West Virginia bounced back with a 37-10 win over No. 16 Kansas State at Mountaineer Field after the disappointing loss to Texas Tech last week. This is most certainly a big win despite the Mountaineers being favored heading into the game. First, it keeps West Virginia alive for a spot in the Big 12 Championship, and second, the team showed growth despite taking a step back last week.
The Mountaineer defense gave the offense excellent field position to start the game after Nicktroy Fortune batted freshman quarterback Will Howard’s pass into the air, located it then came down with the ball just inside Kansas State territory. However, the offense was unable to capitalize after Leddie Brown busted up the middle for an 11 yard on the first play and had to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt that went wide left.
Kansas State responded following the turnover and moved the ball with ease down to the two-yard line, but the Mountaineer defense bowed up and held the Wildcats to a field goal.
West Virginia answered with a field goal of their own after methodically moving the ball down the field. Then, the field position battle commenced until Bryce Ford-Wheaton broke open on a quick post, and Jarret Doege hit him in stride for a 58-yard gain, and two plays later, West Virginia scored the games first touchdown.
That was the beginning of three consecutive drives that resulted in touchdowns to give West Virginia a comfortable 24-10 lead going into halftime. All three drives involved big plays, something West Virginia has struggled with this season, capitalizing after big plays.
T.J. Simmons ripped off a big 32-yard reception, and on the final scoring drive for the Mountaineers in the first half, tight end Mike O’laughlin started the drive with a tough 18-yard catch over the middle, breaking tackles along the way.
The offense could have made a statement to start the second half but had to settle for a field goal to extend the lead 27-10.
The defense put the final nail in the coffin despite the game only being in the third quarter after reading the screen and Dylan Tonkery coming up with an interception for a pick-six. The Mountaineer defense held Kansas State to just 74 yards of total offense in the second half.
The defense flew around, and being aware that Kansas State quarterback Will Howard is a true freshman, he threw a good ball, but the Mountaineer secondary played well. Sean Mahone, Nicktroy Fortune, and outside of one bad play, Dreshun Miller.
West Virginia limited their mistakes and overcame a couple of penalties to keep drives alive. Dropped passes have been a glaring issue all season, but they weren’t a factor against the Wildcats, and the running game was back on track after a subpar performance last week against Texas Tech.
I think I say it every week, but Leddie Brown is getting stronger as the season goes along, and it’s impressive considering the number of touches he gets throughout the game. He finished the afternoon with 102 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown and chipped in four receptions for 28 yards.
This is still a young team, but they are starting to play with a little more consistency at home, and they’ll have an opportunity to show they can play up to this level on the road next week at Texas. Getting off to a quick start would be the next step in this team's growth, while the defense needs to show they can play all four quarters for consecutive weeks.
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