MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — The No. 15 Kansas State Wildcats closed WVU’s Milan Puskar Stadium with a 48-31 victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday.
Wildcat quarterback Will Howard threw for two touchdowns and ran in another to lead his team to their second-highest point total of the season. The majority of those points came in the first half as both teams combined to score 66.
Nine of the game’s first 10 drives ended in touchdowns, both offensive and defensive. K-State needed five plays to drive 69 yards on the opening drive, capped off by a 15-yard rush by Deuce Vaughn. The Wildcats then doubled their lead on defense when Cincere Mason picked off WVU quarterback Garrett Greene and returned it 37 yards for a score.
West Virginia mirrored the Wildcats to fight its way back into the game. Greene bounced back on the ensuing drive, finding Sam James on a 26-yard connection to record WVU’s first touchdown of the game. Malachi Ruffin nearly doubled WVU’s lead in the next drive when he picked Howard off and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown.
WVU couldn’t capitalize on that opportunity to tie the game up, however. Casey Legg struggled in his Senior Day game as he missed the first of two extra points in this game. He later missed a 44-yard attempt in the second half.
DJ Giddens and Howard each ran in touchdowns over the next four minutes of play to bring the Wildcat lead up to 15 points.
WVU closed out the first quarter scoring bonanza with a 71-yard pass from Greene to James. The duo connected three times in the game, each of which went for touchdowns.
Howard opened the second quarter with a touchdown pass to Brady Sinnott. The K-State quarterback later connected with Malik Knowles, the game’s leading receiver, for a 43-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Ty Zentner helped with the Kansas State scoring effort in the second quarter, making a pair of long field goals. He extended the K-State lead to 16 points with a 53-yard make as the second-quarter clock expired.
Knowles’s touchdown grab early in the fourth quarter essentially sealed the game for K-State after a scoreless third quarter. He finished with a game-high 111 yards.
James was the game’s second-leading receiver, topping WVU with 102 yards with his three touchdown catches.
WVU’s defense kept Vaughn, K-State’s star tailback, relatively quiet. He was held to 67 yards on 22 carries, including the 15-yard touchdown dash in the opening drive. Giddens was the leading Wildcat rusher with 78 yards and a touchdown.
Jaylen Anderson led WVU’s rushing attack with 69 yards on seven carries. Justin Johnson Jr. added 63 yards on 11 touches.
Greene finished 15-for-27 in his first career start, totaling 204 yards and two interceptions, along with his three touchdowns to James.
The Mountaineers are officially eliminated from bowl contention with the loss as they compile their seventh win of the season.
Kansas State is in pole position for a trip to the Big 12 Championship game with its win. The Wildcats await the result of Texas’s game with Kansas, as a Longhorn loss would officially punch
K-State’s ticket to Arlington. If Texas wins, the Wildcats could lock up its spot with a win over Kansas in the final week of the season.