Following a disappointing 34-27 loss to Texas Tech last week, The West Virginia Mountaineers rebounded in a big way dismantling the No. 16 Kansas State Wildcats 37-10 Saturday afternoon at Mountaineer Field.
“Great win. I thought it was a three-phase win. I thought we played well on offense, defense, and special teams.” said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown. “A lot of respect for Kansas State and Coach (Chris) Klieman. They’re 5-1, ranked No. 16 in the country – solid football team in all three phases. Really, really proud of our staff. I thought they had a great plan in all three phases. I thought our players competed. I told them all week that that’s how you’re going to be evaluated on how you compete. I thought they just had a very business-like approach from the very beginning. Without a doubt, that’s the most complete game we’ve played in our two years here - just proud, proud of everyone in our organization, now we have to continue to keep it moving.”
The defense gave the offense an early opportunity after corner Nicktroy Fortune tipped the ball up in the air and came down with it inside Kansas State territory at the 44-yard line to end the game’s opening drive. However, after an 11-yard run by Leddie Brown, the Mountaineers were forced to attempt a 51-yard field goal that would go wide left.
Kansas State responded after the turnover moving getting yards in junks and fake jet sweep play action pass to tight end Briley Moore go the Wildcats down to the 20-yard line. Two plays later, Kansas State was set up first and goal from the two-yard line, but the Mountaineer defense held Kansas State out of the endzone and settled for a 21-yard field goal.
The West Virginia offense started slow but got going early in the second quarter sparked by a 58-yard reception from Bryce Ford-Wheaton on a quick post that put the Mountaineers down at the Kansas State seven-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Jarret Doege hit Ali Jennings in the back of the endzone to give the Mountaineers a 10-3 lead.
That was the beginning of three straight touchdown drives with the following two highlighted by a 32-yard reception from TJ Simmons and tight end Mike O’laughlin hauled an 18-yard pass, lowering his shoulder and shrugging off defenders along the way as the Mountaineers took a 24-10 lead into the half.
“I thought the offense really controlled the game,” said Brown. “I thought up front, we played with a lot of continuity. Those guys are really talented at defensive end. (Junior defensive end Wyatt) Hubert is a guy who’s going to make a lot of money rushing the passer. We competed and tried to do some things to take some pressure off our tackles. I thought all of our phases just played well. We averaged 6-plus yards per play, 5-of-5 in the red zone. We had to kick a field goal or two, but we came away with points.
“On third downs, they typically play really good third-down defense. Individually, when you look at it, (redshirt junior quarterback Jarret) Doege goes for his third-straight game over 300 yards. (redshirt sophomore wide receiver Bryce Ford) Wheaton, I think maybe for the first time in his career, over 100 yards. Then (junior running back) Leddie (Brown), for the fourth time in six games, is over 100, and one of them he was in the 90s.”
“So, we were just really consistent. I think a lot of it was offensive line related. And our tight ends, (redshirt sophomore) TJ Banks and (redshirt sophomore) Mike O’Laughlin, they didn’t show up in the stat sheet as much as they have over the last two games, but they played really well, and they had to get in there and compete against those defensive ends.”
Defensively, West Virginia only gave up 225 yards of total offense and clamped down in the second half, allowing just 73 total yards, and a pick six from linebacker Dylan Tonkery early in the third quarter gave the Mountaineers a 24-point lead.
“They had 41 rushing yards. I think if you want to look at a stat, that tells the story of our year so far. In our four wins, we’ve really done a good job of limiting rushing yards. In the two games we lost, Oklahoma State was right at 200, and I think Texas Tech was in the 180s, but only 41 rushing yards. I haven’t seen final sacks, but I know we had a number of sacks and TFLs, which is what our defense is built for. Then takeaways, we had three takeaways. I was really happy for (redshirt senior linebacker Dylan) Tonkery to get that (interception) in the end zone. One of our very own, so that was a great moment. I thought it was our energy and our physicality across the board defensively. Really, in five out of six games, we’ve played like that. For whatever reason, we just didn’t have the same bounce about us last week. But great, great job of rebounding.”
Middle linebacker Tony Fields led the defense with 15 tackles (5 solo) while Nicktroy Fortune, Sean Mahone, and Dylan Tonkery all had interceptions as the Mountaineers held the Wildcats scoreless in the second half and coasted to a 37-10 victory.
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