MORGANTOWN-Third-year coach Dana Holgorsen may not be a mathematician, but the head coach of the Mountaineers from West Virginia University understands the predicament he and his team faces this week when they travel to Lawrence, Kan., to take on a Kansas University squad looking to end a long, long losing drought in the Big 12.
"They've (KU) played six really good teams in a row and have played competitively," Holgorsen said during his weekly press conference. "We've got our hands full. We need to move forward. We still are playing for something. It's at the point, where I'm talking about bowl games.
"We need to win the next two to go to a bowl game. We have around 12 seniors, they deserve that. The disappointment in our locker room on Saturday was tremendous because our guys care. They're in-tune to what we're doing around here, they recognize who we are, and where we need to be going from here. I anticipate getting the same work ethic and effort our of the guys this week that we've had the past couple weeks. We travel to Lawrence and we will play a team that is improving."
But, not with the same roster of players that lost to Texas in overtime (47-40).
"We lost Jared Barber for the year. It's disappointing, I think he had another 14 tackles in the game on Saturday. He was playing at an extremely high level, the effort was great, his attitude is tremendous. He's been one of the team leaders for us on defense. He's out with an ACL. He'll have surgery in the next week, we'll lose him for the next six months.
"J.J. Dillon just got released from the hospital. He has severe dehydration, which his body had an adverse reaction to. He was in ICU for a couple of days, he's just getting out of the hospital now, but he's on the shelf for the rest of the season.
"Doug Rigg is still going to be out, his head is still not close to where it needs to be. Clint Trickett's shoulder is fine, his head is in a much better spot on Sunday and Monday. We will anticipate him being at practice today and will see how he reacts to it. It's going to be non-contact with the quarterback. But, we are going to see how he reacts to tests that they will give him after today's and tomorrow's practice. There's 20 other people on the list that are day-to-day, we will see them in practice and see how they do."
If Trickett, who has completed 102-of-196 attempts for 1,249 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions, is unable to perform for the 11 a.m. (CST) kickoff, junior Paul Millard will, in all likelihood get the starting nod. Millard, the starter in the first two games of the year, has made good on 69-of-125 throws for 877 yards and four touchdowns and four interceptions.
"You can barely rep two quarterbacks, let alone three," Holgorsen explained. "He (Logan Moore) takes individual reps and scout team reps. He would've been the guy to go in there in an emergency. We expect Clint to come back. Ford's closer to 90 percent now, so he will start repping this week. Whether that's good enough for them to be meaningful, I'll have to see, but he's getting closer, and we will be alright."
One area the head coach has few worries is at running back where University of Houston transer Charles Sims has displayed why so many teams attempted to get his services when it became known that he wanted to leave the Cougars' program.
With two games remaining Sims leads the team with 847 yards and eight touchdowns on 168 carries and could be the first Mountaineer running back to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark since Noel Devine.
Sims is getting a lot of help in the backfield from a former-KU recruit that elected to come to Morgantown after two seasons in junior college-Dreamius Smith. Smith hails from the state of Kansas, having played at Wichita Heights High School. He committed to Kansas before spending two seasons at Butler Community College in El Dorado, where he was teammates with current Jayhawk cornerback Dexter McDonald.
"It's a good experience, having your family get to watch you play," Smith said. "It's a good feeling. They wanted to take advantage of this year and come watch me play.
"They're a good team. They're going to play hard every play. We're just going to come in with our plays and execute them the best way we can. Whenever we see the opportunity we're going to take it to get our running backs going."
And, the Mountaineers will be facing a Jayhawks' defense that is surrendering 33.1 points, 436.9 total yards and 192.6 rushing yards per game.
"They're much better than last year," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "They're different and more aggressive. They're stopping the ball well. Coverage wise, they play the corners who are, in my opinion, pretty good players. They're improving from last year to this year, and I think throughout this season they're improving. They've been playing well the way I see it."
But, not good enough as the unit gave up 518 yards of total offense in a 54-16 loss to Texas Tech, 380 yards in a 27-17 loss to TCU, 415 in a 34-15 loss to Oklahoma, 743 in a 59-14 loss to Baylor, 418 in a 35-13 loss to Texas and, most recently, 359 in a 42-6 loss to an Oklahoma State team WVU beat by a 30-21 score.
"They're playing with tremendous effort, and their defense is keeping them in games," Holgorsen said. "They are really good against the run. They're going to play similar to Texas last week. They are going to try and outnumber us in the box.
"Their corners and safeties are going to try and man you up. Teams have been having trouble getting behind them in those situations. We have to figure out a way to run the ball. When we have the chances to make plays down the field with three receivers we need to do a better job of that than we did last week."