The pesky little monkey that had been clinging to West Virginia and Dana Holgorsen’s back for the past four years was finally removed this past Saturday when the Mountaineers clawed back from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to defeat Kansas State 17-16.
With the victory, WVU moved to 4-0 (1-0 Big 12) and now sits at 20th and 22nd, respectively, in the AP and USA Today coaches poll.
Let’s rewind prior to the contest and check out how my top three keys to a win played out on the field.
WVU Offense vs KSU Defense
A tale of two halves, well, basically three quarters, the WVU offense was very inconsistent. They moved the ball well early only to falter at the end. Josh Lambert’s missed field goal on the opening drive seemed to set a negative tone for the rest of the offense early. Then, in the third quarter, with the ball moving swiftly again, Rushel Shell fumbled inside the Wildcats’ 5-yard line that killed all the momentum at the time.
But when the fourth quarter came, everything seemed to just click at the right time. The Mountaineers moved the ball at will, especially when running back Justin Crawford was on the field, and scored 14 points in the final period including what was a game winning touchdown catch from Skyler Howard to Jovon Durante along the back of the end zone.
ADVANTAGE- Slight to WVU
WVU Offensive Tackles vs KSU’s Jordan Willis
Willis was a disruptive force in the second and third quarters. He burnt Adam Pankey, Colton McKivitz and Marcell Lazard at least once and he eventually forced coach Ron Crook to bench Lazard for the night. Willis proved why he is one of the nation’s premier pass rushers and why he is expected to be an NFL Draft choice next year.
WVU’s Dana Holgorsen vs KSU’s Bill Snyder
For the first 45 minutes of game clock it looked to be the same old song and dance –WVU has the better talent, but no luck on their side and here’s another loss coming- But the whole fourth quarter, Holgorsen finally schooled Snyder, or the wizard, as he is known.
Holgorsen called the perfect plays, went for fourth down tries when he should have and his players executed to perfection for him. Snyder’s players got rattled, could not get a play off without using a timeout and looked lost on both sides of the ball. They did put a nice little drive together on the last series of the game, but Matthew McCrane hooked a 43-yard field goal with just over two minutes left, and the Mountaineers took three straight knees and ran out the clock.
It was Holgorsen’s first victory over Snyder since WVU joined the Big 12. The wizard has been one of his two biggest obstacles (Bob Stoops and Oklahoma being the other) and now that it has been cleared, he can focus on the rest of this season without a huge monkey jumping on his back.