West Virginia Completes Comeback over K-State, 17-16
West Virginia Completes Comeback over K-State, 17-16
2-2 (0-1 Big 12)
4-0 (1-0 Big 12)
J. Ertz (QB): 10-30, 166yds, 0TD
C. Jones (RB): 16car, 53yds 0TD
B. Pringle (WR): 4rec 61yds, 0TD
S. Howard (QB): 24-41, 298yds, 1TD
J. Crawford (RB): 18car, 104yds 1TD
J. Durante (WR): 7rec, 67yds, 1TD
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - West Virginia scored the game’s final 14 points to stay unbeaten and complete the comeback against Kansas State, 17-16, on Saturday before 61,701 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium.
The loss was K-State’s first to West Virginia since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12.
Like the last two weeks, K-State (2-2) jumped out to an early advantage, scoring the game’s first 13 points. The Wildcats held a slim margin in total offense at the half, 178-174, but were entirely stumped in the second period of play, mustering only 98 yards. West Virginia (4-0) found its groove after the break, accumulating 248 yards of offense on its way to two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including the game-winner with just over six minutes to play.
K-State’s offensive effort was led by junior quarterback Jesse Ertz, who ran for the Wildcats’ lone touchdown score in the first quarter. Ertz finished with 25 yards on 12 rushing attempts, while completing 10-of-30 passing attempts for 166 yards and one interception.
On the ground, the Wildcats’ running back by committee strategy was held to just 120 yards on Saturday. Senior Charles Jones had the most success, carrying it 16 times for 53 yards while sophomore Dalvin Warmack ran for 35 yards on eight carries. K-State managed just 2.9 yards per rush on its 42 attempts.
To lead K-State receivers was sophomore Byron Pringle, who hauled in four passes for 61 yards. Pringle was followed by sophomore Dominique Heath, who caught two balls for 35 yards, while freshman Isaiah Zuber added two receptions for 29 yards. Senior Deante Burton had the team’s longest reception, his only of the day, for 37 yards.
The Wildcats finished with 286 yards of total offense with 166 yards coming through the air. K-State ran four fewer plays from the line of scrimmage, but won the time of possession battle by more than seven minutes.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats forced two turnovers and won out on 10-of-14 third-down situations, but were ultimately hurt through the air as the Mountaineers averaged 12.4 yards per completion. West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard completed 24-of-41 passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Wildcat front seven only surrendered 124 yards, with 108 of those supplied by running back Justin Crawford.
Junior linebacker Elijah Lee paced all defenders with 14 total tackles, a career-high, including 12 solo tackles, one sack and one interception – the fourth of his career. Senior safety Dante Barnett was in on eight tackles with his fellow captain Jordan Willis getting in on five tackles, including two sacks. Five different Wildcats secured five-or-more tackles on the day.
Special teams duties were ever-so important, as the Wildcats relied on field goal makes. Junior Matthew McCrane delivered on 3-of-4 attempts, connecting from 37, 31, and 22-yards. Junior Nick Walsh and the punting unit were only used five times, with an average of 41.4 yards. In the return game, Pringle accumulated 101 yards on his three returns, including a long return of 58 yards.
For the second consecutive week, the Wildcats received the opening kickoff. Ertz and company were forced to punt on the game’s first drive before the defense worked itself out of a jam on West Virginia’s opening possession, as the Mountaineers were unable to connect on a 30-yard field goal.
Momentum changed midway through the first quarter when Lee intercepted Howard at midfield. Moments later, Ertz completed a 26-yard pass to Heath to the West Virginia 4-yard line. Ertz would complete the score from two yards out, capping off a seven play, 48-yard drive to put K-State up 7-0 with 4:41 to play in the first quarter.
K-State tacked on three more points early in the second half when McCrane converted from 37-yards out.
The defense continued to thwart West Virginia in the second quarter, forcing the Mountaineers into three punting situations, one of which pinned the Wildcats at their own 3-yard line. An 18-yard burst from Warmack followed by a 37-yard completion to Burton set up K-State in opposing territory. The drive stalled, but McCrane hit again, this time from 31 yards, to make the game 13-0 just before the half.
The Mountaineers got on the board to begin the second half, booting through a 37-yard field goal after a 55-yard drive to make it 13-3 with 11:24 to play in the third quarter.
K-State’s special teams unit quickly responded when Pringle returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to the West Virginia 46-yard line. Despite working the ball down to the Mountaineer two-yard line, K-State settled for McCrane’s third field goal make, from 22-yards, to make it 16-3 midway through the third.
West Virginia marched it deep into K-State territory on the next possession after converting on a fourth down opportunity. But, the Wildcat defense didn’t break as Kendall Adams recovered a fumble knocked loose by Reggie Walker at the two-yard line.
To begin the fourth quarter, though, West Virginia found its way back into the red zone. Justin Crawford capped off the eight play, 73-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. K-State’s lead was slimmed to 16-10 with 13:41 left to play.
The Mountaineers forced their first takeaway on K-State’s next possession, intercepting Ertz at their own 31-yard line with just over 10 minutes to play. Four minutes later, West Virginia took its first lead of the game, 17-16, when Howard found Jovon Durante for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
K-State looked poised to win the game, driving into West Virginia as time wound down in the fourth. McCrane came on for 43-yard attempt with 2:03 to play, but his potentially game-winning attempt missed wide left. The Mountaineers’ comeback was cemented as they kneeled out the clock.
The Wildcats return to Manhattan next week to continue league play against Texas Tech (3-1, 1-0 Big 12), with the game set for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff on ESPNU or ESPN2.