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WVU football notebook: Barber, Chestnut hope to return for Texas game

| Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, 7:12 p.m.
West Virginia linebacker Jared Barber tries to sack Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe (7) on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. WVU won 45-6.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
West Virginia linebacker Jared Barber tries to sack Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe (7) on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. WVU won 45-6.

Their green jerseys signaled their fragility to teammates, but redshirt seniors and defensive starters Jared Barber and Terrell Chestnut refused to let shoulder injuries keep them out of West Virginia's practice Sunday night.

A day earlier, Barber, a four-year starter at linebacker, jogged off the field at Milan Puskar Stadium late in the Mountaineers' 31-26 win over Texas Tech with his left shoulder slumped and his arm hanging limp.

He reached the sideline, where Chestnut, a cornerback and three-year starter, stood in street clothes, unable to play because of a nagging left shoulder injury he agitated in the Oct. 29 loss at TCU.

Coach Dana Holgorsen said during Monday's Big 12 conference calls he respects the defensive veterans' desires to remain difference-makers for West Virginia (4-4, 1-4) as it prepares for Texas (4-5, 3-3), which won two of the teams' last three meetings.

“Older guys with bad parts,” Holgorsen said. “They're going to try to push through, and hopefully they're going to be ready to go.”

Barber's 37 tackles ranks fourth among the Mountaineers, and his seven tackles for a loss is second most.

Chestnut accounted for 22 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions through West Virginia's first seven games.

Ailing Air Raid

As much as he believes in West Virginia's ability to win by running the football, Holgorsen remains uneasy with the Mountaineers' lack of a potent passing game.

Against Texas Tech, quarterback Skyler Howard went 12 for 23 for 149 yards.

Not since Nov. 20, 2010, had West Virginia won when it finished with so few completions, attempts and yards — Geno Smith was 9 for 20 with 133 passing yards in a 17-10 win over Louisville.

Quarterback Ford Childress' 11-for-22, 62-yard performance in a 37-0 loss to Maryland on Sept. 21, 2013, marked the last time the Holgorsen-led Mountaineers leaned so little on the pass.

“I didn't ever picture anybody winning a Big 12 game passing for 149 yards, so that's obviously something we've got to work on,” Holgorsen said. “Our job is to continue to improve the timing and tempo with which we're able to throw the ball.

“I know what (the offense) is supposed to look like, and it's not supposed to look like this. It's supposed to get better. We're going to work hard on it to the point where it will get better.”

Finding a separator

A strong performance by redshirt sophomore Ka'Raun White, a transfer from Lackawanna College and brother of former Mountaineers standout Kevin White, on Saturday created more questions about which receivers deserve the most opportunities in West Virginia's offense.

White finished with five catches for 80 yards to bring his season total to seven receptions for 120 yards. He might soon join West Virginia's double-digit catch club, which already consists of six players, including redshirt sophomore Shelton Gibson (25 for 576), junior Daikiel Shorts (23 for 282), freshman Jovon Durante (19 for 268) and senior Jordan Thompson (16 for 222).

But if the Mountaineers' running game puts the team in the best position to win, might Holgorsen and his staff place greater weight on the receivers who block best when not moving with the ball? He's certainly in the market for someone with such a skill.

“I think our guys are doing a decent job of (blocking),” Holgorsen said.

“They need to get a little bit bigger and stronger to the point where they can dominate with their blocking.”

Game times

The start times for West Virginia's final two road games were announced Monday. The Mountaineers will meet Kansas at noon Nov. 21, and they'll square off with Kansas State at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 5.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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