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Mistakes prove costly for West Virginia, as Mountaineers fall to Kansas State in Manhattan

West Virginia v Kansas State Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

A fourth quarter comeback attempt by West Virginia (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) was snuffed out on a crucial 4th and 8 conversion by Kansas State’s Skylar Thompson, as the Mountaineers dropped their sixth game of the season by a final score of 34-17.

With the loss, the Mountaineers will have to win both of their next two games to reach bowl eligibility.

West Virginia won the toss to start the game, but would give the ball back to the Wildcats on the second play of the game with a Jarret Doege interception. K-State marched down the field with ease, allowing Joe Ervin to put the Wildcats up 7-0 early on a two-yard touchdown run.

The Mountaineer offense was unable to respond, despite a 23-yard run on the first drive of the ensuing drive, and were forced to punt. After a quick three-and-out by the Wildcats, West Virginia took over on their own 22-yard line, only to answer with a three-and-out of their own. Tyler Sumpter’s punt was blocked and recovered for a touchdown by Kansas State, growing the Wildcats’ lead to 14-0.

The bad fortune continued into the second quarter for the Mountaineers, as Casey Legg went wide right on a 47-yard field goal attempt. A few drives later, K-State’s Chris Tennant knocked in a 32-yarder to give the Wildcats a little more cushion at 17-0 with 3:02 remaining in the half.

Doege was able to put together a decent enough drive to move West Virginia into Kansas State territory before the drive stalled out, forcing the Mountaineers to settle for a 39-yard field goal for their first points of the game.

West Virginia entered halftime with a 17-3 deficit and the Wildcats getting the ball back to start the second half.

Kansas State’s Malik Knowles returned the second half kickoff 64 yards, setting Thompson up to throw a four yard touchdown strike to Sammy Wheeler to extend the Wildcats lead to 24-3.

The comeback bid began for the Mountaineers on the ensuing drive, despite near disaster, as Kaden Prather recovered a Leddie Brown fumble to keep the ball with West Virginia. Jarret Doege found Prather a couple plays later on a huge 4th and 6 conversion in the red zone. Two plays later, Reese Smith hauled in a 13 yard pass from Doege, giving the Kentucky native his first career touchdown and closing the Wildcats’ lead to 24-10 with 6:02 left in the third.

Casey Legg kicked the ball out of bounds on the kickoff after the touchdown, giving K-State good field position once again and running back Deuce Vaughn moved the Wildcats further into West Virginia territory with a 38 yard run and a 13 yard reception. This time, however, the Mountaineer defense answered the call and stuffed the Wildcats’ run game to force a field goal. In a strange reversal of fortune, Tennant missed the 26-yard field goal, giving the Mountaineers another shot at narrowing the lead.

Doege engineered a nice drive that crossed over into the fourth quarter, as he found Prather and Bryce Ford-Wheaton for big gains. Neal Brown called three straight run plays in the red zone, none of which went for more than a two yard gain. As the Mountaineers faced 4th & 3 from the three yard line, Doege scrambled out to the right and was able to find Winston Wright for the touchdown to further close the lead to 24-17 with 11:50 remaining.

Kansas State would move the ball into West Virginia territory again on the next drive but the Mountaineer defense responded once again, forcing the Wildcats into a 4th and 8 from the WVU 39 yard line. After a timeout for an injured Exree Loe, Thompson found Sammy Wheeler again for a fourth down conversion, setting up Deuce Vaughn for another touchdown from the four yard line, effectively snuffing out the West Virginia comeback.

The Wildcats would go on to tack on another 25 yard field goal to extend the lead to the final score of 34-17.

With the absence of Garrett Greene, who didn’t travel with the team due to concussion protocol, Jarret Doege played the entire game and finished 27-of-45 (60%) passing for 268 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Bryce Ford-Wheaton led the Mountaineer receivers with five catches for 67 yards, while true freshman Kaden Prather finished with four receptions for 60 yards. Winston Wright finished with 33 yards and a touchdown on six grabs.

Leddie Brown ended the day with 85 yards on 20 attempts (4.3 YPC) , and 33 yards on five catches.

Coming Up Next

West Virginia returns home next Saturday to take on the Texas Longhorns (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) in Milan Puskar Stadium, where they’ll also honor the seniors on the team. That game is scheduled to kick-off at Noon ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2.