As soon as Charlie Weis was fired, many media members began running with the angle that the Jayhawks would suddenly be a big mystery to West Virginia. Apparently, thoughts of massive scheme changes and total personality makeovers dnaced in the heads of those looking for an easy story, prompting several questions at Dana Holgorsen's ensuing media appearances.
While that might have made some easy copy, it will probably prove to be a waste of time and air. Even with a change at the top, there simply isn't enough time to implement any major changes to the offensive or defensive systems the Jayhawks have employed this year. To be sure, there will be a few tweaks -- there always are from week to week -- as coaches try to attack and take advantage of opposing weak spots. But it's not like KU is going to coime out running the veer on offense or the wide tackle six on defense next Saturday.
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Typically, defenses in the Big 12 want to force opposing quarterbacks "off the spot" in the passing game. That is, pass rushers want to make the QB move from the spot that he sets up on to pass, with the idea that it will throw off timing, and that passers typically aren't as accurate on the move as they are when able to plant a back foot and drive through a throw. That might not be the case this week agains Montell Cozart, however.
As much (or perhaps more) of a threat with his feet as with his arm, West Virginia will likely strive to keep Cozart in the pocket.
WHERE'D THAT MASCOT COME FROM?
The origin of the Kansas Jayhawk stretches back to pre-Civil War days, when the battle for statehood often centered on the fight between those wanting the territory to enter the Union as a free state and others who wanted slavery to be legal. According to the official University of Kasas website, both sides were at times termed "Jayhawkers". That name was a made-up construct of two birds -- the blue jay and the sparrow hawk. It appeared to be applied to bad guys on both sides of the battle, but ended up being the defining sobriquet for the "free staters", who had their home base in Lawrence -- the location of the University.
ITEMS TO WATCH
Kansas averages almost a full yard more per rush than West Virginia does, and seems destined to try to control the game and keep the Mountaineer offense off the field with a ball control effort. KU has gained 246 more yards on the ground than through the air this year, and has been effective at times in grinding out drives. Also helping are some lucky bounces -- the Jayhawks have fubled seven times this year, but have not lost one yet. COmpare that to WVU, which has recovered just one of its six fumbles. That's not a sequence that's likely to hold for a full season.
Conversely, West Virginia's rushing offense has left a bit to be desired. While the Mountaineers haven't been awful, they have fallen a bit short of preseason expectations, especially in the area of big plays. WVU has just two rushes of 20 or more yards this year, and backs have struggled to find room in the run game. The thought here is that WVU's offensive line is much better, at least at this point, in pass protection. That's not to put all of the blame for the average running game up front, but the Mountaineers haven't been able to create the gaps necessary to yield big plays. Of course, facing two of the top run defenses in the country can have a negative effect on most any team's rushing game, so this week's contest should provide a marker. Kansas has a decent rushing defense, buoyed by a pair of excellent linebackers, but it doesallow 4.7 yards per carry. If WVU hopes to ramp up its run game to provide more balance as the season moves along, this week would be a good place to begin that process.
SOMETHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Wes Tonkery's interception versus Oklahoma could have been a pivotal point in the game, but its significance was lost when the Mountaineers gave the ball right back to the Sooners three plays later. That fact caused Tonkery's pick to retreat into the background, but it shouldn't be forgotten.
One of West Virginia's biggest problems with pass defense over the past couple of seasons has been with linebackers dropping into pass coverage. Mountaineer defenders have sturggled at times to get deep enough to disrupt passes in the 10-20 yard range, and foes have been quick to exploit that. On this play, though, Tonkery showed that he has the ability and savvy to make that drop, and his athletic pick served notice that WVU might not be such easy pickings for the crossing routes that have plagued it in the past. Of course, one play doesn't constitute a trend, but if WVU can execute more consistently in this area of pass coverage, it will have shored up one of the bigger problem areas that have plagued it recently.
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