MANHATTAN, Kan. – Senior place-kicker 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.
Redshirt 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 on 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 final play of 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 DJ Reed…
“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.”
SEASON RECORD UPDATE
K-State 5-5 (3-4 Big 12)
West Virginia 7-3 (5-2 Big 12)
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.
Associate Director for Athletics Communications | K-State Athletics