West Virginia Shuts Down Kansas State
Coming off of a tough road loss against Texas Tech, the Mountaineers sought to recover in Morgantown. And they did that, plus some. In truth, the Mountaineers dominated every aspect of the game, despite a sluggish first quarter offensively. After a much improved all-around performance, West Virginia shuts down Kansas State 37-10.
Shut Down Defense
We cannot talk about the dominating win without first mentioning West Virginia’s shut-down defense. In our game preview, we said that the West Virginia defense had to bring intensity and aggression in both halves to win. They certainly did.
Indeed, West Virginia limited Kansas State to a single explosive play in the first half. That play, a hard fake by Malik Knowles to get behind Dreshun Miller, represented the Wildcats’ lone touchdown. We should note that, despite that lone misstep, Miller offered the Mountaineer secondary outstanding coverage throughout.
Coming into the game, the Wildcats averaged 370 yards and 35 points a game. They only committed two turnovers, and they only yielded seven sacks (just under one-and-a-half per game). The Mountaineers did what they do best, however. They dialed up three sacks and three turnovers (including a pick-six by Dylan Tonkery and Nicktroy Fortune’s first career interception). True freshman Akheem Mesidor continued his impact play, finding his way to Will Howard for his fifth sack of the season.
As for playing defense through both halves, the Mountaineers limited the Wildcats to 10 points on 152 yards in the first half. That performance alone spread across two halves would have held the Wildcats well below their season averages. But the defense kept its foot on the gas and limited the Wildcats to only 73 second-half yards and no points. In total, the defense surrendered only 225 yards. The run-first Wildcats managed only 41 yards on the ground.
We also said in our preview that, to win, the Mountaineers needed to limit penalties. While they were not perfect in this department, the referees threw only five flags against West Virginia. Three of those came in the fourth quarter. This week, the defense played far more disciplined in this regard. The offensive line, however, found itself the victim of several inopportune holding calls. Going forward, Head Coach Neal Brown would certainly like to see his younger linemen clean up these mistakes. This weekend, however, was certainly a step in the right direction.
Mountaineers Runners Rumble
Going into the season, we said time and time again that West Virginia would look to vastly improve their running game. Leddie Brown, our number one predicted offensive surprise, had the look of a feature back coming into the season. In our preview this week, we said that the Mountaineers had to feed Brown early and often to come out victorious. And they certainly did that.
Brown finished with 130 all-purpose yards and another touchdown. He lost a few yards and a score on a couple of Brandon Yates holds. Brown has now rushed for over 100 yards in four of six games. And he has ten total touchdowns on the season.
Alec Sinkfield also carried the ball well, averaging just over six yards per carry and finishing with 85 rushing yards. This effort represents the second-best game of Sinkfield’s career.
Limiting Aerial Mistakes
Finally, we said that West Virginia needed to get its quarterback and receivers on the same page in order to prevail. After a sluggish first quarter in which the Mountaineers managed only 37 passing yards, they did just that. The first “official” drop by a Mountaineer receiver came in the fourth quarter when Bryce Ford-Wheaton couldn’t hold onto a deep throw by Jarret Doege into the end zone. Ford-Wheaton, however, caught a pretty deep ball on the pass just before that.
We note the “official” drop because Sam James did drop a solid throw by Doege into the back of the end zone in the first quarter. However, because the Wildcats held on the play, the drop will not appear in the box score. Coach Brown seemed to take note, however, as James saw only light use after that play. Indeed, Ali Jennings caught a similar throw into the end zone in the second quarter.
Speaking of Doege, while he still needs to work on his awareness, deep ball, and pocket presence, we only credit him with a handful of errant throws, almost all of which came in the first quarter. One of those throws, however, was a significant overthrow of James in the front of the end zone. After that, we only really saw one throw–a slightly early throw to T.J. Simmons that would have been a touchdown otherwise–that we can call a bad pass.
In total, Doege completed 65% of his passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Ford-Wheaton led the receivers with 104 yards on three receptions (an average of 34.7 yards a reception). Winston Wright and Jennings hauled in Doege’s two touchdown strikes.
The win this weekend makes a statement. This is what the Mountaineers look like firing on all cylinders. The Wildcats do not lose like this very often. In fact, we have to go back over two full years to find a loss this bad by the Wildcats, when they suffered a 37-point defeat to Oklahoma. Simply, it is not often that it happens, but the Mountaineers dominated as West Virginia shuts down Kansas State.
The win represents the most decisive victory by the Mountaineers under Brown against a Power Five team not named Kansas. It is also the win over the highest-ranked opponent under Brown. Most importantly, the win offers West Virginia some much-needed confidence as they head to Austin looking to move up in the conference standings.