The West Virginia Mountaineers (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) got going early and never looked back on a night when former coach Don Nehlen was roasted prior to kickoff by former players.
The current football team took advantage of all the excitement en route to a dominating rushing effort that saw Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy each surpass 100 yards on the ground, and also a passing attack that produced two 100-yard receivers (Daikiel Shorts and Shelton Gibson).
When it was all said and done, the scoreboard read 48-21, WVU.
On the first possession of the game, the Mountaineers moved the ball well aided by the drive’s second play when Skyler Howard completed a 40-yard pass to Gibson. However, the next three plays totaled 0 yards and West Virginia settled for a 35-yard field goal from Mike Molina, and a 3-0 lead.
The Jayhawks (1-8, 0-6 Big 12) had a nice drive going on the ensuing series until a holding penalty halted their momentum. Two plays later, Rasul Douglas stepped in front of quarterback Montell Cozart’s pass and made a nice diving interception giving the ball back to the Mountaineers.
The game went defensive over the next several minutes which was expected from WVU who has the top defense in the Big 12 conference. But it was also Kansas who flexed their defensive muscles and forced two consecutive Billy Kinney punts.
But that muscle flexing didn’t last long.
McKoy rumbled for 44 yards and followed that run with a tough 7-yard run between the tackles. Two plays later, with the Jayhawks defense focusing on the freshman running back, Howard dropped back and kept the football himself right up the middle for a 22-yard touchdown run, and WVU led 10-0 with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
A couple possessions later saw the Mountaineers keep up their offensive firepower.
Shorts hauled in a 14-yard pass from Howard. The very next play, Howard faked a handoff then went around the right edge untouched for a 33-yard touchdown and a 17-0 WVU lead.
After a big fourth down stop by the Mountaineer defense, the offense again went back to work and this time they featured Crawford. The junior ran for over 50 yards on the series and it was capped by a beautiful 7-yard touchdown pass to Shorts for a 24-0 lead.
WVU extended that lead to 31-0 right before halftime when Howard found Gibson in the back of the end zone for a 19-yard score and the score stayed that way at the break.
The Jayhawks got on the scoreboard for the first time just four minutes into the second half. Howard lost a fumble that Kansas picked up deep in Mountaineer territory. They capitalized in five plays with Ke’aun Kinner getting across the goal line on a 2-yard run and the WVU lead was cut to 31-7.
The Mountaineers got back to business quickly. Crawford went for 25 yards around the left side through a big hole. Then Shorts made a remarkable catch where he scooped up a low throw by Howard and kept both feet in bounds for 13 yards. We probably won’t see the catch on any highlights later, but it definitely deserves to be. The next play, Crawford scored from 27 yards away and West Virginia went back up 38-7.
The Howard to Gibson combo showed back up late in the third period when the senior signal caller rolled out to the right under duress, pointed to Gibson to go deep and found him in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. After Molina’s extra point, the Mountaineers led 45-7.
Kansas surprisingly didn’t quit.
After replacing Cozart with Carter Stanley, Stanley swung a pass out to Taylor Martin who took it to the house for a 45-yard touchdown and cut the deficit to 45-14.
Kansas struck again after a promising Mountaineer drive resulted in a missed field goal. The Mountaineers, playing a soft cushion defense gave up big plays quickly and the Jayhawks ended up scoring again on a pass to Steven Sims, Jr. for 11 yards. After the score, Kansas had trimmed the huge lead down to just 45-21.
West Virginia added a Molina field goal midway through the final quarter to round out the scoring.
The Mountaineers racked up 605 yards of total offense including 341 on the ground.
Howard was 16-of-27 for 260 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 64 yards and two scores on the ground.
Crawford ran for 129 yards and a score. McKoy gained 127 as both played well in place of injured starter Rushel Shell who missed the contest.
Shorts led the receivers with seven catches, 104 yards and a TD. Gibson had four receptions, 102 yards and two scores.
Douglas led the way for the defense with two interceptions.
West Virginia faces a huge test next weekend in Austin, Texas and will take on the improving Longhorns. Game time is not yet announced.