No. 23 West Virginia holds on for 28-23 win at K-State

Courtesy: K-State Athletics

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Matthew McCrane connected on three field goals to break the K-State record for most field goals in a career, DJ Reed forced two turnovers on defense and the Wildcats held West Virginia scoreless in the second half, but the No. 23 Mountaineers held on for a 28-23 win at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday.

HOW IT HAPPENED
The K-State defense was active early, causing havoc for the Mountaineers offense. On the first defensive possession, Reed, K-State’s junior corner, forced and recovered a fumble for the game’s first turnover. On the subsequent WVU possession, senior defensive end Davis Clark sacked Mountaineer quarterback Will Grier for a four-yard loss, causing the second consecutive empty possession for the Mountaineers.

Later in the first quarter, Reed registered his second forced turnover of the game, after Grier’s pass was tipped into the air and nabbed by Reed who returned the interception to the West Virginia three-yard line. Reed’s second turnover led to the first points of the game, as Lou Groza semifinalist McCrane connected on a 21-yard field goal to tie K-State great Martin Gramatica’s career mark. McCrane would add another field goal later in the first quarter to extend the K-State lead to 6-0 and position himself at the top of the leaderboard.

The celebration was short lived however, as West Virginia responded with a one-play, 75-yard touchdown strike from Grier to wide receiver Ka’Raun White who escaped the Wildcat secondary. Grier connected on another touchdown pass to David Sills V from 16-yards out as part of a 14-0 swing to push the Mountaineer lead to 14-6.

The Wildcats first offensive possession of the second quarter resulted in the team’s first touchdown of the game, as running back Dalvin Warmack set up the Wildcat offense at the one-yard line following a 22-yard carry. Junior fullback Winston Dimel capped of the drive with a one-yard touchdown carry to bring the score within one at 14-13.

Before halftime, both teams traded punches as the Mountaineers struck on a four-yard touchdown pass to Sills, and K-State matched with a 2-yard touchdown rush by Dimel, his second of the day. Just before the break, a screen pass was nabbed by a WVU lineman and Grier aired out a 30-yard touchdown to White with time expiring to give his side a 28-20 advantage.

Coming out of the break, the third quarter was scoreless as the Wildcats marched down the field but came up empty on a 32-yard field goal attempt – ruled a miss as the ball sailed above the top of the upright and wasn’t fully inside. On the following possession, K-State benefitted from another McCrane field goal, this time from 39-yards out to bring the score to 28-23, West Virginia.

With under 10 minutes left in the game, Thompson and the Wildcat offense were moving down the field before another untimely interception as a WVU defender jumped in front of a Thompson pass and returned the interception for 37 yards to the K-State 48-yard line. The Wildcat defense was able to force West Virginia to a three-and-out, but pinned deep inside its own territory, K-State couldn’t get a drive going and West Virginia got a pair of first downs while running out the clock.

The K-State offense compiled 332 total yards of offense, including 173 that came on the ground as the Wildcats controlled the time of possession for 36:01. The Wildcats converted 3-of-5 opportunities in the red zone. Defensively the Wildcats forced four turnovers that resulted in three points, all of which came in the first half, as the team allowed 492 total yards of offense to the Mountaineers in the game.

OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE GAME
The ground-and-pound attack of Warmack and Dimel proved successful on Saturday, as Warmack rushed for 96 yards on 14 carries, while Dimel pounded in two touchdowns from one and two-yards out to meet his 22nd career rushing touchdown. Warmack’s 96 rush yards marked a career day as he reached a new career-high in rushing yards, surpassing his previous career high of 90 yards set against Florida Atlantic in 2016.

Freshman Skylar Thompson completed 13-of-26 passing for 159 yards in his first career-start, and took 18 carries for 53 yards on the ground. Thompson connected with Isaiah Zuber four times for 45 yards, as Zuber was the Wildcats’ top receiver in the game.

DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE GAME
On the first defensive possession of the game, Reed shed his block and grabbed a hold of West Virginia’s Gary Jennings on a wide receiver screen and stripped the ball from Jennings, and recovering the fumble. Reed’s first half forced fumble and recovery was his first forced fumble of the season, and his second fumble recovery of the season.

Later in the first, Reed nabbed his second turnover of the game and his fourth interception of the season. Reed’s two turnovers marks his first multi-turnover game of his career.

In the second quarter, sophomore Denzel Goolsby recorded the second K-State interception of the game and his second interception of the season.

K-State pressured Grier throughout the game but recorded just two sacks in the game as senior Jayd Kirby brought down Grier for a loss of two, and Clark recorded his second sack of the season. Junior Kendall Adams led the team with 11 total tackles in the game which marks a season high. Kirby followed by tallying nine tackles, seven of which were solo tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS STARS OF THE GAME
McCrane hit three field goals from 21, 39 and 43 yards to break Martin Gramatica’s K-State record of career field goals made with 56. McCrane’s 43-yarder in the first quarter was the record breaker, as he surpassed Gramatica’s previous record of 54 career field goals.

With an impressive day on defense, Reed added on with a 44-yard punt return in the third quarter and a 31-yard punt return in the fourth quarter, as he helped set up the Wildcat offense with good field position. Reed returned four punts for a total of 99 yards, and racked up 132 all-purpose yards in the game.

Punter Nick Walsh punted eight times for a net of 352 yards on Saturday, including two punts that were downed within the 5-yard line. Walsh also sent two punts over 50 yards, with a long of 52.

