That’s a tough pill to swallow, gang. Up a touchdown with 6 minutes to go and we let it get away from us. Nonetheless, I can’t help but come out of that game feeling better about our team than I did heading into it. We still have some questions, but with the biggest one answered - we have a quarterback! - the others seem somewhat diminished. And there’s also the fact that if Pitt is good, which seems to be the consensus, then we certainly are too.
Moving on to Kansas, hey - a night game! The Jayhawks will be coming into Morgantown looking to make a statement that their post-Jalon Daniels resurgence is for real. They’re 2-2 over their last four, and they were in the two that they lost until the very end. We have to be ready to make a statement of our own.
Date: September 10th, 2022
Kickoff: 6:00PM EST
Where: Mountaineer Field at Mylan-Puskar Stadium - Morgantown, WV
Tickets: General Public
Online Streaming: ESPN app with a valid ESPN+ subscription
Radio Announcers: Tony Caridi (PBP), Dwight Wallace (analyst), and Jed Drenning (sideline)
Reminder: It is against site policy to post links to illegal streams in the comments.
Spread: WVU -13.5 on FanDuel
ML: WVU -500, Kansas +375
Over/Under: 59.5 (-106 over, -114 under)
If we can’t beat these jokers by two touchdowns then I probably need to reassess my feelings about the squad. Over seems like a decent play too - I like our offense and theirs is definitely the strength of their team.
Cloudy - 74 degrees - Wind 5mph
There’ll be some rain in the area, but as of writing this on Tuesday evening it looks like it should hold off until after the game is over. Regardless, it’s looking like it should be a great day for tailgating - high of 80 and mostly sunny with some cloud cover rolling in as the sun goes down.
Where are they from? Lawrence, KS - just a hop, skip, and a 15-hour drive down the road.
All-time Series: 10-1. The good guys have won 8 on the trot since shamefully dropping the 2013 contest in Kansas.
The Last Time We Played: West Virginia 34-28 Kansas. The Jalon Daniels era was already in full swing by the time we caught up with Kansas last season, and the Jayhawks made a nuisance of themselves accordingly. The game never quite felt out of our control and we outgained them by 100 yards, but there were definitely some nervy moments in the second half.
Head coach: Lance Leipold (2nd season, 3-10). The wins haven’t yet manifested, but the Jayhawks seem to have really knocked it out of the park with the hiring of Lance Leipold. Leipold won a handful of national championships at D3 Wisconsin-Whitewater, and along with Jalon Daniels has completely changed the vibes around the Jayhawk program.
2022 record: 1-0. Kansas handled Tennesse Tech the way that you’d expect a P5 team to handle a 3-8 FCS team, and that’s not something you could’ve always said about them over the last decade or so.
NUMBERS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU
+3 - Kansas surprisingly had a positive turnover margin last year. Not something that you traditionally see from a squad that went 2-10, but perhaps an early indicator of the quality of Leipold and staff.
96.4 - PFF grade from edge Lonnie Phelps last week, which is the second-best individual grade for any player in the country over the first two weeks. Phelps’ afternoon included 4 pressures, 3 sacks, and 6 stops, all on just 26 snaps. Kyron Johnson left some big shoes to fill, but the Miami (OH) transfer appears to be up to the task.
8.9 - Average tackle depth on Kansas safety Kenny Logan’s 86 tackles against the run last season, which ranked 91st nationally among 122 qualifying P5 safeties per PFF. Logan’s 119 total tackles led that same group of P5 safeties and I expect him to be heavily involved this Saturday, but I think we’re going to be OK if the majority of them are happening 9 yards downfield.
98 - 10+ yard runs allowed by the Jayhawk defense last fall, good for 126th nationally. When you consider that their opponents ran the ball 495 times, that means that nearly 1 out of every 5 attempts yielded an explosive play.
0.341 - Expected Points Added per play by the Kansas defense last year, good for dead worst in the country. For those who don’t know, EPA contextualizes each play based on down, distance, field position, and game state and determines how much value it added e.g. a 3 yard gain is much less valuable on 2nd and 11 than it is 3rd and 2. TL/DR: the Jayhawks were really bad last year, and it’s hard to see the path to them being significantly better this year.
KEYS TO THE GAME
I mentioned Lonnie Phelps’ performance against Tennessee Tech, and he really does seem like their most likely candidate to be a game wrecker this weekend. Even more concerning than the sacks and pressures mentioned above is the fact that Phelps spent 16 of his 26 snaps lined up on the left edge, which puts him in position to attack whoever we have lined up at right tackle. Even more than Kenny Logan, he’s the guy that I think we have to locate on every snap. I imagine we’ll try to handle him 1-on-1 at first, but if he’s causing problems early then we can’t hesitate to make adjustments.
LET JT COOK
If you haven’t watched both of JT Daniels’ interview sessions of the past few days, stop reading right this second and do yourselves a favor. Here’s the Pitt post-game, and here’s Tuesday’s media availability. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what “it” looks like, there “it” is. Dude has it. Never mind the show he put on against what is undoubtedly one of the 15 best defenses in America, the confidence and maturity that oozes out of him in those interview sessions is exactly what you’re looking for from your quarterback and Ieader, and make no mistake, that is our MF quarterback and leader. And if you’re sat there impressed as you listen to him casually articulate his insanely technical decision-making process, just imagine the confidence that it has to instill in his teammates. Heavy box? JT will check to a pass and take a shot to Bryce or KP. Two high safeties and soft coverage outside? Let’s hand it to Tony or CJ. Having a quarterback who’s capable of making those decisions on the fly is incredibly freeing for an offense, and I think we need to lean all the way into that mentality. We walked right up to the edge of the cliff last Thursday and didn’t take the leap. JT has me feeling froggy.
OPEN FIELD TACKLING
My West By Pod PIC Joel Bracken singled this out as his defensive key to the game Saturday. 247’s Chris Anderson went into even more detail by specifically focusing on how poor we were at getting Pitt’s receivers on the ground after the catch last Thursday. Simply put, the Brawl was one of the worst open-field tackling games by our defense in more than half a decade, with more than half of Pitt’s passing yardage coming after the catch. Kansas receivers aren’t nearly as good as Pitt’s, so it’d be really nice to see significant improvement in that regard this weekend. Let’s just get back to the fundamentals - take good pursuit angles, run to the ball, and wrap up.
HOW AFRAID SHOULD WE BE?
3 out of 10. The Jayhawks are certainly improved, but not enough for it to matter if we play with anything approaching the level of intensity that we displayed against Pitt.
Everything I’ve watched and read in the days since the Brawl has me thinking we’re going to come out laser-focused on Saturday night. This is a confident team that is pissed off about how that game ended, and they understand that making it right and proving how good they can be starts with an in-conference statement this weekend. Kansas is playing well (for them), but they picked the wrong weekend to stumble into Mountaineer Field for a twilight kickoff.