The box score read, West Virginia 56, Kansas 34.
A 22-point win and even a covered spread likely had many Mountaineers fans more than happy with their Saturday afternoon. But any honest fan who watched this game knows that West Virginia has a handful of issues to clean up as they continue through their Big 12 schedule.
Issue number 1: the run defense. Kansas gashed WVU for 7.3 yards per carry. The Jayhawks piled up 367 rushing yards, with Khalil Herbert racking up 291 of them only 36 carries, good for over eight yards per carry. Herbert’s performance was a career day and is an FBS best at this point in the season.
“Give Kansas credit: They played good in the third quarter,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “But we played good in the fourth quarter. Good enough to win by 22. That’s a good win on the road in the Big 12. We’ll take it.”
West Virginia was outscored 14-0 in the third before pulling away in the final quarter.
Holgorsen will spin it positively after the game. But deep down, he’s looking at this team and looking around the Big 12, and has to believe reaching that ten-win mark is going to be difficult. Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State are the class of this conference right now. But even the bottom half, outside of Kansas (Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Texas), all look improved.
Then there were the injury scares on defense, losing Spur linebacker Kyzir White in the first quarter and his backup Marvin Gross shortly after. Others banged up included cornerback Mike Daniels (knee), which hurt a unit that was already missing safety Toyous Avery and linebacker David Long.
Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson did point out that due to all the injuries, there were only a handful of starters left on the field, adding, “I look out there, and it’s an eight-point game early in the fourth quarter — not taking anything away from our guys, but it’s all our (second team) out there.” Gibson went on, saying, “We made mistakes and we missed a lot of tackles, but they’re not going to be able to play defense until they get more snaps. You don’t want to go full-sale and put them in for that many plays, so that was frustrating to deal with.”
Holgorsen did help WVU fans relax, saying, “I anticipate all those guys will be ready to play against TCU.”
Thankfully, the Mountaineers have two weeks to get healthy and prepare.
Even the West Virginia offense, which scored with ease in the first quarter, was sluggish in the third quarter. There was a five-possession stretch where the Mountaineers punted four times and turned the ball over once. This gave life to the Jayhawks in the second half who pulled to within a score. But overall, Will Grier and company have to be happy with how his side of the ball is playing. And who ever thought the return of David Sills would be as important as it’s been through four weeks. Sills has 18 receptions on the season, averaging nearly 15 yards per catch.
As for Grier, he was a little more honest than his head coach after the game, admitting, “We’re doing some good things but we’ve got to play better for the entire game. We’re leaving a lot of stuff out there and a lot of stuff we can do to be better. You’ve got to take this win, build off of it and move forward.”
He’s right, because if the Mountaineers don’t, back-to-back double-digit win seasons won’t come close to becoming a reality.