West Virginia Football: Mountaineers will look to rebound at Kansas

West Virginia receiver Mario Alford finally showed his explosiveness against Texas.

West Virginia receiver Mario Alford was finally able to show off his explosive ability against Texas.

If the West Virginia football team has any intentions of making it 12 straight bowl appearances, they must beat the Kansas Jayhawks.

The Mountaineers will travel to play Kansas, a program that is really struggling under second-year head coach Charlie Weis. The Jayhawks are 2-7 overall and have yet to win a Big 12 conference game for the second season in a row. Weis now owns a career record of 3-18 at Kansas and is 0-15 in Big 12 play.

This is a Kansas team that ranks 113th in the nation in passing yards per game at 153.4, which is a near death sentence in such an offensive minded league like the Big 12. The Jayhawks rank 91st in rushing yards with an average of 141.7 yards per game.

The Kansas offense is averaging an abysmal 15.9 points per game, which ranks 119th in the country, while the defense is giving up an average of 33.1 points per game. These statistics are obviously a recipe for disaster.

The only two wins of the season for the Jayhawks have come against South Dakota and Louisiana Tech. These are all encouraging signs for a West Virginia team desperately looking for a victory.

Kansas has struggled mightily in the third quarter this season, being outscored by their opponents 69-31. This could be an area of emphasis for the West Virginia coaching staff; the Mountaineers might be able to jump ahead of the Jayhawks with a solid third quarter.

Kansas is currently on an amazing 26-game losing skid in Big 12 conference play. West Virginia surely doesn’t want to be the team that lets off the gas pedal against the Jayhawks.

The Kansas secondary does consist of two solid cornerbacks in Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd. They might be able to slow down the Mountaineer passing attack, but I wouldn’t count on it. Remember, the Kansas defense is still giving up 33.1 points per game.

The Mountaineers are coming off a tough loss to the Texas Longhorns at home in overtime, a game in which WVU had plenty of chances to win. There are some positives that one can take out of that loss though.

Quarterback Paul Millard played fairly well once he settled in, after starting quarterback Clint Trickett was knocked senseless by the Horns’ defense. Millard ended up throwing for 259 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice.

West Virginia quarterback Paul Millard throws a pass during the Mountaineers loss to Texas.

West Virginia quarterback Paul Millard throws a pass during the Mountaineers loss to Texas.

The Texas defense was in the Mountaineers backfield quite a lot, causing Millard and Trickett to fumble multiple times, leading to easy Texas scores.

One thing the quarterbacks need to work on for sure is pocket awareness, at least getting the ball covered up and taking the sack would be an improvement.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the play of Millard when he wasn’t on his backside.

He was able to go through his progressions and make some accurate throws, which helped WVU stay in the game all the way to end.

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West Virginia running back Charles Sims was once again the best player on the Mountaineers’ offense, whether it was running the ball or catching passes out the backfield, he continues to show why he’s a pro prospect. Sims has now collected 847 yards rushing on the season.

One player that really came up big for WVU in the Texas game is receiver Mario Alford. Finally, we saw some of that raw speed in the open field Saturday night against the Texas secondary. Alford had 4 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.

He looked excellent on kickoff returns and nearly broke a few open, maybe the absence of receiver Ronald Carswell is a blessing in disguise. Now Alford should see the majority of playing time in his spot. There’s no doubt his game changing speed can make a big difference on the field for the Mountaineers.

There were some encouraging signs against Texas, not all is doom and gloom, but WVU needs to put an entire game together and beat the Jayhawks this weekend.

A bowl appearance is still within reach, and the Mountaineers can possibly end the season on a high note, two more wins would certainly do the job.

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