West Virginia football kicks off their first game in five straight Saturdays when they host the Kansas Jayhawks at Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday. The contest gets underway at noon ET on FOX.
This clash will be the tenth meeting between WVU (2-1, 1-1 Big 12) and KU (0-3, 0-2 Big 12) all-time, with the Mountaineers owning an 8-1 lead over the Jayhawks in the series — their best record against any opponent in the Big 12.
Last year’s contest in Lawrence was the sixth straight Mountaineer victory in the series, albeit a hard-fought one. West Virginia won by just a 5-point margin — the smallest of any of their wins over Kansas.
West Virginia is coming off the open week that followed their thrilling double overtime victory over Baylor. Kansas, on the other hand, has struggled to get their season going — they have lost all three of their contests, giving up an average of 44 points per game while only scoring 14.7.
Here are some of the top storylines ahead of Saturday’s matchup:
No Miles in Morgantown
Kansas head coach Les Miles will not be making the trip to Morgantown after testing positive for COVID-19.
Although he made it through his mandatory 10-day isolation period and a clearance from health officials, Miles opted to stay in Lawrence to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus.
“While my 10-day isolation window was completed this morning, there is too much still unknown about this virus for me to feel 100 percent confident that I won’t transmit it to someone who comes into close contact with me on the team charter, hotel or at the game Saturday,” Miles said.
In his place, Joshua Eargle will act as head coach for the Jayhawks.
A big chance for WVU’s ground game
West Virginia’s rushing attack has shown miles of improvement from their struggles in 2019. To be exact, the Mountaineers average 177 yards on the ground this year — which is more than 100 yards than they did a year ago.
In terms of their run game, however, West Virginia’s 2019 meeting with Kansas was a bit of an oasis. It was by far their best rushing performance of the season at 192 yards and 3 touchdowns — which means Leddie Brown and Alec Sinkfield have a good opportunity to show their potential.
Neal Brown, however, doesn’t think it will be that easy for his team.
“They’re very sound in what they do,” Brown said. “They keep edges and really do a nice job just as far as being sound, and they have a lot of experience at linebacker.”
WVU’s coaches want more from their QB
Jarret Doege has been getting the starts at quarterback for West Virginia this season, and he has been pretty solid — he currently has the second-highest completion percentage among Big 12 quarterbacks who have thrown at least 100 passes, and averages 241.3 yards per game — the fourth-highest tally in the conference.
“It’s kind of funny. If you look at the pure statistics of it, we don’t look like a team that struggled throwing the football [against Baylor],” Brown said. “Where you get into it and you look deeper our yards per attempt is not very good and that tells you we’re not real explosive. So that’s something we’ve got to work on.”
Against the Bears in their third game of the season, Doege averaged just 5 yards per attempt. In total, he threw for 211 yards, a touchdown and 2 interceptions.
WVU offensive coordinator Gerad Parker says he spent a lot of time working on improving Doege’s ability to be a dynamic quarterback, which was clearly visible — but still, they want more from their quarterback.
“I think him just trusting his what his training is, and that is, hey, trust his progressions, fix things with his feet when he can and be a great, decisive decision-maker and I think if we do those things and if he does those things, our offense will grow, and grow the right way,” Parker said.
Where to watch
This weekend’s contest gets underway at noon ET on FOX. Start your Saturday with The Neal Brown Show on your local Nexstar station at 9 a.m. ET, followed by Mountaineer GameDay at 10 a.m.