"We just didn't play as hard as they did. That's all it is,'' offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "You can talk about it as long as you want to, but it comes down to effort. We played with great effort last week and were sharp and played with horrible effort this week.''
The Kansas domination was pretty much complete. Again, the numbers weren't overwhelming, but against an injury-ravaged Mountaineer defense, the Jayhawks broke big plays. Tailback James Sims ran for 211 yards as Kansas totaled 315 on the ground. The Jayhawks passed for only 61.
Offensively, West Virginia could do nothing behind quarterback Paul Millard. Playing for Clint Trickett, who was not in uniform after suffering a concussion last week against Texas, the Mountaineers outgained Kansas 386-376, but never gained yardage when it mattered.
"At the end of the day, we got beat on all three sides of the ball,'' said nose guard Shaq Rowell, one of roughly a dozen WVU seniors who won't be finishing their careers in a bowl game. "Kansas wanted it more than we did, from the first quarter through the fourth quarter.''
West Virginia gave up 31 straight points to the Jayhawks after scoring with ease on the first possession of the game. All of the Kansas scores resulted from either long James Sims runs or awful Millard turnovers. Twice he threw passes right at Kansas linebackers who caught the balls and returned them to set up touchdowns.
While West Virginia didn't compete very well beyond the opening minutes of the game, things didn't really get out of hand until the second half. In fact, trailing 17-7 at the break, WVU held Kansas to a three-and-out and seemed to be driving for a score.
But then on a first-down play from the 30, Millard inexplicably threw the ball straight into the chest of the only pass rusher near him. Ben Goodman caught the ball and began lumbering down the field until Millard finally caught him and ran him out of bounds at the WVU 14. Five plays later, James Sims scored from the 2 to make it 24-7.
"We had things going the way we wanted them before that,'' Holgorsen said.
The trouble is, there always seemed to be an "after that.'' After every good play was a bad one. Another interception in the fourth quarter allowed Kansas to stretch the score to rout proportions. Millard threw right into the hands of linebacker Ben Heeney from near his own goal line and Heeney returned it 28 yards to the 1. A play later Brandon Bourbon scored to make it 31-7.
West Virginia got a couple of consolation scores to make the score more respectable - a Millard pass to Kevin White and a Charles Sims run - but KU was never in danger of losing.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.