Hobbled WVU travels to meet last-place Jayhawks
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For the first time this season West Virginia will be favored against a team from a BCS conference when it plays Kansas on Saturday.
But as banged up as the Mountaineers are, it's hard to imagine they are favored over anyone.
True, Kansas (2-7, 0-6) has lost 27 consecutive Big 12 games, but West Virginia (4-6, 2-5) has a medical list that looks like an emergency-room report.
“We are pretty beat up,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “It's game 11, but I think everyone is beat up at this point.”
Linebacker Jared Barber, the team's leading tackler who had started the past seven games, was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in last week's 47-40 overtime loss to Texas.
“He was playing at an extremely high level, the effort was great, his attitude is tremendous,” Holgorsen said. “He's been one of the team leaders for us on defense.”
The Mountaineers also lost sophomore safety K.J. Dillon for issues related to severe dehydration from the Texas game. Holgorsen said Dillon, who had made four starts, spent a couple of days in intensive care before being released.
“He's on the shelf for the rest of the season,” Holgorsen said.
At the same time, it appears starting quarterback Clint Trickett will miss the Kansas game, too, having been knocked unconscious in the first quarter of the Texas game.
Backup Paul Millard is expected to start.
The defense, though, has taken the bulk of the hits this season.
Depending upon how you count, there are nine to 11 starters or potential starters who were taken from the defense over the season.
“I think I counted 15 guys on defense who are on the injury report, and 10 of those guys are out for the season,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said.
“You can't use that as an excuse. That's just football. It's a tough sport, and it's part of the game.” The defensive players out for the year are Barber, Dillon, Christian Brown, Dozie Ezemma, Nana Kyeremeh, Shaq Petteway, Doug Rigg and Wes Tonkery.
All of a sudden Tyler Anderson and Jewone Snow, himself victimized by injuries for most of his career at WVU, must move forward for the final two games as WVU tries to earn bowl eligibility and a .500 season.
Dillon's injury will be as difficult to absorb as Barber's.
“K.J. provided something for us because he was able to play man, he was an explosive blitzer, he could make plays out in space,” Patterson said. “He was a little bit more versatile and that's why he is tougher to replace. He could play deep safety. He could play man-to-man. We could kick him down and do some things with him.”
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.