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November 30, 2012For a closer look at the KU-West Virginia game we caught up with Keenan Cummings from WVSports.com
What has made the West Virginia offense be so successful?
Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has a system that works and he gets the ball to his playmakers in space. It doesn't hurt his efforts that the Mountaineers have a number of very talented players starting with quarterback Geno Smith. A three-year starter, Smith has rewritten the WVU passing records and is the unquestioned leader of this team. The Mountaineers have two of the best wide receivers in the Big 12 Conference if not the entire country in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, and while Bailey is more of a traditional wide receiver, Austin is an X-Factor that can be moved all over the field and line up in a number of different spots.
The rushing game has struggled at times, but with the return of Shawne Alston mixed with Austin getting some snaps in the backfield, the Mountainers look primed to get back to the balance that was so key to their efforts earlier in the season.
You never hear about West Virginia defense. What type of defense do they run and who are the key players?
After over a decade in Jeff Casteel's unique 3-3-5 defense, the Mountaineers moved to a more traditional multiple 3-4 look, where one outside linebacker is more of a hybrid safety and the other can drop down on the line to help with pass rushing. It's been a difficult season for the young defense as they've struggled to contain many of the high-powered offenses in the Big 12 after some key personnel losses in the off-season, but they've continued to develop and put together one of their best performances of the season last week against Iowa State.
Some of the best players on the defense thus far have been a pair of freshmen in redshirt linebacker Isaiah Bruce and true free safety Karl Joseph. The pair leads the team in tackles and has the athleticism that is required in the new scheme. Up front, junior Shaq Rowell serves as the run stuffer for the group which has been very strong at stopping opponent's ground-games this season.
Has there been any interesting news- i.e. injuries, position switches, off the field news, etc?
Cornerback Ishmael Banks will be out with a knee injury but the Mountaineers have been using a rotation at that position for much of the season. Tavon Austin will likely continue to receive carries out of the backfield after two consecutive successful weeks at the position. But for the most part it's business as usual at camp Mountaineer.
What has been the reaction of the West Virginia fans as their first season in the Big 12 comes to an end?
It's a mixed bag. On one side of the coin, there is obvious disappointment after being ranked as high as fifth in the country after beating Texas in Austin then falling in five straight games. Some of those were lopsided, which was a very frustrating portion of the season especially when you also factor in some of the heartbreaking defeats and the fact that the Mountaineers are two-points away from being 8-3. But it's been a great experience for the fanbase to get to some of these new venues and the obvious level of competition is something that has people excited for the future. It's been a wake-up call of sorts, but the Mountaineers have proven they belong and can play with the rest of the league.
What are the keys to this game and how do you see it playing out?
Stopping the run on defense for West Virginia. It's been the strength of the group for the entire season and it's obviously the strength of the Kansas offense, so it will be an interesting battle of strength on strength. If the Mountaineers can win that battle it will force Kansas into doing things it doesn't want to do and isn't comfortable doing. On offense West Virginia needs to continue to move the football and take advantage of scoring touchdowns once they get in the red zone. I do believe that this will be a tough challenge for Kansas on the road against the Mountaineers on a day when they will celebrate 21 seniors final home game. It's a game West Virginia should win, and I expect it will, but emotions can't come into play and the Mountaineers must be ready for a Kansas team that's been very competitive.