WVU Defense Stands Out in Win Over Kansas

Last year’s 31-19 defeat to Kansas seemed like so long ago on Saturday, as West Virginia had no trouble revenging its loss from a year ago.

The Mountaineers, unlike a year ago, took control of the contest early on and really left no doubt at who the best team on the field was in a 33-14 trouncing of the Jayhawks on Homecoming in Morgantown.

West Virginia (3-2) – offensively and defensively – was superior on Saturday against Kansas (2-3), as the Mountaineers outgained the lowly Jayhawks by 381 yards. Kansas, of course, was without former head coach Charlie Weis, who was fired earlier in the week. Interim coach Clint Bowen didn’t have the answers to pull off the upset, either.

WVU quarterback Clint Trickett led the Mountaineers once again to continue his stunning senior season so far. He was 20-of-35 for 302 yards and one touchdown.

"In there at the beginning ... there were some weird things that happened where we'd have a big play and then go three-and-out. That's just the kind of defense they play," Trickett said.

The star of the first half was Trickett’s favorite receiving target Kevin White, who continues to cement himself as one of the top pass-catchers in college football. He had 100-plus yards receiving in the first quarter and finished the game with six catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.

"They started to take away the deep ball after the first quarter," White said. "This year, I'm trying to be more consistent. I thought I did an alright job, but I should've made a lot more plays today ... I thought I had a bad game."

Outside of White, seven other players caught passes from Trickett including Alford, who had four catches for 80 yards.

West Virginia’s rushing game had yet to impress head coach Dana Holgorsen this season prior to Saturday’s game, but it seemed that the Mountaineers found some success. Sophomore running back Rushel Shell finished with 21 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Mountaineers had 255 yards on the ground.

"I thought we ran the ball better than any game this season," Shell said.

Defensively, West Virginia really dominated the game, giving up just 176 yards and only one play of 20 yards or more. In fact, the Mountaineers were so good that it only allowed Kansas to run one play in WVU territory until late in the third quarter. Many times on Saturday Kansas just looked overmatched by the speed and athleticism of the Mountaineer defense. Kansas was forced to punt a WVU-record 14 times. The Jayhawks finished 3-of-17 on third down. Still, the team was unable to come away with a turnover.

"I think coming into this game we were 14th in the country in three-and-outs," said WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. "If we can't get turnovers, I guess we can start to consider those our turnovers."

Players of The Game
Kevin White
Six receptions
132 receiving yards
Nick Kwiatkoski
7 tackles
WVU took an early 9-0 lead on its first two drives, as kicker Josh Lambert connected on field goals of 42, 25 and 43 yards. The offense struggled to score in the red zone, however, a problem that has plagued the Mountaineers in 2014.

WVU didn’t need to travel into the red zone to score its first touchdown. Trickett found White deep down the field for the 63-yard score to give the Mountaineers a commanding 16-0 lead.

Lambert attempted another field goal early in the second quarter, but the ball was blocked and returned by the Jayhawks toward midfield. As with many of KU’s possessions on Saturday, though, it ended with a punt.

West Virginia would add another touchdown to its total, as running back Rushel Shell ran it in from one-yard out to make it 23-0. Alford nearly scored on the play before but a horse collar tackle by Kansas kept him from the end zone.

The Mountaineer capped the half with a 53-yard field goal from Lambert to take a 26-0 lead into the break.

The first was most impressive, especially for the WVU defense, which held the Jayhawks to just 84 yards of total offense and just four first downs.

The Mountaineers may have not found the end zone as much as they hoped in the first half but still managed 343 yards.

Kansas may not have scored if not for another special teams blunder by the Mountaineers. After the defense had forced the Jayhawks to punt for the 10th time, returner Jordan Thompson muffed the fair catch and KU recovered. A handful of plays later, the Jayhawks scored for the first time in the game to make it 26-7.

"If we had more people we liked, we’d probably put them in there," said Holgorsen of the punt return position. "Catching punts is one of the hardest things to do in football … at this point in time … we feel like Jordan gives us the best option. Extremely disappointed in what we saw tonight."

Just as the Jayhawks had some hope, Alford took it all away. On the next play, Alford returned the kickoff 94 yards to the house. Alford really turned on the jets past Kansas special teamers down the sideline. That made it a 33-7 game.

The Mountaineers would give up a 76-yard punt return to make it 33-14.

WVU was led defensively by linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, who had seven tackles.

Kansas' two quarterbacks Michael Cummings and Montell Cozart combined for just 111 passing yards. The Jayhawks leading rushing De'Andre Mann had just one carry for eight yards.

A subdued crowd of 52,164 watched the game from the stands of Milan Puskar Stadium – the smallest home crowd of the season for the Mountaineers.

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