The West Virginia University football program will look to improve its offensive struggles and capture its seventh straight win against Kansas this Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The Mountaineers (2-1, 1-1 Big 12) are coming off a bye week after defeating Baylor in double overtime at home on Oct. 3, despite struggling for most of the game on offense and committing four turnovers.
“We’ve got to get better at it,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said Tuesday on the need to pass the ball downfield more efficiently. “We’ve shown the ability to run the football decently to above average, but we’ve got to be able to stretch the field and our receivers and our quarterback got to be able to make some plays.”
One player that has been much improved is junior running back Alec Sinkfield. On the season, Sinkfield has been very efficient running the football, racking up 187 yards and two touchdowns on only 28 carries. Brown said that he wants to give Sinkfield more opportunities to make plays in the game.
“We didn’t do a good enough job of getting him the football versus Baylor,” Brown said. “We’re a production-based business, so if you continue to produce, you got to get the football.”
For Kansas (0-3, 0-2), the Jayhawks have a do-it-all player that can break out an explosive play at any moment in junior running back Pooka Williams. For his career, he has more than 2,300 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.
“He’s a very active player,” junior defensive lineman Dante Stills said of Williams. “He’s quick, he’s fast. We got a taste of that last two years so just coming into this game, we got to remain focused and make sure he [doesn’t] make any explosive plays.”
While the offense has struggled for the Mountaineers, the defense has been playing very well so far this season. WVU ranks first in the Big 12 in total defense, giving up only 268 yards per game, and in pass defense, which gives up 166 passing yards per game.
This week, they will go against a Kansas team that has struggled offensively, with its highest scoring output coming against Coastal Carolina with 23 points in a 15-point loss. Junior quarterback Miles Kendrick has only put up 246 passing yards through three games with two touchdowns matching his two interceptions.
“If you’re going to play hard on defense and you’re going to play physical and you do what you’re coached to do, then we’re going to have a chance every week,” Brown said his defense's success this season. “We’ve got to continue to maintain that.”
This weekend, WVU will be allowing fans to attend a game for the first time this season due to COVID-19 restrictions. According to Stills, playing without fans was difficult at first, but it eventually turned into a practice environment and the only motivation came from his teammates and coaches. Now that fans will be in person to support the team, it has him in good spirits.
“I am definitely excited for the fans to come back this next game against Kansas,” Stills said. “Definitely excited.”
The game on Saturday is slated to kick off at noon and will be nationally televised on FOX.