WVU fans might cringe when they see their Mountaineers are favored in Las Vegas by 29 points (and climbing) for Saturday’s home game with Kansas.
Simply stirs up bad memories, this being-a-four-touchdown-fav business. There was that Backyard Brawl deal in 2007 that may never stop stinging. And last year, heavy underdog KU gave WVU fits in the second half before falling 56-34. Remember the name Khalil Herbert? The Jayhawk rushed for 291 yards on a steamy day in Lawrence. Also, in 2013, lowly Kansas stunned West Virginia 31-19.
Yet this Mountaineer team looks different. It seems more equipped to handle different kinds of pressure. WVU coach Dana Holgorsen has trusted Will Grier to handle the Heisman Trophy hype – which he’s done very nicely. And just last Saturday, his team handled a Texas Tech rally to post a 42-34 Big 12 road win against a ranked opponent. Again, nice.
The next question to be answered is if the team can learn from the “relaxation situation” that Holgorsen referenced Saturday. Remember too that last November, against the upcoming Jayhawks, the Mountaineers played a similar game. After taking a 35-13 halftime lead, WVU found itself in a 35-27 battle before pulling away.
“I guess I just chalk it up to human instinct more than anything, I guess,” Holgorsen said Monday. “Relaxing, when you can’t. We played pretty good in that (Saturday) first half, 35-10. That’s my fault. It’s a four-quarter game and we have to go out and keep playing hard.
“I give Tech a lot of credit. They could’ve folded their tent at halftime and didn’t. They came out and played really well, harder than we did and better than we did. We’re a veteran team and understand that in order to win we have to put four quarters together every game moving forward.”
The WVU coach said a point of emphasis before the Tech game was to start fast.
“I guess I forgot to tell them we have to play the whole game,” Holgorsen finished.
Meanwhile, Kansas coach David Beaty said Monday he’s trying to learn from WVU’s game with Texas Tech – as well as others.
“We’ll do the best we can looking at their entire body of work,” Beaty said. “The thing about their offense is they have lots and lots of firepower. And they also find a way to get it done in the end when needed. They have some really experienced guys, starting with Will (Grier), who I think is one of the better players I’ve seen at that position in a long time.
“He’s a great, great player. Fun to watch. Not fun to play against, but fun to watch.”
- If you’re looking ahead to the rest of October, WVU follows its Kansas game with an away contest at Iowa State and home visit from Baylor.
While on paper that may spell a 7-0 Mountaineer record, don’t overlook ISU. While the Cyclones are 1-3, they’ve lost to Iowa, Oklahoma and TCU by a combined 23 points.
- Kansas has whipped Central Michigan and Rutgers this season, while losing to Baylor (26-7) and Oklahoma State (48-28).
- Beaty on Monday had particular praise for WVU’s Marcus Simms and Kenny Bigelow. “I said this last year, watching Marcus play. I was so concerned about this guy because he has unbelievable, dynamic speed. And this guy has such strong hands. Guys are hanging all over him and he makes contested play after contested play.” Of Bigelow the KU coach said, “He causes some problems up front. That makes a big difference in that three-down front.”
- Beaty said Carter Stanley will again start at quarterback for the Jayhawks over Peyton Bender after going 24-for-32 for 247 yards against OSU. Another competitor for the job, Miles Kendrick, is injured and out for the WVU game.
- WVU, now ranked No. 8 in the coaches poll and No. 9 in the A.P. poll, will play its Oct. 13 game against Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames at 7 p.m. It will be televised on FS1.
- And finally… My prediction: WVU 50, KU 20.