Four wins to open the season vaulted West Virginia into the ninth spot in the latest Associated Press poll, but the Mountaineers can’t afford to rest, even with perennial Big 12 doormat Kansas heading to Morgantown, W.va., for a Saturday afternoon game.
The problem is that the Mountaineers (4-0, 2-0 Big 12) have not played a complete game yet in conference play, a scenario that — if it continues — could derail their Big 12 title aspirations in November.
“We have to line up and we have to practice with as much effort and energy and excitement as we can,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We have to practice that way on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And if you don’t, then you’re going to get beat.
“We have stuff to work on, and we have to approach this in a very business-like manner. They pose a lot of problems like everybody does.”
West Virginia had to repel a second-half comeback on the road last week against Texas Tech, winning 42-34 after building a 35-10 lead at halftime. The Mountaineers needed a fourth-quarter interception return by Kenny Robinson Jr. to clinch the victory.
Despite being undefeated, Holgorsen thinks his team is a little behind because of the game at North Carolina State it had cancelled in advance of Hurricane Frances.
“Because we missed the one game, I feel like we have things that we have to learn with this team,” Holgorsen explained. “We’re one game away from the halfway point, but it doesn’t feel like it. We’ve played one-third of our games.
“I’m going to use that with our guys as far as this week is big from a we-have-to-get-out-there-and-improve-things-before-it’s-too-late-to-improve-on-things-type thing, which should motivate them here for this week, and I think it will. We’re all anxious to get out there and get the bad taste out of our mouth from the second half of last week.”
Kansas (2-3, 0-2) heads to Morgantown on the heels of two straight conference losses.
The latest was 48-28 last Saturday at home to Oklahoma State when Kansas allowed 20.8 yards per completion, a number that has to have West Virginia’s Heisman-candidate quarterback Will Grier, salivating.
Jayhawks coach David Beaty said Oklahoma State was successful by using double moves against Kansas’ secondary and he expects West Virginia, with its talented wideouts and an elite quarterback, to work the same way.
“There’s a lot of things we’ve gotta get better at,” Beaty said. “This team we’re going to play is a very talented team, as you know. They’ve got a lot of ways that they can do it on offense, but the things that sticks out to me is they’re leading the Big 12 in scoring defense right now.”
This marks the seventh meeting between West Virginia and Kansas, with the Mountaineers leading 5-1 overall and 4-0 in games played in Morgantown.