For the second week in a row, Kansas University’s football team will call on some of that luxurious running-back depth it entered the season with back in August.
KU coach Charlie Weis said sophomore Darrian Miller likely would miss his second game in a row — 11 a.m. today vs. West Virginia at Memorial Stadium — while dealing with personal issues that kept him out of KU’s loss to Oklahoma State last week.
Weis has been sure to emphasize that Miller, the immediate back-up to senior starter James Sims, was not in trouble with the football program or in school.
“He’s got some personal things that he needs to deal with that are more important than football,” Weis said. “... When they are resolved, he’ll be back. I don’t know when they will get resolved.”
Stepping into his spot on the depth chart is junior Brandon Bourbon, who has spent most of the season playing behind Tony Pierson at KU’s F spot, a hybrid running back/wide-receiver spot.
Sims said being without Miller would be tough but added that he had faith in Bourbon to fill the role.
“It’s just like a body that went down,” Sims said. “But we’ve still got plenty of backs that can contribute at any time.”
Junior punt returner Connor Embree will slide into Bourbon’s spot behind Pierson.
The Kansas offense has had nice production out of its screen-passing game during the past couple of games, and earlier this week Weis explained why more screen passes were being called, why they were working and why he thought KU could get more out of them.
“It’s a sure completion that has very low risk,” he said. “We had a couple of home runs (against Oklahoma State), a couple of really big ones, plays that got a couple of yards that could have gone for 50. But that’s what happens when you miss one block.”
Shepherd stays hot
Cornerback JaCorey Shepherd had a career day in the kickoff-return game Saturday against Oklahoma State, and the junior will keep his role at least for today’s game against WVU.
“I’m going to use him again,” Weis said. “But I would like not to use him. We’re so thin at the corner position, and he’s played so well for us. It’s just that he has proven to be by far our best kickoff returner.”
Asked how he was able to find an extra gear on kickoff returns despite being on the field at cornerback throughout the drives that precede them, Shepherd said fatigue never was an issue.
“I get like an extra boost of energy,” Shepherd said. “Just because I know I’m about to get the ball.”
Kansas and West Virginia are meeting for just the third time in history. WVU leads the series 2-0 and is playing its first game in Lawrence.
Last year, WVU topped the Jayhawks, 59-10, in the season finale in Morgantown, W.Va. The first meeting came 71 years earlier, when the Mountaineers blanked Kansas 21-0 in Morgantown. Weis and WVU coach Dana Holgorsen are facing off for just the second time, and the Mountaineers are 3-1 all-time under Holgorsen on the road in the month of November.
The Jayhawks are underdogs once again this week, but oddsmakers either have a little more respect for the Jayhawks or a little less respect for West Virginia in this one.
The spread for today’s game opened at West Virginia -7.5 and, basically, has stayed there all week. Most places have the game-day line between 6.5 and 7 in favor of the visitors. After having covered the spread in three of their last four games entering last weekend, the Jayhawks failed to stay within 31 in a 42-6 loss to OSU and are now 3-6 against the spread this season.