The West Virginia Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) opened conference play with a 29-24 road win over the Kansas Jayhawks (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) in Lawrence, but nothing came easy in the hard-fought victory.
West Virginia won the toss and deferred to the second half, and followed it up by forcing the Jayhawks to a three-and-out on their opening drive — a trend we’ve seen in four consecutive games this season. The Mountaineers answered with a touchdown on their first offensive possession, ending on a three yard run by Kennedy McKoy.
The game slowed to a crawl for the remained of the first quarter, as the Mountaineers held the Jayhawks to just 36 offensive yards in the period and both teams traded punts on four straight drives.
Kansas finally mustered up the offense to go on a seven play, 75 yard drive ending with a 28 yard touchdown pass to Kawmie Lassiter to tie the game at 7-7.
The Mountaineer offense failed to get any rhythm going on their next three drives, with Austin Kendall looking out of sync with his receivers and eating multiple sacks instead of throwing the ball away, killing each drive. Conversely, the Jayhawks had similar issues of their own, going three-and-out on their drives.
West Virginia was able to put a nine play, 51 yard drive together in the final minute of the half, setting up a 37 yard field goal from Evan Staley to give the Mountaineers a 10-7 lead heading into the locker room.
Martell Pettaway extended West Virginia’s lead to 17-7 on the opening drive of the second half with a 23 yard touchdown run, capping off a 10 play, 70 yard drive that ate up four and a half minutes of game time.
Kansas would answer with a field goal to bring them back to within a touchdown, and on the ensuing kickoff tried a quick onside kick that appeared to be recovered by the Jayhawks until a penalty was called for kick-catch interference. West Virginia took over on Kansas’ 31 yard line, and ended up settling for another field goal to go up 20-10.
And here is where it started getting crazy.
On Kansas’ next drive, Carter Stanley connected with Andrew Parchment on the very first play for a 75-yard touchdown to bring the Jayhawks within a field goal. West Virginia would answer with a six and a half minute drive that carried into the fourth quarter, but would have to settle for another field goal to get their lead to 23-17.
The Jayhawks began moving the ball at ease, once again, on the following drive, but West Virginia cornerback Keith Washington made an incredible leaping play to pick off Carter Stanley’s pass at the Kansas 34 yard line. The Mountaineers grinded out another five minute drive, capped with a seven yard touchdown run from Pettaway and a failed two-point conversion to go up 29-17 with 4:59 left in the game.
Kansas threatened West Virginia’s lead once again on their next drive, when Stanley found Parchment for a three yard touchdown to put the score at 29-24 with 2:10 left on the clock.
The Mountaineers would end up putting the ball back in Kansas’ hands when their drive stalled out with 32 seconds left on the clock, but the Jayhawks couldn’t put enough together to drive down the field for what would have been the game winning touchdown.
Kendall finished the day 25-of-37 for 202 yards passing, but it was the Mountaineer running back corps that saved the day for the Old Gold and Blue. Martell Pettaway led the way for the West Virginia with six carries for 40 yards and two touchdowns — his first of the season. Kennedy McKoy, who got the bulk of carries on the evening, finished with 73 yards and a touchdown on 20 rushing attempts and five catches for 44 yards. Leddie Brown chipped in 70 yards on 12 carries.
Wide receiver Sam James caught six balls on eight targets for 41 yards, and TJ Simmons added four receptions for 46 yards on 9 targets.
On the defensive side, Josh Norwood led the team with 11 total tackles. Keith Washington finished with just one tackle, but had a crucial interception that set up West Virginia’s game-sealing touchdown drive. Dante Stills added another sack to his season total (4), while Dylan Tonkery, Exree Loe and Hakeem Bailey were each credited with a tackle for loss.
West Virginia is off next week on a bye, and will return to action on October 5th in Morgantown when they take on the current No. 12 ranked Texas Longhorns. Kickoff time and television arrangements will be announced by next Sunday.