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  • wvu4u2 created a new topic WVU/KU Preview in the forum.
    Kansas.

    After beating Southeast Missouri State, 38-16, in the opener, the Jayhawks (1-2) are now at the bottom of the Mid-American Conference standings following losses to Central Michigan and Ohio.

    But Kansas plays in the Big 12 and its record is still clean leading into Saturday's conference opener against 2-1 West Virginia.

    Two weeks ago against Central Michigan, the Chippewas took control of the game with a 24-point second quarter on the way to a 45-27 victory.

    A week later, Frank Solich's always-tough Ohio Bobcats scored 28 points in the second and third quarters to pull away with a 42-30 victory in Athens, Ohio.

    Yes, in years past, there was a certain hall of fame coach around here who used to warn us about those pesky MAC schools.

    If he were coaching today, he would certainly remind us that Western Michigan put a little scare in USC out in Los Angeles, or that Northern Illinois gave Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst reason to have some second thoughts about the recent contract extension he awarded Husker coach Mike Riley after NIU's 21-17 upset victory in Lincoln, Nebraska.

    So while those who look solely at those two games, Kansas' 42-game road losing streak or coach David Beaty's 3-24 record heading into Saturday's game against West Virginia, they see the same old Kansas Jayhawks.

    But instead of just kicking the tires and looking at the paint job, West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen has lifted up the hood and taken a deeper look at what Beaty is doing at Kansas. What he sees is something entirely different.

    He observes a definite system in place in all three phases, from longtime Jayhawk defensive coordinator Clint Bowen to "Air Raid" alum Doug Meacham now calling the plays after spending the last three years working as Gary Patterson's co-offensive coordinator at TCU.

    Holgorsen also notices better players running around out there.

    We all know they've done a good job recruiting the last couple of years," Holgorsen said. "I think the biggest thing is they've got a plan in all three phases. They're sound in all phases and they know what they want to do. It's just a matter of getting all of their new guys caught up."

    Beaty, once Texas A&M's recruiting coordinator, has consistently ratcheted up Kansas' recruiting, taking the Jayhawks from No. 95 in the recruiting rankings during his first year there in 2015 to 57th last year with one four-star prospect, McKinney, Texas, running back Dom Williams, who sits No. 3 on the depth chart and has carried the ball a team-best 32 times so far this season.

    Another recruit from last year's class, Texarkana, Texas, wide receiver Quan Hampton, is atop this week's depth chart and leads the team with 15 receptions.

    Washington, D.C. defensive end Vaughn Taylor Jr. was playing high school football at Friendship Collegiate Academy last fall, but a year later he's backing up junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr.

    Beaty has also supplemented his KU roster with four-year transfers, the most prominent being former Nebraska offensive lineman Zach Hannon, the team's starting right tackle.

    There are other transfers such as sophomore wide receiver Daylon Charlot by way of Alabama, and junior running back Deron Thompson via Colorado State.

    "They've brought in a whole bunch of transfers and those are brand new players and I think are good players; they're just going to get used to playing within the schemes that they want," Holgorsen noted.

    Beaty has also gone the junior college route with close to 20 percent of his roster now being made up of JC transfers, including starting quarterback Peyton Bender.

    The junior began his college career at Washington State playing for Mike Leach, transferred to Itawamba Community College and resurfaced at Kansas after completing 65 percent of his pass attempts at ICC for more than 300 yards per game last fall.

    So far, the Bender-Meacham pairing has resulted in 1,030 yards and six touchdowns through the air, the fastest any quarterback has reached 1,000 yards passing in the 127-year history of the program.

    "He's a gunslinger," Holgorsen said. "He can throw it all over the place."

    Bender is completing 58.2 percent of his aerials while connecting with 12 different receivers so far. He's averaging 12.1 yards per completion and seven yards per attempt, not too far off West Virginia's Will Grier, who is averaging 14.9 yards per completion and 9.8 yards per attempt.

    Kansas' most dangerous weapon should be a familiar name to Mountaineer fans, junior wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. Last year, Sims caught 72 passes for 859 yards and seven touchdowns, including a nine-catch, 124-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Mountaineers in Morgantown last November.

    Sims leads the team in receiving yards (202), yards per catch (20.2) and is tied with sophomore wide receiver Chase Harrell with two receiving touchdowns.

    "They have a lot of receivers that they throw to and you have to defend the run as well," Holgorsen said. "(Meacham) has always done a good job in making sure he mixes in the run, so they're going to get better on offense based on a new offense, they have a plan and just the timing aspect of a new quarterback throwing with new receivers. The quarterback has only been there for a few months, so they're going to continue to get better and better."

    For a Mountaineer pass defense that is giving up 234.3 yards, 14.6 yards per completion and five touchdowns that could present a combustible situation.

    It certainly should be combustible on the other side of the ball where the Jayhawks are surrendering 297 yards per game and 10 touchdowns through the air. And the Kansas defense has yet to see a quarterback the caliber of Grier, who is averaging 342.3 yards per game with 11 touchdowns in a little more than 10 quarters of action.

    West Virginia's receiving trio of Gary Jennings Jr., David Sills V and Ka'Raun White are all on pace to catch more than 50 passes this year, with Jennings on target for a 90-reception season with 23 grabs for 363 yards and a touchdown through three games so far.

    Sills' five touchdown receptions continues to lead the conference and his 18 catches are fourth behind Texas Tech's Keke Coutee, Jennings and Iowa State's Allen Lazard.

    The Big 12's top returning rusher, Justin Crawford, continues to lead the Big 12 in rushing with an average of 108.7 yards per game. Crawford has surpassed 100 yards in all three games so far this year despite getting an economical 43 carries, or 13 fewer than the conference's second leading ball carrier, Iowa State's David Montgomery.

    One of Crawford's better games in his sometimes up, sometimes down junior season came against Kansas when he rushed for 129 yards and scored a touchdown in West Virginia's 48-21 victory.

    "They're very explosive," Beaty said. "Offensively it's going to be a very big chore playing against a Dana Holgorsen offense. He does such a good job offensively, but (defensive coordinator Tony Gibson) does such a great job defensively. What they do with their 3-3 stack stuff is built for this league. He's one of the better guys in this league when it comes to adjusting, so obviously it's a great challenge but one we're looking forward to Saturday back here at home."

    It's probably safe to expect West Virginia to maintain its 46.3 points per game average on Saturday in Lawrence, but the Jayhawks are likely to score more points as well.

    Will they score enough? We'll find out Saturday.

    "We need to be prepared for their best game this season, that's for dang sure, starting Big 12 ball," Holgorsen concluded.

    Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is set for noon with ESPNU (Mike Couzens and John Congemi) televising the game nationally.

    The Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG's coverage begins with the Mountaineer Tailgate Show (Dan Zangrilli, Dale Wolfley and Jed Drenning) at 8:30 a.m. leading into the regular network broadcast with Tony Caridi, Dwight Wallace and Jed Drenning at 11 a.m. on stations throughout West Virginia, online via WVUsports.com and the mobile app TuneIn.

    West Virginia is 2-3 in Big 12 openers and 3-2 in Big 12 road openers under Holgorsen. Last year, WVU began conference play with a 17-16 victory over Kansas State and then defeated Texas Tech, 48-17, in its league road opener.

    WVU is 5-1 in games against Kansas with its lone loss coming in Lawrence, 31-19, on Nov. 16, 2013.
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