MORGANTOWN - Pride will be the only thing on the line when unranked West Virginia (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) travels to Lawrence, Kan., to take on unranked Kansas (2-7, 0-6 Big 12) at noon (EST) today.
"They're definitely a team you can't overlook," senior defensive lineman Will Clarke said. "I believe they had a 14-0 lead on Texas Tech. They came out, and they were running the ball right down their throat. They're not any different than any team we've played. We can't look past them."
And, when you are two games away from being bowl-eligible with only two games remaining in the regular season, you can't afford to look past anybody. Not even a team that owns a 27-game losing streak in conference play.
"Offensively, they've (Kansas) been spotty, another situation where they have been playing two quarterbacks," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "What they do with the two is different. They have the (Jake Heaps) kid, who's a pocket guy and comes in to throw it around. He's got a couple of weapons. The two who we are concerned about last year, (James Sims) who's a running back and (Tony Pierson) who's a receiver.
"Then when they put (Montell Cozart) in it turns into more of a running quarterback game. They are going to utilize him to try and move the ball forward. We need to recognize what their plan is going to be. They switch up what their plans on are on a week-to-week basis so we need to discover early in the game what their plan of attack is going to be, and make some adjustments on the sidelines to defend that."
West Virginia's problems at quarterback revolve more around which of the trio - FSU transfer Clint Trickett, junior Paul Millard or freshman Ford Childress - is healthy.
Childress, who suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the loss to Maryland, is getting heathier, but his availability for Saturday's game is still in question while Trickett was knocked out of last week's overtime loss to Texas and was evaluated each day this week and will be a game time decision.
That leaves Millard, and former-Fairmont State quarterback Logan Moore, as the only signal-callers completely healthy to face a Jayhawks' defense is next to last in the league in scoring (33.1 ppg), and rushing (192.6 ypg), and No. 8 in total defense (436.9) and pass defense (244.3).
"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."
Words that could just as easily describe a Mountaineer prevent unit that is last in the Big 12 in pass defense (276.8 ypg), No. 7 in rush defense (174.1), No. 8 in scoring defense (31.7 ppg) and No. 9 in total defense (450.9).
"First, they're not doing as many things as they did last year," Kansas head coach Charlie Weis said. "But, they're still a lot like Texas Tech where I expect in the game you'll see six different fronts."
Offensively, WVU will attempt to get its running game going early behind University of Houston transfer Charles Sims and junior college transfer Dreamius Smith, who was originally slated to attend KU, but elected to go to Butler Community College and then to Morgantown.
"It's a good experience (returning home)," Smith said. "Having your family get to watch you play, it's a good feeling. They wanted to take advantage of this year and come watch me play."
Sims leads the team in both rushing (847 yards) and receptions (41) and has tallied a combined 10 touchdowns while Smith is second on the team in rushing with 424 yards and five touchdowns on 94 carries.
If the Mountaineers can control the ball with their running game it will make life easier on whoever is at quarterback and keep the Kansas offense, which has had trouble scoring points all season with an average of 15.0 points per game, on the sideline.