Smallwood has still been fighting off a nagging ankle injury that happened against Oklahoma last month. But his performance against Texas would say that it isn't hindering him much.
Smallwood ranks 18th nationally with 1,119 rushing yards. Only 25 other FBS players have broken the 1,000-yard mark this year. Of those 1000-yard rushers, only three players in the Power Five have more rushing yards per carry in comparison to Smallwood.
Smallwood's two best rushing performances came back-to-back against Texas Tech (163) and Texas (165). But he’s only made a trip to the endzone once between the two games, which could be an issue against Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks’ strongest attribute has been their ability to slow opponents in the red zone. They’ve only allowed opponents to score 71% of the time inside the twenty.
“It’s really not a joke. It’s just a fact,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen. “How do you rush for 12 yards a carry and not score? I thought it was me not showing him where the end zone was, but I showed him that about 10 days ago. We went out during practice, and I explained to him what that line was where the turf changes color. He can’t blame it on me. I don’t know. We give it to him a bunch, and we open up holes that are as big as this screen. He gets from point A to point B, which is about as fast as anybody I have ever seen. The rest of it is up to him.”
Smallwood has gone over 100 rushing yards in six of West Virginia's nine games, but has been close to the mark every week. His lowest total of the year was 88 against Liberty.
Getting healthy has been Smallwood’s number one priority. He said the day after their game with Texas was the best he’s felt in a while, and he’s ready for the extra work load that comes with being healthy.
“The carries haven't been bothering me at all,” said Smallwood. “I get more comfortable with defenses the more carries I get.”
Kansas has been solid defensively in the red zone, but they're 0-10 this season for a reason. The Jayhawks have the 91st worst rush defense in the country, and simply can't match the offensive performance of their opponents. West Virginia's offense will rely on a heavy dose of Smallwood for as long as possible, and if he's healthy it won't be a surprise to see another big perfromance at Kansas.