WVU wins first Big 12 game over Kansas St.
MORGANTOWN — No. 12 West Virginia (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) has been looking for more turnovers from its defense after forcing one in wins over the University of Tennessee (40-14) and Youngstown State (52-17).
After the first 30 minutes of action in Saturday’s Big 12 opener against Kansas State, Tony Gibson’s unit continued to have that single turnover. But, it’s dramatic stop of the Wildcats on consecutive plays — the last one resulting in a 4-yard loss — at the KSU 43 became the spark that ignited a up-to-that-point lethargic offense.
Seven plays after Dylan Tonkery’s tackle of KSU’s Alex Barnes, which gave the Old Gold and Blue possession of the football at the visitors’ 39-yard line, redshirt senior fired what would turn out to be the first of two straight one-yard touchdown passes to senior David Sills V as West Virginia turned a seven-point lead to a 21-point advantage at the intermission.
“Yes, yes, yes,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said when asked about the bold move in his team’s 35-6 loss to WVU. “And, yes, I’d call the same play.
“When we went in at the half, I told the kids that I took full responsibility for that play. But, I also told them that I can’t coach a team that can’t get six inches.”
It was a move that surprised most of the crowd of 59,245 in attendance but not West Virginia’s players, especially redshirt junior linebacker David Long Jr.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said Long, who led the team with nine tackles (two sacks, three tackles for a loss). “I did see them check away from the quarterback run and go to the pitch. (Dylan) Tonk (Tonkery) made a good read and made the play.”
WVU’s prevent unit continued to play solid football in the second half, giving up some big plays but keeping the team from Manhattan (KS) out of the end zone.
Meanwhile, Will Grier and company tacked on a pair of six-pointers in the third quarter — the final one giving the Mountaineers its most-ever points scored against the Wildcats. In its eight previous meetings with K-State, the Mountaineers scored more than 20 only twice and never more than the 28 they registered a year ago at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
It also marked the first time a Mountaineer defense kept K-State’s offense out of the end zone.
“It (holding them to two field goals) just makes us want to work harder,” Long said. “Now, it’s time to get ready for Tech.”
For KSU (2-2, 0-1 Big 12), Snyder and his Wildcats have another tough defense to crack when they go up against the the University of Texas next Saturday afternoon.
“Right now, I may start,” Snyder said when asked who the veteran leader of the ‘Cats would start at quarterback against the Longhorns. “I have said all year that we were committed to playing both, and that’s what we will probably do. As far as which one starts, we will have to see after we practice this week.”
¯ WVU improved to 21-0 when holding opponents to 20 points or less under defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.
¯ The six points were the fewest WVU’s defense has given up in a game since No. 28, 2015, vs. Iowa State.
¯ West Virginia’s defense allowed just 77 total yards in the first half. It held K-State without a third-down conversion until the 12:45 mark of the third quarter.
¯ The Mountaineers finished with nine tackles for loss by six different players. Long recorded two sacks – the seventh and eighth of his career.
“We knew they were going to run,” Long said. “We were prepared for them to run. We knew that if we could contain their running game that they would have to throw the football and they are not as good of a passing team as they are a running team.”