Mountaineers face must win at Kansas this Saturday

MORGANTOWN-Following its 47-40 overtime loss to the University of Texas (7-2, 6-0 Big 12), West Virginia University, its third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineer players (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) find themselves in a ‘must win’ as they prepare to travel to Kansas next Saturday afternoon.

Not only does the old gold and blue find itself in the unenviable position of having to win out just to become bowl eligible, but the Mountaineers also will be taking on a Jayhawks squad looking to end a 27-game conference drought.

“We’ve been here before,” senior defensive back Darwin Cook said. “We, the seniors, have been to a bowl every year we’ve been here so we still have a lot to play for.”

But, will the Mountaineers have enough healthy players to defeat a KU team that is 2-7 on the season?

“We’ll be ready,” Cook, who had a fourth quarter interception erased by a holding call against the defense, said. “We have to be. Our backs are against the wall and we have to come out fighting. Nobody feels sorry for you when you lose.”

Playing its second straight overtime game, a first, West Virginia came up short when a fourth-and-goal pass by Paul Millard was picked off in the end zone by the Longhorns’ Steve Edmond.

“He (Edmond) got to two of them,” UT defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. “He wasn’t going to let the second one get away from him.”

The victory allows Texas to remain unbeaten in conference play heading into a showdown with No. 14 Oklahoma State next Saturday at Darryl K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

“We were very fortunate and came up big,” Longhorns’ head coach Mack Brown said. “We had two really good plays. We got the third down and then got the next one.

“I’ve never been in an overtime fight like this. It was special. This was big time. This was great.”

Not exactly the words WVU’s Holgorsen would use to explain the outcome.

“Obviously, a disappointing loss for our players and coaches. I’m proud of the way they fought out there. Congratulations to coach (Mack) Brown and his staff.

“He is doing a tremendous job. He is one of the greats in this profession, always has been, always will be. Congratulations to them. They’re undefeated in the Big 12, they’re 6-0, and it would’ve been a good win for us, but we just weren’t able to make the plays when it counts, which is tough to take.”

Making the trip to Manhattan Kan., a little tougher will be a quarterback position depleted by injuries as Florida State transfer Clint Trickett went to the sideline in the first quarter and did not return.

“He (Trickett) got his bell rung,” Holgorsen said. “He was knocked out there for a bit. He was back on the sidelines a little bit later, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

But, not fine enough to return to Saturday’s game, leaving doubts surrounding his availability for the upcoming week. That means junior Paul Millard, who was the Mountaineers’ starter in weeks one and two, will, in all likelihood, get the starting nod against the Jayhawks.

“I thought he (Millard) did well,” said the coach. “For a guy that’s been benched and hasn’t taken many reps. He went out there and competed and I was proud of his effort and thought he was able to go in there and try to get the game win. He didn’t make enough throws and we didn’t make enough catches.”

One player who continues to shine is University of Houston transfer running back Charles Sims. The senior finished with 93 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries and enters the final two games of his short WVU career with a chance of eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark.

With 847 yards and eight touchdowns to his credit with two games remaining, Sims would be the first Mountaineer running back to accomplish the feat since Noel Devine.