West Virginia football is headed to its second straight bowl game after it defeated Kansas on the road 34-28 Saturday.
The Mountaineers are undefeated under Neal Brown when they rush for 100 yards or more, and they kept that trend alive in Lawrence as they dashed for 261 on the night, including a combined 274 from their running backs, Leddie Brown and Tony Mathis. This success came despite a nearly nightmarish start to the game on offense, but the squad recovered to dominate momentum through the majority of the contest.
KU opened the game with a field goal from Jacob Borcila on the opening drive and quickly found itself with another scoring opportunity after just one offensive play from WVU. On the visitors’ opening snap, Brown and quarterback Jarret Doege had a mix-up on a hand-off, immediately giving Kansas the ball back. It was West Virginia’s first turnover in two weeks.
The WVU defense stepped up and kept Kansas off the scoreboard following the turnover, giving Doege the chance to score his first of two straight touchdowns through the air to Winston Wright Jr. in the half. He finished with three scores on the day, the third going to Sam James with seconds to go in the half.
Mixed up in all that, though, was a quietly strong performance from Brown, who amassed 89 yards in the first two quarters of play, helping WVU to an eight-point lead at the halftime break.
Doege’s second half started off just as nightmarish as the first, as he tossed a pick six to Gavin Potter on the first play of the second drive. Regardless, the WVU signal caller put together one of his most efficient performances of the season, throwing 16-of-21 for 170 yards, three scores and a rating of 181.8.
Brown hit a milestone in the third quarter, reaching 1,000 yards for the second straight season. He also gave WVU one of its highlights of the season when he utilized strong blocking at all levels to dash in for a 44-yard touchdown — his only score of the game — as he finished with 156 yards on the night.
Not long after, WVU gave its carries to its backup running back. In fact, Mathis paced all rushers with 22 touches, 19 of which came in the second half. He finished with 118 yards.
The Jayhawks still threatened the lead into the last drives of the game, but WVU’s defense came up big once again. Senior linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo killed two of KU’s final three drives with interceptions in the end zone, upping his career total to three.
That didn’t knock Kansas out of the game, though, as it added one more touchdown with just under two minutes left in the game.
But it was too little, too late to threaten WVU.
Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels went 22-for-32 through the air for 249 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Luke Grimm was his most prolific receiver, connecting with him four times for 105 yards. His only score, fittingly, went to Jared Casey, the once-unknown tight end who helped KU slay the Longhorns earlier in November.
Sean Ryan led WVU in receiving, catching five passes for 87 yards. Wright led the game with two touchdown catches. Five other Mountaineers caught passes on the night.
West Virginia improves to 6-6 overall on the season and 4-5 in the Big 12, which moves the Mountaineers to sixth place in the league and into bowl eligibility. Kansas ends its season 2-10 and 1-8 in the Big 12.