October 28, 2015

West Virginia, Kansas State and Kansas have lost more than just every one of their Big 12 Conference games. All have lost key players to injuries.

Senior safety Karl Joseph suffered a season-ending right knee injury in practice after the Mountaineers had played only one conference game. The Wildcats and Jayhawks both have been forced to use multiple quarterbacks after injuries to the expected starters and backups.

And now second-ranked Baylor, the two-time defending Big 12 champion and one of the league's three undefeated teams, will have to move forward without the quarterback tied for the Bowl Subdivision lead with 29 touchdown passes.

Seth Russell fractured a bone in his neck on a running play when the Bears beat Iowa State last week. The junior quarterback faces season-ending surgery to repair damage to his cervical vertebra.

With Russell out, highly touted freshman Jarrett Stidham takes over as the starter for playoff-contending Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12). He has played at the end of every game (24 of 28 passing for 331 yards with six TDs, no interceptions), but his first start will come after this week's open date, on Nov. 5 at Kansas State (3-4, 0-4).

The Wildcats? They have been using a receiver at quarterback. K-State lost starter Jesse Ertz on the first series of the season with a knee injury. One of the backups, Alex Delton, has a knee injury. Current starter Joe Hubener has also been banged up, forcing them to use receiver Kody Cook at quarterback, a position he played a bit in junior college.

K-State, 0-4 in the Big 12 for the first time since 2001, has also played all season without injured senior Dante Barnett, its best defensive back. Then fellow starting defensive backs Danzel McDaniel and Kaleb Prewett missed last week's game at Texas.

Even Wildcats coach Bill Snyder has been knocked down, getting wiped out when the K-State's Morgan Burns was pushed out of bounds on a kickoff return last weekend. Snyder went toppling over, lost his headset, but the spry 76-year-old hopped up and rejoined the offensive huddle.

''What were my other options?'' he said.

With an open date this week before hosting Baylor, the coach and his players all have extra time to heal.

Joseph, who had five interceptions in four games before getting hurt in a non-contact drill at practice, was West Virginia's second-leading tackler and inspirational leader on defense and was known for his punishing hits.

''It's tough from the experience point of view,'' WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. ''You're relying on guys like that who have been in the heat of the battle to be able to handle that and be able to make the plays you need them to make, especially when it counts. ... You're always going to replace good players, but you kind of wish you had the whole offseason to do that.''

Jarrod Harper has nine tackles in two games since taking over for Joseph, but the Mountaineers (3-3, 0-3) allowed 62 points in their last game at second-ranked Baylor. They have lost three in a row going into Thursday night's game at fourth-ranked TCU, when cornerbacks Terrell Chestnut (shoulder) and Ricky Rumph (death in family) are both expected to be out.

The Horned Frogs (7-0, 4-0) have stayed undefeated even while plagued by injuries on defense. They are still without five expected starters, but got defensive tackle Davion Pierson back for the past three games.

Kansas (0-7, 0-4) lost presumptive starting quarterback Michael Cummings in the spring game to a torn knee ligament, and starter Montell Cozart sprained his shoulder four weeks ago and now may switch positions. Third-string quarterback Deondre Ford tore ligaments in his thumb and now the Jayhawks are down to freshman Ryan Willis, their No. 4 quarterback in the spring who is about to start his fourth consecutive game.

And the Jayhawks could also be without starting left tackle Jordan Shelley-Smith, who sustained a concussion in last week's game at Oklahoma State. If Shelley-Smith doesn't play, Kansas could be starting freshmen at both tackle spots against Oklahoma.

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AP Sports Writers Dave Skretta and John Raby contributed to this report.

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AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org

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