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Kansas looks to continue progress against West Virginia

A fourth-quarter comeback was not enough for Kansas (0-10, 0-7 Big 12) last week as they fell to No. 15 TCU (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) last Saturday in Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. Despite playing well in the game, freshman starting quarterback Ryan Willis threw his only interception of the game with three minutes left in the fourth quarter allowing TCU to hold on by a final score of 23-17.

Willis went into last game banged up with a groin injury that he sustained the week before at Texas, and is still feeling the pain. Although the quarterback is banged up, he is still expected to start this week for the Jayhawks.

“Ryan (Willis) is just the same as he was before. Boy, he’s a tough dude. He looks like he’s getting a little bit better, which is good, and it doesn’t matter. He’s going to play. I think he’d punch me in the mouth if I told him that going in, but he’s that type of guy,” said Kansas head coach David Beaty.

Now Kansas returns home to take on West Virginia (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) this Saturday, Nov. 21. The Jayhawks defeated the Mountaineers in their last matchup in Memorial Stadium two years ago. However, Beaty says this one will be more difficult, as West Virginia needs just one more win to become bowl eligible.

“They get a chance to be bowl eligible if they get this one. So there is plenty of motivation for those guys coming into this game this week,” said Beaty.

The Jayhawks will rely heavily on junior safety Fish Smithson to lead the defense once again on Saturday. Smithson is having a career year and currrently leads the nation in solo-tackles per game, and leads the Big 12 in total tackles per game.

Smithson is the first Jayhawk in the last 15 years to record at least 10 tackles in 5 consecutive games. He had 12 last week against TCU. The captain could be making history on Saturday as he is just 14 tackles shy of cracking Kansas’ top-3 list for most tackles in a single season. If he picks up 14 tackles, he will pass current KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen for third on the all-time list.

Another Jayhawk that is making his mark on history, as Ryan Willis became the Kansas all-time freshman passing leader with 1,377 yards so far this season. The previous leader was Mario Kinsley (2001) who had 1,215 yards in his freshman campaign.

This Saturday’s matchup with West Virginia marks just the fifth meeting between the two schools with the Mountaineers leading the all-time series 3-1.

One thing that the Jayhawks will have to look out for is West Virginia’s high scoring offense that racks up 33.0 points per game, which is good for sixth-best in the offensive-minded Big 12 Conference.

Kansas will need to try and limit their turnovers if they want to have a chance in this game as the Mountaineers have the fifth-best scoring defense and total defense in the Big 12, and are ranked eighth in the nation in turnovers gained (22), 16 of those being interceptions.

This weekend’s game will kickoff at 11 a.m. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Net or listen to the game live on the Jayhawk Radio Network.

After this week’s matchup with West Virginia, the Jayhawks will host Kansas State for the final game of the season on Nov. 28. The Big 12 announced earlier this week that the game time for the sunflower showdown has been set for 3 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.