Mountaineers Rush Past Kansas

mountaineers rush past kansas
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Mountaineers Rush Past Kansas

It took all twelve games to get there, but West Virginia officially qualified for a bowl game this weekend. Traveling to Lawrence, Head Coach Neal Brown‘s squad held a 5-6 record after a 31-23 home win over Texas last week. As an apt microcosm of their season, West Virginia struggled at times to put the resurgent Jayhawks away. Ultimately, though, the Mountaineers rush past Kansas and clinch bowl eligibility with a 34-28 win.

Rushing Game Comes Through

As we have written throughout the season, West Virginia struggled at times moving the ball on the ground. This has been true even against some teams that struggled to defend against the run. Kansas was one such team, as they have surrendered about 250 yards per game on the ground this season. As a result, we suspected the game plan would center around establishing the run, but, given the inconsistencies this season, the result could have gone either way.

Things looked a bit bleak early, as Jarret Doege and Leddie Brown had trouble on the first handoff of the game. Brown put the ball on the ground and the Jayhawks recovered. On the next drive, however, Brown opened with another run, this time securing the ball and rumbling for nine yards.

Brown and Mathis Each Tally 100

In total, the Mountaineers rushed for 261 yards and over five yards per carry. Brown eclipsed 1,000 yards for the second straight year by piling up 156 yards on 19 carries, for an average of just over eight yards per carry. Brown added a touchdown and 15 more yards on three receptions. He joins an exclusive club in West Virginia history becoming just the eighth West Virginia back to run for 1,000 yards in two straight seasons.

Brown also yielded plenty of snaps and carries to Tony Mathis. Mathis, for his part, added 118 yards on the ground on 22 carries, averaging nearly five-and-a-half yards per attempt. The effort represented Mathis’ first 100-yard game. Indeed, he smashed previous career highs in rushing attempts (18), rushing yards (55), and yards per carry (an even five).

Credit due to the offensive line, which, for the most part, held its blocks and showed the resiliency needed to push through their early- and mid-season struggled to finish the year strong. Mathis’ effort and the offensive line’s in-season improvement (something that is relatively rare) certainly represent positive signs heading into next season.

Brown Has Not Lost the Team

Some of the more emotional fans and Mountaineer writers lobbed hand grenades at Brown and the locker room this season. Some of that frustration, at least in isolation, was justifiable. 2021 represented a strange season. At their peak, the Mountaineers played solid football. At their valleys, however, West Virginia looked like a four-win team, at best. Clock management and on-field communication suffered at critical times.

These things led overzealous fans and writers to speculate that Brown totally lost the locker room. His post-game comments prove otherwise. Brown focused heavily on the buy-in and resiliency of his team. Those things are not offered by a team not bought in. This proves especially true as West Virginia literally limped out of Lawrence missing half of their scholarship linebackers and secondary players.

We will add more in our season recap series. While six and six remains far from ideal, the season could have turned completely sour after the loss to Baylor. That it did not stands as a testament to the team’s buy-in. Certainly, some players wanted out. With the transfer portal, that will happen every year now. On the whole, however, the Mountaineers finished strong and will look to add more momentum during the Early Signing Period and bowl season.

Main Image courtesy AP Photo/Ed Zurga