STATS OF THE GAME
56 – With three field goals from 21, 39 and 43 yards out on Saturday, McCrane set a new K-State record for most field goals made in a career, surpassing Martin Gramatica’s previous record of 54.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS
K-State Head Coach Bill Snyder
On Skylar Thompson’s performance…
“He did not play as well as he did the two previous games, but he had a lot of help as well in that regard. He did some good things throughout the course of the ball game, but struggled from time to time. But, like I said, it was not Skylar. There were an awful lot of reasons we did not win that ball game.”

On the final play of the first half…
“Obviously, it impacted us offensively because the offense did not score in the third quarter. They did not score in the third quarter either so apparently it did not affect our defense too much. It was just a bad series of events.”

On D.J. Reed’s game…
“DJ (Reed) played well on special teams. Obviously, he had some very nice returns. He played well defensively as well. Collectively, I think he played well. He had a couple of issues in the passing game on defense, but overall he played well.”

K-State Senior Kicker Matthew McCrane
On what he was told on his missed field goal…
“Apparently, it did not go in. From where I was standing it was close, but I trust the referee’s judgment. He is right under the post and he had the better angle.”

On breaking the school record for most field goals…
“It is an honor to be up there with Martin (Gramatica), but I want to win football games just like anybody else. We cannot afford to have four attempts and win a football game. We need to win football games. That is the number one goal.”

K-State Junior Running Back Dalvin Warmack
On the interception at the end of the first half…
“Looking back on it, we were not trying to run out the clock or anything like that. I just made the wrong read and took a negative loss on the previous play. We did not cash in like we thought we were going to on that. That was a big sequence. That gets them momentum going into the half and gets them rowdy and excited.”

On if that play affected the team…
“I do not think it affected our locker room a whole lot. A lot of guys were still pumped up and ready to go back out there in the second half. The defense came out and played a phenomenal second half. We just have to execute as an offense and score in the red zone.”

K-State Senior Linebacker Trent Tanking
On Will Grier’s scrambling ability…
“It was tough. It was a little wet out there so he was a little more slippery than usual. He did a good job backing up when our pass rushers were getting there. When our guys would normally dive and get him, he would slip off. He just did enough to make the play longer. We knew he did not necessarily do the quarterback running game, but he did with the scrambling and creative ability. We knew we could keep him in the pocket and cover long enough to sack him. Unfortunately, we could not get that done.”

On WVU’s TD to end the first half…
“You can play it one or two ways. We were not in our three max, our deep ‘line everybody at the goal line’. We did not play that, so we kind of knew that they could run an out route for 10 yards and kick a field goal at least. That did not happen either, so it was a frustrating play overall.”

West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen
On his thoughts after the game…
“It was a weird game. I am just excited about winning. I do not quite know how we won it other than our defense playing their tail off. The offense was hot and cold. We made some big plays, which is always good. But at some point, we have got to be efficient. I just do not see an efficient offense right now.”

On going for it on fourth down late in the game…
“That was kind of in the game plan. That’s a long field goal for Evan (Staley). Obviously a three-point field goal makes it eight points. They are pretty good at shooting gaps and blocking kicks, so I did not want to do that.”

On several third down calls made in the game…
“I was really disappointed in a couple of our third down calls and execution. Twice on the 35-yard line in the third quarter I would have went for it. We did not do a very good job at putting the job in play, and that was pretty disappointing.”

On being in a game like last week versus Iowa State…
“We ran the ball better last week, but Iowa State’s defense is different than Kansas State’s defense. If you look at it, it is the same thing. We made big plays on offense to score in the first half, and then came out and did not do anything for the second week in row on offense. The defense gave up some plays, but the opponent’s offense did not score enough to be able to win. It is the same game. For two weeks in a row, we have found ways to win.”

On the last play of the first half…
“He knew he was in trouble. He came to me and apologized, and I told him you do not have to apologize for throwing a touchdown. He was forced out of the pocket, and he knew he was out of time.”

On K-State’s Skylar Thompson…
“I think he is going to be a good player. He is pretty poised. He can run. He sits in the pocket, and he looks like he is accurate. I think he is going to get better and better.”

WVU Junior Wide Receiver David Sills
On making big plays…
“Will (Grier) has a lot of faith in us receivers, so it just comes down to us making a play. I also think we left a lot of plays out there. We stalled a lot of drives in the third and fourth quarters. We made stupid mistakes and dropped a couple balls. We missed some blocks up front. We definitely need to improve on that going into the Texas game.”

On Will Grier extending plays…
“Will (Grier) is very good at extending plays and making defenders miss. He always keeps his eyes downfield. He can run, but when he scrambles he is looking to throw the ball downfield. It resulted in a lot of big plays for us today.”

WVU Sophomore Linebacker David Long Jr.
On stopping K-State three straight times inside the five-yard line…
“We have been in that situation before, and a couple of times we did not convert. This week we knew we had to do it. It was a big game and they were going to make plays. They have play makers and we knew we were going to have to guard them and do what we do best.”

On slowing down K-State’s run game…
“We watched a ton of film throughout the week, and just knowing what they were going through in their pre-snap reads and being there before they can make a play.”

WVU Junior Wide Receiver Gary Jennings
On Will Grier’s ability to make plays outside of the pocket…
“When the rush gets back there, we know the play is definitely not over, so we are always trying to get open.”

On the offensive game plan…
“We realized that in their defensive approach, they are more stout on running the ball. We figured that by passing the ball, we would be able to get those bigger gains.”

SEASON RECORD UPDATE
K-State 5-5 (3-4 Big 12)
West Virginia 7-3 (5-2 Big 12)

WHAT’S NEXT
The Wildcats will hit the road as they travel to Sillwater, Oklahoma to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, November 18. The kickoff time will be announced Sunday morning.

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