Entering the final three games of the season, the 4-5 West Virginia Mountaineers will be faced with a road challenge as they face off against the 6-3 Kansas State Wildcats.
The series between the Mountaineers and the Wildcats dates back to 1930, and WVU currently leads the series 6-5. This is a series of winning streaks, as Kansas State won four straight games against WVU from 2012-2015, but it’s been the Mountaineers who have dominated as of late, winning the last five matchups.
Let’s look back at some of the most memorable games between the Mountaineers and the Wildcats.
2015 (Manhattan, KS)
Coming into the last regular game of the regular season, WVU was 7-4, trying to put themselves in position for a good bowl game. Kansas State was 5-6 and had to win against the Mountaineers to earn a birth to a bowl game.
In the first quarter, the only scoring came from WVU kicker Josh Lambert when he made a 45-yard field goal. West Virginia had a 3-0 lead after one quarter.
Early in the second, Kansas State tied the game at 3-3 when kicker Matthew McCrane made a 40-yard field goal. With just under three minutes left before halftime, WVU quarterback Skyler Howard threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jovon Durante to put the Mountaineers up 10-3. WVU got the ball back after a quick defensive stop and got back into scoring position. Josh Lambert made a 19-yard field goal as time expired to give WVU a 13-3 lead at half.
Early in the third, Kansas State got into the end zone for the first time when Wildcats’ quarterback Kody Cook ran in a one-yard touchdown to cut the WVU lead to 13-10. After a quick, three-play drive by WVU that resulted in a punt, Kansas State struck again. Kody Cook connected on a deep-ball to Deante Burton that resulted in a 77-yard touchdown to give Kansas State their first lead. WVU matched the Kansas State touchdown with a 14-yard touchdown run from Wendell Smallwood to regain the lead. The Mountaineers took a 20-17 lead into the final quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Josh Lambert made a 28-yard field goal to extend the lead to 23-17. Right after the Mountaineer field goal, Kansas State made the biggest play of the game. On the kickoff, Morgan Burns of Kansas State fielded the ball and with good vision and patience, took the kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown. This gave Kansas State a 24-23 lead and they never looked back. WVU had multiple drops and missed opportunities, and because of that and the Wildcats’ late defensive effort, Kansas State won 24-23.
(2016 Morgantown, WV)
Coming into the 2016 matchup in Morgantown, the Mountaineers had yet to beat Kansas State since joining the Big 12 in 2012. This game was WVU’s yearly ‘Stripe the Stadium’ theme and the atmosphere and crowd were electrifying.
For practically the entire first half, WVU couldn’t do anything on offense. The first quarter for WVU consisted of a multitude of punts and a missed field goal from short range. The only action in the first quarter was when Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz ran in a touchdown from two yards out. The Wildcats took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.
In the second, the offensive struggles continued for the Mountaineers, as they were kept off the scoreboard for the entire first half. As for Kansas State, they added six more points to their total from two field goals by Matthew McCrane, one from 37-yard out and the other from 31 yards. The Wildcats took a 13-0 lead into halftime.
WVU finally got on the board early on in the third quarter when kicker Josh Lambert made a 37-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 13-3. Later on in the quarter, Wildcats’ kicker Matthew McCrane answered with a 22-yard field goal to extend the lead to 16-3. Late in the third, WVU found an offensive spark to get the Mountaineer faithful into the game. Skyler Howard threw a deep ball pass to Shelton Gibson with tight one-on-one coverage. Gibson leaped up, had his helmet violently ripped off, and still made the catch. Gibson got up helmetless and started pumping up the Mountaineer crowd. Kansas State held their 16-3 lead when the third quarter ended, but the Mountaineers were now in business heading into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter is when the WVU offense and the Mountaineer crowd came alive. Early in the fourth, WVU was on the goal line seeking their first touchdown with a 3rd and goal staring them in the face. On the third down play, it appeared WVU was running a quarterback draw play, but Skyler Howard faked the defense out and handed the ball to running back Justin Crawford. Crawford took the ball into the end zone untouched to cut the Kansas State lead to 16-10.
