Another week means another must win game for the Mountaineers as they say goodbye to Milan Puskar Stadium for the 2022 season.
WVU will welcome the number 15 ranked Kansas State Wildcats, a team that’s 7-3 overall and has been competitive in conference play all year long, going 5-2 against Big 12 teams. This, of course, makes the Wildcats the favorites against a West Virginia team that, despite coming off an historic win for the program over Oklahoma, has been widely inconsistent throughout the season.
What does WVU need to do to get their fifth win and create something to play for next week in the regular season finale?
Try to contain Deuce Vaughn
Easing said then done, but a necessity if WVU stands a chance to hang with Kansas State. Vaughn, who has already surpassed 1,000 yards rushing with 1,081, has been on a 5.5 yards per carry pace and just ran for 106 yards last week. Both WVU head coach Neal Brown and defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley talked about how Vaughn is more than just any running back due to also being a dangerous weapon in the passing game and offering a combination of size and athleticism a player would have to be born with. In addition to his success on the ground, he’s produced 434 yards as a receiver with 25 receptions.
This will be the tall task for WVU’s defensive line, a group that has steadily improved throughout the season. Fittingly enough, Dante Stills’ final home game would be one with so much pressure on his unit to step up.
Take care of the football
Death, taxes and WVU needing to take better care of the football. This continues to be a key because it continues to be a problem. And even though turnovers, there were two of them, did not cost West Virginia the game against the Sooners, the Oklahoma victory was the very first time WVU won a game despite losing the turnover margin all season.
Assuming both quarterbacks play, JT Daniels, in particular, needs to be more careful. He threw what could have been a costly pick on Saturday and his three interceptions in Lubbock tossed gasoline on the fire the Red Raiders were igniting. Kansas State is built to be able to take advantage of mistakes, especially with a threat like Vaughn who can churn the clock more often with extra possessions.
According to the coaching staff, it’s been an emphasis all season, but the defense has just not had enough luck being able to create takeaways in their favor. When this happened, it’s meant good things for the Mountaineers as a team. An interception by Jacolby Spells sealed the Black Diamond Trophy in Blacksburg and forcing turnovers, including a blocked field goal that resulted in points, led the way in beating Baylor, Brown’s biggest win at WVU prior to Oklahoma.
Defensive lineman Jordan Jefferson reiterated that they are always working on trying to force turnovers and the defense as a whole is not discouraged when it doesn’t happen. It’s a good thing to not get down about it, and it can’t be denied that luck is a factor, but it’s pretty tough to believe WVU could beat to win again, especially against a ranked opponent, while losing the turnover battle. However, maybe this won’t be as big of a deal if the offense can take better care of the ball.
Beating Oklahoma kept hope alive for this season to at least end in a bowl game, but Kansas State is a much tougher animal than the 2022 Sooners are and WVU will have to be at their best to pick up another win and have a chance to then avoid a losing regular season at Oklahoma State. Kickoff between the Mountaineers and Wildcats is set for 2 pm EST and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.