K-State entered the penultimate home game of Skylar Thompson’s career as the Cats’ quarterback riding a three-game winning streak after having secured bowl eligibility against Kansas last week, 35-10. West Virginia entered the game needing to win two of its final three to reach bowl eligibility after having its offense shutdown by Oklahoma State last week in a 24-3 loss.
West Virginia’s offensive woes would continue in the first half against K-State as the Mountaineers could only muster a field goal with less than a minute left in the first half. K-State safety Russ Yeast intercepted WVU QB Jarrett Doege on the Mountaineers’ first possession of the game. The Cats cashed in on the turnover with a two-yard rushing TD by running back Joe Ervin. Later in the first quarter West Virginia backed up deep in its own territory, K-State’s Ty Bowman blocked a WVU punt, and Marvin Martin, a freshman from Vicksburg, MS, grabbed the ball of the bounce and raced seven yards to put K-State up 14-0. The teams traded field goals in the second quarter to end the first half with K-State up, 17-3.
After K-State struck on the first drive of the first half, West Virginia got its offense moving on back-to-back possession to cut K-State’s lead to 24-17 early in the fourth quarter. K-State answered, however, with a Deuce Vaughn TD to extend the lead to 31-17 after converting on 4th and 8 on a gutsy pass from Thompson to TE Sammy Wheeler. K-State’s Felix Anudike-Uzomah forced Leddie Brown to fumble on the ensuing possession to all but seal the game for K-State as the Cats moved the ball into the Red Zone before settling for a field goal to go up 34-17 with just under two minutes to play.
1. TURNOVERS DOOMED WEST VIRGINIA
The Doege interception on West Virginia’s opening drive of the game and Brown’s fumble in the 4th quarter resulted in 10 K-State points and robbed the Mountaineers of opportunities to establish or retake momentum in the game. Fittingly, the Mountaineers’ final drive of the game was ended by a second Doege interception. In a game where West Virginia’s offense was unstoppable at times and the defense provided considerable resistance and often looked like the West Virginia defense of old, a handful of miscues doomed WVU’s hopes of getting just one game away from bowl eligibility.
2. K-STATE SPECIAL TEAMS DOES IT AGAIN
While West Virginia’s turnovers doomed the Mountaineers, K-State’s special teams allowed the Cats to put some cushion on the scoreboard. The biggest play of the game was the blocked punt and scoop score which put K-State up 14-0 in the first quarter. However, Malik Knowles provided several excellent kickoff returns to consistently give K-State excellent starting field position.
3. SKYLAR THOMPSON WAS CLUTCH
Thompson had his worst day since returning from injury, completing 14 of 19 for 138 yards and a touchdown, but when the game got tight in the 4th quarter, he delivered. With WVU down just 24-17, Thompson delivered his best pass of the day on 4th and 8 at the WVU 39 to set up the touchdown that would essentially put the game away for the Cats. On K-State’s next drive, 4:22 remaining and West Virginia still holding onto two timeouts, Thompson took a quarterback draw six yards on 3rd and 5 for the first down, forcing WVU to start calling timeouts.
4. WEST VIRGINIA MUST BEAT TEXAS NEXT WEEK
At 4-6, 2-5, the Mountaineers’ season is officially on life support. While a 6-6 finish would still be disappointing to WVU fans, getting to a bowl game is a must to maintain the momentum Neal Brown has built on the recruiting trail and with the program as a whole. Missing a bowl game would be a huge step backward and is likely to put serious some heat on Brown. A win over Texas, however, would all but guarantee WVU bowl eligibility with Kansas to close out the season. A bowl appearance would give WVU extra practices to close the season as well as the opportunity to finish 2021 with a winning record.