WVU rolls past Kansas, 59-10
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In a return to the good old days, West Virginia trounced Kansas, 59-10, on Saturday before 51,112 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium in the final game of the regular season.
WVU led from start to finish, scoring early and often and rekindling memories of the team's 5-0 start and a top-5 ranking.
The Mountaineers amassed 647 total yards while recording their highest point total since a 70-63 win over Baylor on Sept. 29.
Defensively, WVU limited Kansas to 274 total yards — the fewest it has allowed an opponent this year — while also yielding a season-low point total.
WVU was so efficient on offense that senior Tyler Bitancurt punted only once — with less than two minutes to play.
“I thought we had a chance to play our best ball, on all three sides of the ball, and I think we did that,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I'm excited about the way we finished.”
Concluding its first year in the Big 12, WVU is 7-5 and 4-5 in league play.
Kansas, which has lost 21 consecutive Big 12 games, finishes 1-11, 0-9 under first-year coach Charlie Weis.
Quarterback Geno Smith, who holds nearly every major passing record at WVU, was near perfect against Kansas.
Smith completed 23 of 24 passes for 407 yards and three touchdowns on Senior Day. A first-quarter interception was his only blemish. He left the game midway through the fourth quarter after surpassing 4,000 passing yards for the second consecutive year. Smith has 40 touchdown passes this season, a school record.
“This game means a lot,” Smith said. “It'll be (even) better if we can go into the bowl game and win that. We won our last two, and we've got an opportunity to win three (in a row).”
WVU is expected to play in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Diego or the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium in New York. Pitt was considered a potential opponent in the Pinstripe Bowl if the Panthers defeated South Florida Saturday night.
Smith got things started Saturday, completing a 45-yard bomb to Stedman Bailey on the first play from scrimmage. It was a familiar play from Holgorsen's playbook: a deep slant pass against single coverage.
Senior Shawne Alston, also playing in his last home game, gained 10 yards on two consecutive runs before losing a yard. After Smith lost another yard following a fumbled snap, Andrew Buie, led by strong blocking to his left, scored easily to make it 7-0.
Smith, who was particularly accurate against Kansas, connected on another long pass to spark WVU's next scoring drive.
Smith's 50-yard bomb to fellow senior J.D. Woods on second-and-24 following an illegal chop block penalty set up the Mountaineers at the Kansas 30-yard line. WVU overcame another penalty as Smith drilled a 20-yard pass to senior Tavon Austin, WVU's career leader in receptions and all-purpose yards.
Two plays later, Alston's 2-yard touchdown run gave WVU a 14-0 lead, which it carried into the second quarter.
WVU scored again on its next drive when the defense held on fourth down, and the Mountaineers took over at their 39. Five plays later, Smith's 8-yard touchdown pass to Bailey on a bubble screen made it 21-0.
Kansas made it 21-7 on James Sims' 1-yard touchdown run. But WVU scored touchdowns on its next two possessions and took a 28-point lead into the locker room.
Alston's second touchdown run capped another long drive, 74 yards, to make it 28-7. After its defense again held on downs, WVU drove 65 yards the next time it had the ball. Smith's 8-yard scoring pass to Woods made it 35-7 with 24 seconds left before halftime.
WVU outscored Kansas, 17-0, in the third quarter to make it 52-7. The Mountaineers sandwiched Smith's 16-yard touchdown pass to Bailey and Austin's 1-yard scoring run around Bitancurt's 30-yard field goal. Austin capped his touchdown by striking a Heisman Trophy pose in the end zone.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.