West Virginia allows Kansas back in game before sealing outcome late
LAWRENCE, Kan. — West Virginia did what most people expected it would against Kansas in the first half Saturday, building the kind of lopsided advantage that should have made it an easy afternoon in Memorial Stadium.
Instead, the banged-up Mountaineers blew much of that lead during a stagnant third quarter.
It wasn't until the fourth that Will Grier and Co. got rolling again. The star quarterback scored twice on the ground in the closing minutes and finished with 347 yards passing while accounting for four scores to clinch a 56-34 victory that was more difficult than coach Dana Holgorsen envisioned.
“Looked good at times, looked bad at times,” Holgorsen said, wiping sweat from his brow. “We were either rolling on offense or we were inept. I don't know what it was.”
At least there were enough good times to overcome the bad.
David Sills V had 130 yards and two touchdowns receiving, and Kennedy McKoy also scored twice as the Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) beat Kansas (1-3, 0-1) for the sixth time in seven meetings.
“We just got a little relaxed,” Sills said, “and that's something we can't do.”
West Virginia overcome a career game from Kansas sophomore Khalil Herbert, who ran for 291 yards and two touchdowns. It was the third most rushing yards in school history, trailing a 396-yard performance by Tony Sands in 1991 and a 294-yard effort by Nolan Cromwell in 1975.
“We've been working on it all week, and the O-line has been doing a great job. Today we just came out and executed,” he said. “Thanks to the big boys up front.”
Peyton Bender added 197 yards and a touchdown through the air, but he also threw a pair of picks, one of which was returned for a touchdown. And a porous defense allowed 40 or more points for the third consecutive game.
“I thought the quarterback for them played really well today, and their running backs played really well,” Kansas coach David Beaty said, “but their O-line did a pretty good of protecting them.”
The Mountaineers looked as if they would cruise past the Jayhawks again when they put together four consecutive touchdown drives in the first half. Each covered at least 80 yards, none took more than 3 minutes, 22 seconds off the clock and the result was a 28-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
Herbert finally stopped the onslaught with a 67-yard touchdown run, but the Mountaineers' Mike Daniels picked off a tipped pass a couple minutes later, and it was 35-13 by halftime.
That's when the Mountaineers offense suddenly hit the skids, punting four times and turning it over once during a five-possession span. Meanwhile, a defense that started to bottle up Herbert became leaky, thanks in large part to a slew of injuries, allowing short touchdown runs a couple minutes apart to make it 35-27.
The teams swapped touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers getting a second chance at the end zone after an offside penalty on a field goal, and it was still 42-34 with 7:35 left in the game.
Grier answered with a QB keeper, then scored again a few minutes later to put it away.