WVU hopes to end on high note
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Physically and mentally beat up, West Virginia will try to salvage what's left of its season against the Big 12's two worst teams beginning at noon Saturday at Kansas.
Despite its losing record and myriad injuries — backup quarterback Paul Millard likely will start for the injured Clint Trickett — WVU must fight against overconfidence.
Coming off a 47-40 overtime loss to Texas, the Mountaineers face a Kansas team that has lost 27 consecutive conference games.
The Mountaineers (4-6, 2-5) need to beat the Jayhawks (2-7, 0-6) and then Iowa State, also winless in conference play, to become bowl eligible.
WVU coach Dana Holgorsen is trying to convince his team that it can't approach Saturday's game as a walkover.
“They've played six really good teams in a row and have played competitive. We've got our hands full,” he said. “We need to move forward. We still are playing for something.”
If WVU wins out, a return trip to the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium is a possibility. The Mountaineers lost to Syracuse there last bowl season.
“It's at the point where I'm talking about bowl games,” said Holgorsen, who had refrained from discussing bowls with his team until now. “We have around 12 seniors. They deserve (a bowl berth).”
Holgorsen says his team understands the importance of bouncing back after a disappointing overtime loss to Texas, the Mountaineers' second consecutive OT loss.
“The disappointment in our locker room on Saturday was tremendous because our guys care,” he said. “I anticipate getting the same work ethic and effort out of the guys this week that we've had the past couple weeks.”
Holgorsen certainly has let his team know that it is not in a much different place than Kansas or Iowa State.
WVU's defense lost two more players this week in safety KC Dillon and linebacker Jared Barber, both of whom are out for the rest of the season.
Offensively, the Mountaineers are encouraged after scoring 40 points against Texas despite five turnovers and having to turn to Millard when Trickett suffered a head injury.
Millard completed 16 of 32 for 256 yards to balance a rushing attack built around Charles Sims. Sims, a senior transfer from Houston, rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns. He needs 120 yards rushing to eclipse 1,000 for the season.
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.