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West Virginia opponents, Game 5: Kansas

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the ninth in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.

Date with WVU: Saturday, Oct. 4, time TBA

Site: Mountaineer Field (60,000, FieldTurf), Morgantown

Series: WVU leads 2-1

Last meeting: Kansas defeated WVU, 31-19, on Nov. 16, 2013 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan.

Coach: Charlie Weis (3rd year, 4-20; 8th year overall, 39-47)

Checking them out

West Virginia can’t make fun of Kansas anymore.

Oh, sure, there’s still plenty to ridicule. The Jayhawks have just nine wins over the last 4 1/2 seasons. There’s Charlie Weis and his schematic advantages. There’s the 27-game Big 12 losing streak that finally ended last season. But since it was a win over West Virginia that ended it, well, no more jokes about Kansas football from these parts.

Will the Jayhawks become fair game again? Well, could be. This still isn’t a very good football team or program.

Weis made his name as an offensive coach, but the Kansas offense has been just awful in his two seasons. He named sophomore Montell Cozart the starting quarterback after spring drills, which likely means the Jayhawks are going to once again focus their attack on the run. He also hired a new offensive coordinator who ran a run-first spread attack at Rice, John Reagan.

Cozart has the running skills to lead a ground-based offense (he had a season-high 60 yards against WVU and 214 in limited playing time for the year), but he was 23 for 63 passing for just 227 yards and no touchdowns. And he no longer has James Sims (1,110 rushing yards, 211 against WVU) to carry the rushing load. Freshman Traevohn Wrench, a four-star recruit, could be the replacement.

Kansas does have a receiver of note, Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell. He, senior slot receiver/RB Tony Pierson and tight end Jimmay Mundine are a good combination, but can Cozart get them the ball?

The defense actually might be pretty good. Linebacker Ben Heeney is among the best in the Big 12 and the back end is surprisingly talented. If the Jayhawks can develop some sort of pass rush and slow down opponents’ running games just a bit it would help, and August will be important for that when at least three junior college transfers begin practice.

All-conference candidates

Offense: WR Nick Harwell, TE Jimmay Mundine, OG Ngalu Fusimalohi

Defense: LB Ben Heeney, CB Dexter McDonald, S Isaiah Johnson

Special teams: P Trevor Pardula

Notes

Kansas doesn’t open the season until Sept. 6 and doesn’t play on Dec. 6, so that means 12 games packed into 13 weeks with just one open date. Kansas holds an NCAA Division I record that is unlikely ever to be broken. The Jayhawks have played to 58 ties, more than any other school. Overtime rules now make that pretty much impossible to match. Weis was 19-6 in his first two seasons at Notre Dame and went to BCS bowls each year. In his five years as a head coach since then his record is 20-41 with no above-.500 regular seasons.

2014 schedule

Date Opponent 2013

Sept. 6 Southeast Missouri State DNP

Sept. 13 at Duke DNP

Sept. 20 Central Michigan DNP

Sept. 27 Texas* L 13-35

Oct. 4 at West Virginia* W 31-19

Oct. 11 Oklahoma State* L 6-42

Oct. 18 at Texas Tech* L 16-54

Nov. 1 at Baylor* L 14-59

Nov. 8 Iowa State* L 0-34

Nov. 15 TCU* L 17-27

Nov. 22 at Oklahoma* L 19-34

Nov. 29 at Kansas State* L 10-31

* Big 12 Conference games

2013 record: 3-9 overall, 1-8 Big 12

Dropped: South Dakota (W 31-14), Rice (L 14-23), Louisiana Tech (W 13-10)


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