Kansas football drops to 0-4 on the season with a 38-17 loss to West Virginia on the road Saturday.
Junior linebacker Dru Prox and the Kansas defense were much improved against the Mountaineers, making critical stops in the first half to limit West Virginia's scoring chances. Kansas also forced its first two takeaways of the season.
“When you fly around on defense good things are going to happen,” said Joshua Eargle, who filled in as head coach for Les Miles Saturday. “I thought they did a great job of trying to force turnovers.”
The defense did struggle in the second half, giving up three touchdowns and a total of 313 yards. Still, the young secondary and front seven looked much improved from past weeks.
On the Mountaineers’ first drive, Kansas senior linebacker Denzel Feaster, who was later ejected for targeting, forced a fumble after a huge hit on West Virginia redshirt senior wide receiver T.J. Simmons. Kansas would capitalize off the turnover with a field goal to go up 3-0.
The defense followed with a stop to set up junior quarterback Miles Kendrick’s 43-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Andrew Parchment. In the first quarter, Kansas did not allow any points and held West Virginia to -16 rushing yards.
Early in the second quarter, West Virginia received great field position and was threatening to score at the 27-yard line. On a crucial 3rd-and-11, Prox came up big, forcing an incompletion from West Virginia redshirt junior quarterback Jarret Doege.
The Mountaineers settled for a 44-yard field goal attempt, but the kick sailed wide right and Kansas took over on downs.
“I feel like this is the best game we’ve had so far,” Prox said. “But I’m sure next week is going to be better.”
Junior running back Leddie Brown got going for West Virginia in the second quarter, catching a 6-yard touchdown pass to give the Mountaineers a 14-10 lead. Brown finished with 231 total yards and two touchdowns.
To close out the half, the Kansas defense made several crucial stops, including one after Kendrick’s second interception of the game. The defense held West Virginia to just a field goal when the Mountaineers had great field position, and the Jayhawks went into halftime down 17-10.
“I feel like that was a big confidence boost that we needed as a defense,” Prox said. “And I feel like that’s what helped us play with such high energy throughout the game.”
West Virginia came out attacking in the second half, and the Kansas defense could not stay strong besides an interception by defensive lineman Malcolm Lee early in the third quarter.
“I saw the tackle and the guard leave so I knew it was a screen and I just started backpedaling a little bit,” Lee said. “[Doege] just kind of lobbed it up to me. Just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
After that, Brown burst up the middle for a 87-yard touchdown run to give the Mountaineers a 24-10 lead. On the next drive, they added another seven points with an 8-yard touchdown pass by Doege on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Kansas offense could not get anything going in the second half and forced the defense to keep making stops. West Virginia added another touchdown with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter to seal the game.
“[The defense] fought their tails off,” Eargle said. “I’m proud of those guys on the defense. I thought they played with their heart and soul.”
The trio of junior safety Davon Ferguson, sophomore safety Kenny Logan Jr. and Prox highlighted the effort of the Kansas defense. Ferguson led the Jayhawks with nine tackles, while Logan finished with eight tackles and one pass breakup. Prox tallied eight tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss.
Next up for Kansas will be the Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan against Kansas State next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.