Jayhawks will need to limit turnovers against Mountaineers

Quarterback Ryan Willis (13) and the Jayhawks have committed 27 turnovers -- three more than any team in the country.

John Rieger/John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said his team quickly moved on from its first loss of the season.

It might also help that Kansas is the next opponent.

The 14th-ranked Mountaineers (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) return home for a Saturday game against Kansas (1-7, 0-5), beginning at 7 p.m. ET from Morgantown, W.Va.

"They’ve been good," Holgorsen said about his players’ reaction to a 37-20 loss at Oklahoma State last weekend. "The one thing that I don’t really have to worry about is the fact that these guys like to play football, they like to prepare to get themselves in position to play."

View from the sidelines: College football cheerleaders 2016.

The Jayhawks are tied with Iowa State at the bottom of the Big 12 standings, and second-year coach David Beaty is winless in 14 conference games. The major problem this season has been turnovers; the Jayhawks have committed 27 of them — three more than any team in the country.

"You can tell on each side of the ball they’ve gotten better," Holgorsen said.

"They have had chances to win. I think one things we learned last week — and the biggest point I made with the team — is we have to play our best every week, or you’ll get beat. It’s no different this weekend."

West Virginia allowed 37 points to the Cowboys last week, but that came after a terrific three-game stretch in which it gave up a total of 43 points to Kansas State, Texas Tech and TCU. The Mountaineers should be stout against a Kansas offense that hasn’t reached double-digit points in three of the past six games.

The Jayhawks were throttled 56-3 at Oklahoma last Saturday.

They started well, playing the Sooners even through much of the first quarter before surrendering 49 points over the next two periods. Beaty’s Air Raid attack managed only 121 yards through the air, a season-low, as Kansas opened with six first downs in the first quarter and finished with 11.

After launching the season with a 55-6 victory against lower-division Rhode Island, the Jayhawks have dropped seven straight to FBS opponents by an average of 29.7 points.

"I said this after the game the other night, man, we’ve got the right guys in this program," Beaty said Tuesday.

"I love those guys, and it makes it easy to come to work every day when you’ve got guys like those guys. They are resilient, and their mind and heart is in the right place when it comes to why they do what they do."

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart, who regained his starting spot before the Oct. 22 loss to Oklahoma State, again appeared uncomfortable last Saturday, often throwing hurried screens and slants that gained little against the Sooners. He finished 20 of 36 for 120 yards, with two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.

"Absolutely, he’s our guy," Beaty said of Cozart starting against West Virginia.

Mountaineers quarterback Skyler Howard was intercepted twice last week in what was his most inefficient game of the season. His steady play helped propel WVU to its 6-0 start, and he has completed 159 of 242 passes for 2,033 yards, with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Howard is 27th nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 149.0.

Starting running back Rushel Shell (103 carries for 503 yards) is the team’s leading rusher, but he left last week’s game in the first half with a lower-body injury. It is not expected to be a long-term setback, although Holgorsen was unclear about Shell’s status as of Tuesday.

If he can’t go, that means more time for Justin Crawford (82 carries, 458 yards), backed by Kennedy McKoy.

Kansas gave TCU a huge scare, missing a field goal in the final seconds of a 24-23 loss, but this matchup figures to be the easiest game left for the Mountaineers, who are tied for third in the Big 12, trailing Oklahoma (5-0) and Oklahoma State (4-1). The rest of West Virginia’s schedule — at Texas, vs. Oklahoma, at Iowa State and vs. Baylor.

The Big 12 hasn’t had an unbeaten champ since it went to single-division play in 2011.

"That was mentioned after the game — you lose one, you’re still in good shape," Holgorsen said.

"We’re disappointed in losing, that’s no question. … It’s not the end of the world. If you pin your whole season on one loss, there’s going to be a lot of disappointed people in the country."