Notebook: West Virginia Mountaineers – Kansas State Wildcats
In this age of instant communication via Twitter, direct message, Facebook, Instagram and texting, West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning remains an old-fashioned kind of guy.
As part of the preparation for Saturday’s stunning upset of Kansas State on their home field, the same field on which the Wildcats had beaten No. 5 Oklahoma, he wrote letters to his defenders.
No, he didn’t have to mail them, as he could deliver them in a meeting, but he had a point he wanted to make.
A week earlier WVU gave up five touchdowns to Texas Tech in the Red Raiders’ first five possessions.
He explained to them this is the time they have to come out with more than they’ve ever shown before, that when real men are challenged they don’t back down but instead move forward.
He did his part, too, devising a defense that went away in part from his basic principles while addressing a way to counteract Kansas State power running game.
Lacking depth at bandit, he abandoned the position in favor of a four-man front and caused havoc with it.
“We felt coming into this week that with our numbers down we could not hold up against their bigger sets,” head coach Neal Brown explained.
They used Dante and Darius Stills, Reuben Jones, Reese Donahue, Brenon Thrift and Jeffery Pooler Jr. and controlled the run game.
Kansas State was averaging just about 200 rushing yards per game and used it to control Oklahoma when they upset them, getting big chunks of yardage of first down.
In this game they ran the ball 38 times and gained just 122 yards, an average of 3.2 per carry.
And then there was the WVU secondary, which was burned on the game’s first play for a 68-yard touchdown.
They didn’t fold.
“It spoke to our resiliency,” Brown said. “We challenged them this week, especially the guys who are going to be in our program for a long time. Last week we didn’t play hard early. I just don’t understand that. This is not like baseball, or basketball, with all those games.
“Well, we challenged them and they responded.”
The big play, of course, was the last one, Hakeem Bailey’s interception at the three-yard line to stop Kansas State’s final shot at victory, but there was so much more from Exree Loe, the Stills brothers, leading tackler Sean Mahone, who now has 33 tackles in the last three game, Keith Washington and Josh Norwood.
“A lot this year hasn’t gone our way. We were due,” Brown said.
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Who would have guessed that WVU would win if Sam James, who last week caught 14 passes for 224 yarda, would catch just one pass for four yards against Kansas State? Or that WVU would again be without Josh Norwood for three quarters? That’s just what happened.
Want to know college football is all about?
Kansas State beat Oklahoma. West Virginia has never beaten Oklahoma in the Big 12 but beat Kansas State.
Kansas State was a 14.5-point favorite.
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WVU quarterback Jarret Doege said he had no more nerves than would be normal even if he was making his first start for West Virginia.
“It was another game. I’ve done this before,” he said.
Indeed he had, starting 17 games at Bowling Green.
“Jarret prepared himself,” Brown said. “I thought he was under control. He probably has played more games than anyone on offense but Colton McKivitz.”
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Forgotten in all to talk about was that Josh Norwood, the senior safety who gives life to the defense, may have been lost for the year making diving interception that ranked as one of the year’s better plays.
There was no announcement of what the injury was, Brown saying he would address it in his Tuesday press conference, but he had his right arm in a sling after going to the locker room for treatment.
Someone had to step up on defense when Norwood went outand several did so, including Sean Mahone and Exree Loe.
Loe made a key tackle for a loss had to two difficult pass breakups to help the defense curtail the Kansas State offense.
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The Mountaineer running game showed signs of coming to life, at least in the first half when it gained 72 yards. They managed only eigth net second half yards on the ground, although Leddie Brown did rip off a few nice gains. Brown averaged 4.8 yards per carry, while Kennedy McKoy (3.4) tallied 41 yards on 12 carries.
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West Virginia and Kansas State met on the football field for the 10th time on Saturday. The Mountaineers are now 5-5 all-time against the Wildcats, including 2-2 in Manhattan. With the win, West Virginia has now won five straight against K-State and has now won three
consecutive contests in Manhattan.
Junior quarterback Jarret Doege earned his first career start at West Virginia. Twenty-eight Mountaineers have now earned their first WVU start this season.
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Colton McKivitz posted the 45th start of his career. He is now tied for No. 3 all-time for the most starts in program history (Mike Collins, 1990-93).
Redshirt senior wide receiver George Campbell finished with five receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Campbell is the second Mountaineer to register two touchdown receptions in a game this season (T.J. Simmons, 2, at Oklahoma).
Campbell has 14 career receptions at WVU and six have resulted in touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Bryce Wheaton caught his second touchdown of the season and his career on a 50-yard pass from Doege in the fourth quarter.
The score marked the longest reception of Wheaton’s career. It also marked Doege’s longest completion at West Virginia.
Wheaton’s 50-yard score is the second longest touchdown reception of the season.
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Esdale and freshman wide receiver Ali Jennings each set new career highs in receptions and receiving yards. Esdale tallied five catches for 34 yards, while Jennings finished with three catches for 31 yards.
Redshirt senior safety Josh Norwood tallied his first career interception in the second quarter. WVU has now intercepted the opposition at least once in eight of its last 14 games
With the interception, West Virginia has now finished with at least one turnover in 55 of the last 72 games.
Redshirt senior cornerback Hakeem Bailey hauled in his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter. It also was the second interception of his career.
It also marked the first time the Mountaineer defense has tallied at least two interceptions in a game since Dec. 28, 2018, vs. Syracuse (2).
West Virginia has now forced multiple turnovers in eight of its last 15 games.
The Mountaineers held K-State to 299 yards passing and has now held its opponents to fewer than 300 yards passing in 40 of the last 55 games, including eight of the last 10 games.
Redshirt freshman kicker Casey Legg’s 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was his second make of the season and career. It marked the longest made field goal since Oct. 29, 2015, at TCU, when Josh Lambert also hit from 51-yards out.