Notes and observations from the Mountaineers' 24-23 loss in Manhattan.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Special teams proved to be the difference as Kansas State return man Morgan Burns torched the Mountaineers for big plays all afternoon, allowing Kansas State to net its sixth win of the year and sending West Virginia to its fifth loss.

  • ·         Coming into this game, West Virginia had not beaten Kansas State since joining the Big 12 in 2012. Kansas State and Oklahoma are the only teams West Virginia has not beaten since coming to the conference.
  • ·         West Virginia was 1-4 all-time against Kansas State heading into this matchup. The Wildcats emerged victorious in the last four meetings, after West Virginia won the first contest against Kansas State in 1931.
  • ·         Running back Wendell Smallwood came into this game with 1,306 rushing yards on the season, which is the eight-most by a WVU ball carrier in a year. He is within shouting distance of putting himself into the top five on that list.
  • ·         West Virginia’s first possession of the game looked promising, until Kansas State started bringing the blitz. The Wildcats dropped Skyler Howard for two sacks on the drive, stalling WVU’s momentum and forcing the Mountaineers to punt after crossing midfield.
  • ·         Kansas State had early success moving the ball on its first drive too, but like West Virginia, stalled after crossing midfield. Quarterback Joe Hubener had a chance to make the game’s first big play on third-and-long, but overthrew Deante Burton streaking down the sideline in one-on-one coverage. Terrell Chestnut appeared to be beat on the play, but recovered well once the ball was in the air.
  • ·         Pinned back inside his own five, punter Nick O’Toole unleashed a 53-yard punt that when combined with a minus-11-yard return and a 10-yard penalty, completely flipped field position. K-State figured to take over near midfield, but a comedy of errors forced the Wildcats back to their own 11 to start their second drive.
  • ·         West Virginia went eight plays, 35 yards and netted the first points of the game when Josh Lambert nailed a 45-yard field goal with just under three minutes to play in the first quarter. The Mountaineers had the chance to extend the drive on third-and-short, but Rushel Shell was stopped in the backfield which brought out the field goal unit.
  • ·         Safety Jeremy Tyler made an excellent solo tackle to stall Kansas State’s next drive. Dalvin Warmack got the ball on the edge on a pitch from Hubener on third-and-short, but Tyler rallied to the ball, made a good form tackle on an island and forced the Wildcats to punt.
  • ·         Freshman return man Gary Jennings made the game’s first big mistake, muffing a punt and giving Kansas State life. The Wildcats recovered the ball at WVU’s 48 yard line and hit a big pass play for 27 yards on the next play to move into scoring position.
  • ·         West Virginia’s defense bowed its neck after that, halting the drive at the 23 yard line. Matthew McCrane made sure the turnover was converted into points, however, when he booted a 40-yard field goal through the uprights to tie the game 3-3 with 11:10 to go.
  • ·         Jovon Durante made a critical drop two plays later. He had nothing but open field in front of him, but forgot to bring the ball with him. He was immediately taken out of the game by Dana Holgorsen.
  • ·         Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski picked off Joe Hubener at WVU’s 44-yard line to gain some momentum back for the Mountaineers. It was the 22nd interception for West Virginia’s defense this year, which is tied for third-most in WVU history.
  • ·         On the next defensive possession, Daryl Worley made it 23 picks for the WVU defense this season when he made a nice play on a deep ball down the middle from Hubener. It was Worley’s sixth interception of the season.
  • ·         West Virginia made good on this turnover, marching 47 yards on five plays for a score after Jovon Durante atoned for his mistake with a 24-yard touchdown catch. Skyler Howard floated a beautiful ball to the corner of the end zone for Durante, who ran under it and got a foot down right before running out of room to give WVU a 10-3 lead with a little less than three minutes left in the half.
  • ·         West Virginia went 61 yards on seven plays in 52 seconds and ended the half with a 19-yard field goal by Josh Lambert to extend its lead to 13-3. The Mountaineers had the ball at KSU’s two yard line with five seconds left, and Dana Holgorsen elected to go the safe route and take a two-score lead into the locker room.
  • ·         Kansas State made its first explosive play of the day on the first play of the second half when Morgan Burns took the kickoff back 67 yards to WVU’s 33.
  • ·         Hubener was injured and had to come out of the game a few plays later. Wide receiver Kody Cook took over at QB for the Wildcats.
  • ·         Cook converted his opportunity, completing his first pass for 17 yards, and capping K-State’s drive with a QB sneak for a touchdown to bring the score to 13-10.
  • ·         West Virginia’s offense made matters worse on its next drive, going three-and-out and really injecting life into the K-State crowd. The tide of momentum had officially swung in the Wildcats’ favor.
  • ·         On the first play of K-State’s next drive, Cook hit Deante Burton on a crossing route for a 77-yard touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 17-13 lead. After manufacturing virtually nothing on offense in the first half, Bill Snyder’s team scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the second half.
  • ·         Wendell Smallwood went over 100 yards for the game with 8:24 left in the third quarter. It is the eighth time this season Smallwood has gone over the century mark in rushing yards. He put the Mountaineers back on top with a 14-yard touchdown run to make it 20-17 West Virginia mid-way through the third quarter.
  • ·         Kansas State was on a drive and poised to at least tie the game when an offensive pass interference penalty backed the Wildcats up to the 46 yard line. West Virginia’s defense then made a big stand and forced KSU to punt as the third quarter clock waned.
  • ·         Jordan Thompson made a huge catch on the last play of the third quarter, a 51-yard bomb from Howard to put the Mountaineers in Wildcat territory. Thompson had five catches for 127 yards through three quarters, and was Howard’s most reliable option all day long.
  • ·         West Virginia was unable to cash that drive in for a touchdown, but did manage to widen its lead to 23-17 on a 28-yard Lambert field goal with 13:07 to play.
  • ·         Morgan Burns torched the WVU kick coverage team yet again, this time with a 97-yard touchdown return. His fourth kick return touchdown of the season gave the Wildcats a 24-23 lead.
  • ·         Nick Kwiatkoski came up with a big sack on K-State’s next drive to force the Wildcats to punt the ball away. He streaked into the backfield and only managed to swipe at Kody Cook, but it was enough to bring him down and bring out the punt team.
  • ·         West Virginia was unable to muster enough offense to re-take the lead late in the fourth quarter, and dropped its fifth-consecutive game to Kansas State. The Mountaineers finish the season 7-5 overall and 4-5 in the Big 12. They will learn their bowl fate tomorrow afternoon or evening.

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