West Virginia Escapes Manhattan, Wins Seventh Of Season
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Will Grier threw for 372 yards and four scores, but it was West Virginia’s run game that finished off a game Kansas State team that again fought to the end in a 28-23 Mountaineer victory.
WVU led 28-20 at the half after a last-gasp touchdown pass from Will Grier to Ka’Raun White as time expired. The teams then jostled back and forth in a scoreless third quarter to set-up the final 15 minutes. Trailing since late in the first quarter, Kansas State got within 28-23 on a prolonged field goal drive before forcing WVU into a three-and-out on the ensuring series.
A 32-yard punt return set up the Wildcats at West Virginia’s 48-yard line, and KSU moved inside the red zone before Kenny Robinson intercepted KSU QB Skylar Thompson, returning the ball to the 48-yard line. But once again, an offense that struggled the entire second half went three-and-out, gaining just five yards and handing the ball right back with its fifth consecutive punt.
Billy Kinney managed to pin Kansas State at the three, and the defense was huge in forcing a three and out that gave WVU possession at the 38 with 4:33 left. With the Wildcats down to one timeout, the Mountaineers went to the ground game and gained seven yards on three runs up the middle. That set-up a deciding fourth down, and West Virginia went to Gary Jennings for a huge first down catch that essentially sealed a second straight win over Kansas State and sent the No. 23 Mountaineers to 7-3 overall, 5-2 in the Big 12.
It also extended K-State’s 12-game losing streak to ranked teams.
Grier finished 27-of-46 for 372 yards and four touchdowns against two tipped interceptions, while Justin Crawford ran for 113 yards and Kennedy McKoy helped finish off the game for a second straight week with key late rushes. The game marked the first time WVU scored more than 23 points versus the ‘Cats and they needed every one.
It was a mixed bag early for both teams. Kansas State started four of its first five drives in WVU territory, but mustered just six points on a pair of field goals. The biggest stand by WVU’s defense was on a drive from the four-yard line after Grier was intercepted by D.J. Reed. The Mountaineers held, limiting K-State to a chip shot field goal.
West Virginia’s offense, meanwhile, had two punts and two turnovers on the first four series, and had managed just 12 yards on 10 plays. That changed when Grier found White deep down the sideline for a 75-yard score for a 7-6 lead despite the mundane start. After the Mountaineers forced a punt, Grier drove 72 yards on four plays, the biggest a 43-yard strike to David Sills that moved the ball to the 16-yard line.
WVU scored on the next snap when Grier faked a flip pass on an end around, moving a linebacker that had taken away the quick slant. That gave Sills the opening needed, and the wideout made his 17th touchdown catch of the season for a 14-6 lead. K-State answered with its best drive of the day to that point, a five-play, 63-yard pushed capped by Winsten Dimel’s one-yard run to make it 14-13.
Grier then tossed his second pick of the day – and his second one off the hands of a wideout, with the defense again forcing the Wildcats off the field after just three plays. The Mountaineers followed that with a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped by an acrobatic back-corner catch by Sills to pus the lead to 21-13 with 7:22 left before the half. Kansas State answered again, and seemed to be in position to have momentum at the half when Crawford fumbled on WVU’s next posssession
But the Mountaineers pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, getting Ezekiel Rose’s interception when the Wildcats were simply trying to run a screen pass to finish the half. The pick left the offense with 10 seconds at the 30-yard line. Grier, which spent the better part of the half scrambling, was forced to again and he worked back across the field as time wound down.
With the clock hitting zero and the opportunity for any field goal try lost, Grier chose to lob it deep. Miracle of miracles, White popped out of a pack of players and was open in the end zone. The ball fell into his arms as he was hit, White holding on for the improbable 28-20 edge at the half. It was Grier’s fourth touchdown pass of the half, and placed old mo squarely on the side of the Mountaineers.