When that never developed, K-State was forced to rely more heavily on the arm of quarterback Jesse Ertz. But Ertz, a solid, workmanlike player, finished just 10-of-30 for 166 yards and an interception with no touchdown passes, and could never overcome the dearth of the running game so dear to KSU's offensive prowess. It marked the second time in two series home games Tony Gibson's defense controlled the 'Cats on the ground, allowing just 120 yards on 42 runs, an average of just 2.9 yards per carry.
That was still far better than what Kansas State managed in 2014, when it gained all of three feet against West Virginia. But the Wildcats never found a true flow to their offense, which finished with 286 yards and was limited to a paltry 108 in the second half as the Mountaineers held KSU to three points. It was the key of the game for a team suffering issues on the two other sides of the ball. The offense again struggled in the red zone and fumbled away one possession, while Skyler Howard had a pick on the second drive of the game for the second straight contest. Special teams was harried and harassed in the coverage and return games, and saddled with constant penalties. But as it has done for the better part of the last two-plus years, WVU turned to its defense to keep it in these type of games, and Gibson's unit answered again.
Linebacker David Long was excellent in his first start in place of Sean Walters. Elijah Battle was inserted in place of Maurice Fleming, who has had a nagging ankle injury since the Youngstown State game, and Gibson said the corner was so good he deserved Big 12 Player of the Week honors. The front, along with some additional help in the numbers game, got pressure on the K-State pocket. The back end held up even with allowing a series of first downs on slant patterns late. And the fits in the run game were very solid, especially considering the mixture of looks and calls the Wildcats use.
West Virginia faced quarterback power, run-pass options, a prototypical option, isos, off tackle rushes and counters to the edge that sometimes resulted in a solid gain. But through it all it remained largely stoic, particularly late when Kansas State had the ball and a chance to go ahead late. WVU allowed 33 yards on the last ditch drive, and bent without breaking. When Ertz's third and 12 pass fell incomplete, it set KSU up with a 43-yard field goal that missed wide left to end the threat.
"I watched the near upright," Gibson said. "I saw it missed. Whew. Is it over yet?"
Yes, Tony, it is - for at least a few weeks as West Virginia moves into its second and final open week at 4-0. The win ends the KSU series win streak and should provide a major boost to the morale with time to heal and get better in the secondary before a difficult road game with Texas Tech. Check out Gibson's comments above, and listen as corner Rasul Douglas details the play in the defensive backfield and gives his thoughts on the overall performance in the victory.