news is also sketchy in the running back room, where running back Devin Neal is questionable. KU had already lost Velton Gardner to transfer mid-year, and Torry Locklin was knocked out for the season earlier this month. Add in offensive lineman Malik Clark, who missed the TCU game and is questionable for the finale, and the KU squad could be very depleted on Saturday.

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With a defense mired deep in the 100s in many defensive metrics, what will Kansas do to try to slow West Virginia’s offense, which admittedly has some issues of its own? The thinking is that the Jayhawks will sell out with blitzes to try to generate pressure and get WVU out of rhythm and behind the sticks with sacks and negative plays. WVU is at its best offensively in putting together lengthy drives — all five of WVU’s scoring jaunts against Texas came on possessions of nine plays or more — and KU can’t expect to sit back and stop many offenses.

Watch not only for extra rushers in passing situations, but for run blitzers and aggressive coverages against WVU’s favored screen passes, which are mostly run plays in terms of design.

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What gives Kansas, and other underdogs, a puncher’s chance? Quarterback play. The Jayhawks have gotten boosts from not one but two QBs this year. Transfer Jason Bean sparked KU with his running ability early in the season and held down the starting job until being knocked out of the Kansas game and missing the Texas and TCU contests.

Now, as the season comes to a conclusion, Jalon Daniels is asserting his claim on the position for the future. He started the Texas and TCU games, producing 457 passing yards on 43 completions in 60 attempts (71.7%), and had five touchdown passes against only one interception. That’s much better than either Texas QB showed against WVU, which benefited from a couple of drops and several off-target balls that missed open receivers. The Mountaineers can’t count on such help this week.

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The good play behind center has been assisted by improved play from those up front. After yielding 47 sacks in 2020, the KU front five has given up only 14 this year. The Jayhawk line was bolstered by two transfers from Buffalo — Mike Novitsky and Michael Ford — and both of those players have been major contributors to that improvement.

West Virginia, by way of comparison, has yielded 31 sacks to date.



There’s an interesting head-to-head battle playing out in this game, as Big 12-leading tackler Kenny Logan (99) stops, matches abilities with WVU’s Josh Chandler-Semedo (96). Also in the race for the season crown is Oklahoma State’s Malcolm Rodriguez, who is tied with Chandler-Semedo for second.

One of that latter pair will likely take the title, as they will have a bowl game in which to boost their totals.

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Kansas is celebrating the 100 year anniversary of David Booth Kansas Memorial
Stadium, which is the seventh oldest venue in the nation. When it was opened in 1921, KU held a “Stadium Day” which included an open invitation to help tear down its predecessor, McCook Field. More than 4,000 students responded to help do so.

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    Teams closing out the season with a 2-9 record often don’t have much motivation, but when coming from the depths that Kansas has inhabited over the pa
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    Their new QB, Jalon Daniels, scares me a little.  This kid has an arm.  If we don’t put pressure on him it may be a problem.

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Home Page forums The Chalkboard: West Virginia Mountaineers – Kansas Jayhawks

Home Page forums The Chalkboard: West Virginia Mountaineers – Kansas Jayhawks