Four games into the college season, West Virginia will finally welcome thousands of people to a home football game. Kansas plans to have coach Les Miles there, too.
Miles announced last week that he tested positive for COVID-19 and has quarantined at his home. In a video Sunday, Miles said his health was good and “I can’t wait to get back to our players and our coaches as soon as it is safe to do so.”
On Wednesday, Kansas athletic director Jeff Long said Miles was expected to be at Saturday’s game “as long as things stay on track.”
Kansas defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said Miles is popular among his players, “so it has kind of motivated them to make sure that while he’s away, that they stay the course and continue to prepare for West Virginia.”
The Mountaineers (2-1, 1-1 Big 12) are allowing up to 15,000 fans, or 25% of the stadium capacity, when they welcome the Jayhawks (0-3, 0-2).
In two previous home games, only the families of players and coaches were allowed to attend.
“I’m excited about welcoming back our fans,” said West Virginia coach Neal Brown. “We’ve missed them. We’ve missed our season ticket holders. We’ve missed our students and we’ve missed our alumni. I anticipate a great atmosphere.”
West Virginia has won six straight in the series.
Some other things to know about the Jayhawks and Mountaineers:
OFFENSES NEED HELP
Both teams are looking to get more out of their offenses. Kansas ranks last among the 76 FBS teams that have played with 8.2 passing yards per completion. West Virginia is 59th at 10.6 yards.
Brown said he’s looking for either broken tackles on runs or more explosive pass plays. Jarret Doege threw 42 passes in a double-overtime win over Baylor but had just 211 yards.
Offensive coordinator Gerad Parker said if long passes fall incomplete, West Virginia needs to keep throwing them.
”Back from where I grew up, there’s an old adage: You can’t win the Kentucky Derby by screaming ‘whoa,’” Parker said. “We don’t want to sit there and say whoa. We want to say go, go go.”
Kansas has given significant playing time to several young players on defense. Eliot said Kansas has had missed opportunities with three dropped interceptions and three forced fumbles that weren’t recovered.
“We’re developing some depth at these positions, so hopefully we can get the play count down by each player and we can get some fresh guys out there that can play hard and play aggressive,” he said.
POOKA AND PARCHMENT
Brown is wary of two Kansas stars who have not quite gotten on track this season.
Running back Pooka Williams is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. The 2018 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year has yet to surpass 100 yards in a game in 2020.
“I fully expect them to line him up all over the field,” Brown said. ”He’s a lot stronger than people give him credit for.”
Andrew Parchment caught five passes for 132 yards and two scores in a 29-24 loss to the Mountaineers last year. The senior has 75 receiving yards this season, including a touchdown.
“The Parchment kid really hurt us last year,” Brown said.
West Virginia defensive lineman Darius Stills, the preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year, is coming off a 2.5-sack performance against Baylor. His younger brother, Dante, has an 10-7 edge in tackles so far. The pair each had seven sacks a year ago.
“I try to do better, or just try and compete with him, because you know right now he’s playing at a really high level,” Dante Stills said. “I’ve got to try and match that. We don’t really compete in a battle. We compete in trying to get each other better.”
FIVE IN FIVE
West Virginia is the only Big 12 team scheduled to play in each of the next five weeks. The Mountaineers are entering the easiest stretch of the schedule. Their next game is at Texas Tech (1-2, 0-2) on Oct. 24.
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