Manhattan, Kan. (westernkansasnews.com)–In the fourth quarter two weeks ago against Iowa State, it looked as though Kansas State would see their streak of bowl appearances come to a halt. However, the Wildcats stuck to Goal 10 of Coach Bill Snyder’s 16 Goals to Success: Never Give Up. That mentality led to a rally over the Cyclones, followed up by a pasting of in-state rival Kansas. Then comes West Virginia, who had recently been playing as well as anyone in the Big 12, and on a four-game winning streak. The Mountaineer win streak would end at four, thanks to a 97-yard kickoff return by Morgan Burns with 12:53 left to send the Wildcats to their sixth straight bowl in a 24-23 thriller on Senior Day a Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
The games first points came on field goals. Josh Lambert scored the first points of the game on a 45-yard field goal with 2:54 left in the first quarter, to give the Mountaineers a 3-0 lead.
Kansas State (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) tied the game with 11:10 left before halftime on a Matthew McCrane 40-yard field goal. West Virginia would end up scoring the final 10 points of the half. Their first score came at the 2:36 mark of the second quarter on a 24-yard pass play from Skyler Howard to Jovon Durante to make it 10-3, followed up by a Lambert 19-yard field goal as time expired to give Mountaineers a 13-3 lead at the break.
The Wildcats came back in a flurry in the third qurater. After a Morgan Burns kickoff return to the West Virginia 33-yard line, it was Kody Cook sneaking in from a yard out to cut the deficit to 13-10 with 12:28 left in the third period. Cook came in following a Joe Hubener injury on the first play of the second half. Hubener did not return. After a quick three-and-out by WVU, K-State took their first lead of the game. Cook hit Deante Burton in stride on a 77-yard touchdown pass play, that saw Burton sneak the ball inside the pylon for the touchdown to give the Cats a 17-13 lead with 11:14 left in the third period. After an exchange of possessions, West Virginia retook the lead on a Wendell Smallwood 14-yard touchdown run with 6:28 remaining in the third quarter to give them a 20-17 lead.
The Mountaineers would extend their lead to 23-17 with 13:07 left, as Lambert connected on his third field goal of the afternoon, this one from 28-yards out. On the ensuing kickoff, that’s when the Wildcats took the lead for good. It was senior with some more magic at home. Morgan Burns closed out the scoring for the year at Bill Snyder Family Stadium like he opened the season, with a kickoff. This one was from 97-yards out to give K-State the 24-23 lead. It was the third time in four games that Burns returned a kickoff for a touchdown, and the fourth of the year, which tied a school season record for kickoff returns for a touchdown. The defense would hold West Virginia (7-5, 4-5) a couple of times to pick up their fourth straight win in the series.
West Virginia finished with 447 yards of offense, with 281 coming through the air. Skyler Howard went 19-42 for 281 yards with a touchdown pass. He was sacked four times. Wendell Smallwood rushed the ball 25 times for 141 yards and a touchdown. The leading receiver was Jordan Thompson, who had five catches for 127 yards. The Mountaineers rushed for 166 yards.
Kansas State saw Kody Cook go 4-12 for 121 yards and a touchdown pass, and Joe Hubener throw for 85 yards and two interceptions on 6-19 passing. Deante Burton caught five passes for 135 yards with a touchdown, while Charles Jones had 14 carries for 44 yards. The Wildcats rushed for 98 yards and had 304 yards of offense.
With the win, all signs point to Kansas State playing in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Saturday, January 2 against an SEC opponent. Early signs point to Arkansas. West Virginia is also bowl bound, and is projected to go to the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix.
Head Coach Bill Snyder
Quarterback/Wide Receiver Kody Cook
Wide Receiver Deante Burton
Left Tackle Cody Whitehair
Right Guard Luke Hayes
Defensive Tackle Travis Britz
Linebacker Charmeachealle Moore
Cornerback Duke Shelley
Cornerback Morgan Burns