The Kansas Jayhawks travel to Morgantown to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers, and those that are brave enough to watch the game could probably use some additional information about the opponent. To that end, I reached out to Matt Kirchner over at the Smoking Musket, the SB Nation site that covers WVU. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
RCT: What happened last week against Texas Tech? West Virginia seemed to have the game firmly in control at half, and then had to fight off a furious comeback.
TSM: There’s a few things at fault here and I’m not particularly concerned with most of it long term.
First, we definitely took our foot off the gas in the second half. I don’t think Dana takes pleasure in blowing out Kliff, and it showed. This is probably what’s most concerning, but I think it’s something that will be addressed going forward.
Second, the injury switch from Bowman to Duffy at quarterback was tough on us. It’s hard to defend a QB that you haven’t watched film on, especially when you’re suddenly looking at a dual threat instead of a pocket passer, is tremendously difficult.
Third, Texas Tech is just good. They’re not going to go quetly against anyone, as evidenced when they did the same thing in the second half against OSU and won the game. I think they may end up as the third best team in the league.
RCT: Will Grier is the obvious Heisman candidate on this team, but who else should Kansas prepare to hear a lot from on Saturday?
TSM: It’s the receivers. We run so deep at that position and are second to none in the country in that regard. David Sills V is the big name, but Gary Jennings is a steady first down converter and Marcus Simms has emerged as a true big play threat.
Having Will Grier helps a ton, obviously, but the different ways that our receivers can attack you make the scheme almost impossible to consistently defend.
RCT: What is new and/or improved about this defense that will prevent another monster Kansas offensive day against the Mountaineers? Or to say it another way, how does WVU stop Pooka Williams and/or Khalil Herbert from running all over them again this year?
TSM: West Virginia’s defensive line play has improved dramatically, led by USC transfer Kenny Bigelow and Clemson transfer Jabril Robinson. Increased penetration has allowed the linebackers to play better against the run, and outside of the second half of the Texas Tech game where they were on the field a lot on a hot Lubbock day, I really have no complaints.
RCT: If Kansas were to somehow stay in this game until the end, what would the box score look like?
TSM: Pooka Williams has a Khalil Herbert-esque game in which the Jayhawks are able to sit on the ball and rack up a couple big plays. That’s really the only conceivable scenario to me.
RCT: Prediction Time! Will WVU win this game easily, or will Kansas somehow turn this into a nail-biter? Also, what is the longest play from scrimmage and who has it?
TSM: I don’t think Kansas has much of a chance, to be honest. Even if West Virginia takes a conservative approach after halftime, I don’t think that Kansas has the guys to take advantage of it.
RCT: BONUS - It seems pretty certain that Kansas is going to be looking for a new coach and staff next season. Name one guy on the staff at West Virginia who you think would excel on the new staff, either in their current role or in a new spot.
TSM: I think defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is at a point where he’s ready to take a head coaching opportunity or commit to the role of West Virginia’s Bud Foster.
I’ve always felt him more of a fit with an AAC program as his first head coaching job as opposed to a P5 school and I don’t think that Kansas would come calling, but I think he’s building a resume as both a recruiter and on field coach that will have programs taking a look at him.
A big thanks to Matt for helping us out. Don’t forget to check out the questions that I answered for him over on The Smoking Musket.