WVU football aims to stave off bowl spoiler by revamped Kansas

Gold and Blue Nation

WVU heads to Lawrence as heavy favorites -- but the Jayhawks have a newfound pep in their step

West Virginia football is one victory away from its second bowl bid of the Neal Brown era, with just the Kansas Jayhawks standing in their way. The two teams duke it out at 7 p.m. ET at KU’s David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on FS1.

The Mountaineers (5-6, 3-5 Big 12) haven’t had any issues with KU (2-9, 1-7 Big 12) historically, owning a 9-1 record against the Jayhawks since the first meeting in 1941. This year has a different feel to it, however, as Kansas has already spoiled the season of one Big 12 opponent in Texas — and they want to do it again to West Virginia.

WVU heads to Lawrence on the heels of its own victory to stay alive in the bowl race, knocking off Texas 31-23 in Morgantown. That win, along with the upset of the Longhorns by Kansas a week prior, effectively ended the bowl hopes for Texas and gave WVU one last shot at a bowl against the Jayhawks.

Brown’s team has had one roller-coaster season in 2021, and it will have to overcome a concerning trend that dates back to the coach’s second season in Morgantown — WVU has earned just one win on the road across the last two seasons, a span of nine contests.

Still, WVU heads to the Sunflower State as heavy favorites. Kansas hasn’t been keen on utilizing its home-field advantage in recent years, earning just one victory in Lawrence over Power Five opponents since 2017.

Here are some of the biggest storylines heading into this weekend’s contest:

Can WVU reprise offensive explosion?

West Virginia’s win over Texas was one of the program’s best offensive games over the last decade, as they racked up 459 yards and four touchdowns while minimizing penalties and without committing a turnover. WVU took advantage of key downs — it converted 12 of its 20 third downs and one of two fourth downs — while scoring on all four chances in the red zone.

Jarret Doege was especially strong in his performance, adding three of those scores through the air to go along with 90 yards. The signal-caller, who has admittedly had an up-and-down season behind the center for WVU, garnered conference honors for his game and drew some exceptional praise from his coaching staff ahead of the Kansas clash.

“I thought it was much-deserved. He played extremely well, I thought he was on point,” Brown said on Tuesday. “He didn’t have the critical error that sometimes costs us, and I thought, especially in the first half, he made some big-time throws.”

His partner in the backfield, Leddie Brown, is aiming for another career milestone against the Jayhawks. Brown went off for 158 yards against Kansas and a touchdown, putting his season total at 909 yards as he aims for another 1,000-yard campaign.

Air-mailin’ Jalon takes over for KU

Lance Leipold’s first year at KU has had some highs, despite the Jayhawks’ less-than-stellar record for the season.

The crown jewel, of course, is the double-overtime upset of the Longhorns in Austin. On a smaller scale, though, is the promising play of sophomore quarterback Jalon Daniels. The dual-threat has been so promising, in fact, that local pundits are already anointing him as the “quarterback of the future.”

“When they went into Austin in front of 100,000 fans, the stage was not too big, the lights were not too bright. He’s just got that bouncy swagger about him,” said Brian Hanni, the radio voice of the Jayhawks. “There are things that he can do physically, too, that are very impressive. He’s not as fast to the edge as Jason Beam is with his feet, but he is elusive, he does have some great escapability.”

Beam, of course, is the quarterback from whom Daniels took the signal-calling duties earlier this year. That doesn’t mean his time with the team has run its course — Leipold has hinted that Beam will stick with the offense in a role that can utilize his speed. He is already the team’s second-leading rusher at 40 yards on the ground per game, and has already been a nice compliment to feature back Devin Neal.

WVU football at Kansas game information

Kickoff between West Virginia and Kansas is set for 7 p.m. ET on FS1. Saturday always starts at 9 a.m. ET on West Virginia Nexstar stations with an all-new episode of The Neal Brown Show, followed by a live hour of Mountaineer GameDay starting at 10 a.m. ET. The most fun pregame show in the Mountain State continues with another live hour at 11 a.m. ET on AT&T SportsNet.

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