WVU football: DeForest expects a battle from foe
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- As though Joe DeForest doesn't have enough to deal with every week with a defense that ranks as one of the nation's worst, here comes an otherwise harmless Kansas team for Saturday's regular-season finale.
The Jayhawks have lost 10 consecutive games and only once this season have they been within four touchdowns of the home team in Big 12 Conference play.
"It's a scary game," DeForest said. "It really is, because what do they have to lose? They can run tricks in the kicking game, they can run tricks on offense. They've had two weeks to prepare for us, so we may see things we've never seen before. They may try anything to win their first Big 12 game."
Seems like a welcome change for West Virginia's defensive coordinator. The past eight conference opponents have all been ranked at one point this season and each is going to a bowl game. The Jayhawks are neither.
A loss Saturday at Mountaineer Field would extend Kansas' conference losing streak to 20 straight games, the longest in the six major Bowl Championship Series conferences and the second longest in Big 12 history. It would be only the second time a Big 12 team has gone winless in consecutive seasons, matching the low Baylor set with 0-8 seasons in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. on ROOT Sports.
The Jayhawks (1-10, 0-8 Big 12) were off last week and used that time to recover from a 51-23 loss to Iowa State in their final home game.
"That was a very, very disappointing loss, but I'm kind of glad the schedule worked out the way it did and we didn't play Thanksgiving weekend because you can only get your guys up psychologically in a short time span so many times without them being flat," KU Coach Charlie Weis said. "We were set up to be flat last week, so it was good we had a chance to get away."
Kansas spent most of its open week readying for the Mountaineers (6-5, 3-5) and only intensified the preparations this week.
Weis said because his team didn't play last weekend, he turned a normal rest and recovery day at the beginning of the week into a workout day with an early morning practice.
"I think our guys will be pretty familiar with who we're playing against," he said.
All that time and all the desperation have the Mountaineers at least aware of the fact they might not see what they expect to see - and that's saying something considering the Jayhawks have varied their running game from week to week depending on the opponent.
"We're telling them we have to prepare for about five different offenses, but the five we prepare for may not be one we're going to see Saturday," DeForest said.
The Jayhawks' need for a win at the end of the season is exaggerated by what's happened leading up to this point. They led Rice by eight points in the fourth quarter, but lost 25-24 on field goal as time expired. They trailed TCU 10-6 at halftime before losing 20-6 and led Northern Illinois 23-13 in the fourth quarter before losing 30-23.
Oklahoma State beat Kansas 20-14, but had to hold on after a 20-0 lead in the fourth quarter nearly vanished when Kansas had the ball twice late with a chance to take the lead. The Jayhawks also led Texas late in the fourth quarter before losing 21-17 on a touchdown pass with 12 seconds to go and later took Texas Tech to two overtimes before losing 41-34.
"In no way do our guys think Kansas is going to come in here and not compete," running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. "They've lost by a lot in some games, but there were games they could have won that were very close and that gets a team mad."
WVU expects the Jayhawks to leave nothing to chance in their final chance to win a game this season.
"There's no doubt in my mind a few of those fourth downs when it's close, they're probably going to go for it," Gillespie said. "They've got a good kickoff team. Onside kicks could come. Reverses. Tricks. All those things. We've got to be ready for the best Kansas can give us because we think their coaching staff will pull out all the stops."
The Mountaineers also know Kansas has been beaten badly a few times - Iowa State, 56-16 at Kansas State, 52-7 at Oklahoma, 41-14 at Baylor - and doesn't pass the ball very much or very well, which is the unquestioned weakness of the WVU defense.
WVU is not without motivation, either.
"In our mind, there's a whole lot of difference between 7-5 and 6-6," Coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Once 5-0 and in the top five of both polls for the first time in five seasons, Mountaineers will finish the regular season unranked and miss a New Year's Day bowl game.
A win could send them to one of three postseason locations: San Diego for the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against the third pick from the Pac-12, Houston for the Dec. 28 Meineke Car Care Bowl against the sixth pick from the Big Ten or the Bronx, N.Y., for the Dec. 29 Pinstripe Bowl against the fourth pick from the Big East. The eventual pick depends on other outcomes this weekend.
A loss likely limits WVU to the Pinstripe Bowl.
The Mountaineers are concerned only with Kansas, a team that might seems like a break in the schedule, but one Holgorsen said is no different from all the others his team has encountered in its first Big 12 season.
"This was different last year, but I don't feel like we lined up one time this year to play an unmotivated football team," he said. "The fact we're going to line up for a 12th time this year and play a team that's motivated and ready to play is the way it should be. Is it problematic? Every game is problematic."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.