WEST VIRGINIA 33, KANSAS 14
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia won this football game by 19 points, which is significantly better than losing by 12 points, which was the Mountaineers' fate against Kansas last season.
But, yeah, as Clint Trickett said after the game tonight, "It's not a good win. It's an ugly win."
On one side, Josh Lambert hit four of five field-goal tries, including a 53-yarder — this comes a game after he hit a 54-yarder. Lambert accounted for 15 points, which is more than Kansas scored. And the Jayhawks punter Trevor Pardula became the unlikely star of the game by punting 14 (!) times for 621 yards (!). Both figures are easily records for a West Virginia opponent.
"Their punter was sporadic," Dana Holgorsen said. "Dude was all over the place."
Which is an observation no one would ever make without the benefit of seeing more than a baker's dozen punts.
Tonight was punting heaven. Kansas' first scores, late in the third quarter, came after a muffed punt. Later, the Jayhawks returned a punt for a touchdown. It was grand, man. All hail the punt.
• PASSING | Trickett's numbers after this one didn't match what the video-game stats he put up in the first four weeks of the season, but they weren't awful. He completed 20 of 35 passes for 302 yards, a touchdown and an interception. But he and Holgorsen were pretty peeved afterward. "There's some other issues I've got with Clint right now," Holgorsen said. "Not his health. ... I was not happy on the sidelines. ... He's going to go back and learn a lot from this tape." From what we can tell, the coaches gave Trickett some more liberties at the line, throwing a few play-calling options at him and let him ride it out a bit, but he struggled. You could see the miscommunication and frustration from afar. And eventually it boiled down to the fact that Trickett missed a few big plays, 63-yarder to Kevin White aside. One ended in an interception at the goal line. Trickett didn't really want to talk about the offense after the game, he said. He was proud of the defense and eventually ticked down a list of things on the offense that were good. The problem, he asserted, was him. "I played terribly."
• RECEIVING | White finished with six catches for 132 yards and a touchdown, but he had three catches for 127 yards in the first quarter alone. With that number, he totaled more than 100 receiving yards in his fifth consecutive game, tying a school record set by Stedman Bailey in 2012. White was equally upset after the game, though, saying his performance was a letdown. It's all part and parcel of the offense struggling. Mario Alford had four catchers for 80 yards, Jordan Thompson two for 26 and Daikiel Shorts two for 23.
• RUSHING | What did earn positive reviews was West Virginia's run game. The Mountaineers ran for 255 yards on 42 carries. Rushel Shell had 113 rushing yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown in the second quarter. Wendell Smallwood had 10 carries for 47 yards.
• SPECIAL TEAMS | Joe DeForest's special-teams units went from heroic last year to an extreme roller coaster this fall. First, you've got Lambert, who has overall been very good. He had a kick blocked in the second quarter today but nailed four kicks — three from beyond 40 yards. Nick O'Toole, who was so strong last season, bounced back for a good showing with four punts for a 45.2-yard average. But Jordan Thompson muffed a punt, and then Nick Harwell returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown. Like, yikes! The saving grave was Alford returning a kickoff 94 yards for the score. “I thought Mario was the fastest player on the planet today," Holgorsen said.
• DEFENSE | Earned rave reviews all around. They allowed just seven points, and those came off a muffed punt that gave them 18 yards to work with. Kansas managed just 176 yards of total offense — 111 passing and 65 rushing. There were no takeaways, though, and that frustrated Holgorsen. “Forcing them to punt 14 times was amazing. But that number would probably go down if we get a turnover every once in a while.” The retooled front line featured a lot more Edward Muldrow and Shaq Riddick and Brandon Golson, with Dontrill Hyman out.
• INJURIES | That brings us to this. Hyman was out with a knee injury — no timetable. Backup quarterback William Crest was on the sidelines in street clothes. “His shoulder is all jacked up right now,” Holgorsen said. That injury is a carry-over from fall camp and was re-aggravated during the bye week. That meant Skyler Howard was forced to make his debut when Trickett took a shot to the leg in the fourth quarter. Holgorsen said he was going to insert Howard anyway. Regardless, Howard missed both of his passes but rushed twice for 22 yards.
• ATTENDANCE | A young reporter shot straight fire to open up the postgame press conference, asking Holgorsen if he was disappointed to see a nowhere-near-sellout crowd of 52,164. “We want sellouts every game," Holgorsen said. "It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me that we wouldn’t have a sellout.” The coach wasn't trying to make a big statement or call the fans out, it seems. He knew weather and the opponent played a part, but it was a pretty disappointing showing for homecoming, considering how good the team has looked this season.