After the touchdown, WVU star cornerback Rasul Douglas had a huge interception to keep the momentum in WVU’s favor. After forcing Kansas State to punt again, WVU got the ball back with around eight minutes remaining. After moving the ball downfield, the Mountaineers were in scoring position ready to take the lead. On a second down play from inside the 10-yard line, Skyler Howard was flushed out of the pocket with pressure coming. Howard scrambled around until Jovon Durante became open. Howard completed the seven-yard pass to Durante in the back corner of the end zone to Durante for the touchdown to give WVU a 17-16 lead.
After the touchdown, WVU was in need of a big defensive stop. Kansas State had a good kickoff return, and after a 19-yard completion, the Wildcats were in field goal range. With 2:03 remaining in the game and no timeouts for either team, Kansas State sent on kicker Matthew McCrane to try to give them the late lead. McCrane, who had made all three kicks in the game so far, lined up for a 43-yard attempt. The kick was just wide left and Mountaineer Field erupted. WVU took the ball back, kneeled it three times and escaped with a huge 17-16 victory to make them 4-0.
2019 (Manhattan, KS)
Heading into the game against Kansas State in 2019, the Mountaineers were struggling. It was the first season for head coach Neal Brown, and there wasn’t much to work with. The Mountaineers were 3-6 while Kansas State was 6-3 and ranked No. 24 in the country.
The Wildcats wasted no time getting on the board, as they hit a big play in the first two minutes of the game. Quarterback Skylar Thompson threw a deep ball down the field to wide receiver Dalton Schoen that was hauled in for a long 68-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead. WVU’s offense responded quickly when first time starter Jarret Doege found graduate transfer wide receiver George Campbell for a 19-yard touchdown.
With just under five minutes left in the opening quarter, Kansas State kicker Blake Lynch made a 22-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 10-7 lead. On the last play of the quarter, WVU was facing a 3rd and 13 from the 15-yard line. Jarret Doege found George Campbell again for a touchdown, and the play gave WVU a 14-10 lead going into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, Skylar Thompson dropped back to throw a longer pass, but the Mountaineer defense made a play. The throw by Thompson was good and on target, but senior WVU cornerback Josh Norwood jumped in front of the route and fully extended into the air to make the incredible interception. Kansas State got into scoring position with under a minute before halftime but had to settle for a 33-yard field goal. This cut the Mountaineer lead to 14-13 at half.
In the third, Kansas State reclaimed the lead when they moved the ball downfield and capped the drive off with a three-yard touchdown run by James Gilbert. That was the only scoring of the quarter, so Kansas State took a 20-14 lead into the final quarter.
Early in the fourth, Neal Brown sent out redshirt freshman Casey Legg out to attempt a 51-yard field goal. Legg, a walk-on at the time, was the backup for the whole season until Evan Staley got injured. Legg went out and made the 51-yard field goal without any trouble, as the kick would have been good from 60 yards out.
Down by three, WVU’s offense got the ball back after the field goal and hit a big play. On a third and 22 play, Jarret Doege was getting pressured by the defensive lineman. Doege stepped away from the pressure and delivered a ball downfield to Bryce Ford-Wheaton. Because of a breakdown in the Kansas State secondary, Ford-Wheaton was not covered at all. Ford-Wheaton made the easy grab and ran in for the 50-yard touchdown to give WVU a 24-20 lead.
After a series of punts from both sides, the clock was winding down as Kansas State tried to pull out a miracle. The Wildcats moved the ball down to WVU’s 30-yard line with 35 seconds to go, but WVU’s secondary came up big again. Thompson’s throw was intended for his main target Dalton Schoen around the three-yard line, but the pass was intercepted when Hakeem Bailey jumped in front of Schoen to make the play. This sealed the road upset victory in Manhattan for the Mountaineers, as they won 24-20.
The Mountaineers will return to the Little Apple for the first time since that upset in 2019. The game will kick off at noon from Bill Snyder Family Field in Manhattan, Kansas.