MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) – Will Grier threw five touchdown passes for the fifth time in his career and No. 12 West Virginia shook off a sloppy start to drill Kansas State 35-6 on Saturday in the Big 12 opener for both teams.
Grier finished 25 of 35 for 356 yards and the five scores, three of them to David Sills, and two interceptions as the Mountaineers (3-0) had little trouble against the punchless Wildcats (2-2). Sills caught 10 passes for 73 yards and the three touchdowns. Marcus Simms added five receptions for 136 yards – including an 82-yard catch-and-run to open the scoring.
West Virginia outgained Kansas State 464-318, had four sacks and was never really threatened after getting it together late in the first half.
Playing for the first time in two weeks after a visit to North Carolina State was cancelled due to Hurricane Florence, the Mountaineers looked a bit off early. Each of their first two drives ended with turnovers. The game turned thanks to a curious play call by the Wildcats.
Trailing just 7-0 midway through the second quarter and facing fourth-and-inches at the Kansas State 43, the Wildcats opted to go for it. Quarterback Skylar Thompson ran a quick option and pitched the ball to running back Alex Barnes, who was hit for a 4-yard loss.
Seven plays later, Grier found Sills for a 1-yard score to put the Mountaineers up 14-0. After forcing Kansas State to a three-and-out, West Virginia needed just 55 seconds to go 73 yards, the last one coming on a pretty grab in the back of the end zone by Sills, to make it 21-0 at the break.
The Mountaineers kept pointing to last season’s 28-23 escape on the road against the Wildcats – when West Virginia was shut out in the second half and needed to hold on late – as proof they couldn’t afford to let up. They didn’t.
Grier hit Tevin Bush for a 62-yard score early in the third quarter and converted a Kansas State fumble into another 1-yard touchdown to Sills to put the Mountaineers up 35-3.
Skylar Thompson completed 11 of 17 passes for 145 yards for Kansas State. Alex Delton came on late with the game out of hand and finished 7 of12 for 82 yards. He also added 28 yards rushing but by then it was far too late for the Wildcats in the rare breather in what has been a closely contested series.
The last four meetings had been decided by a total of 13 points. Not this time.
Kansas State: The Wildcats have some issues on offense. They managed just 77 yards in the first half and didn’t cross midfield until their first possession of the second half.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers seem to be more comfortable going fast than slow. Four of their five touchdown drives took less than 2 minutes.
Kansas State: Hosts Texas next Saturday. The Wildcats have won the last five meetings with the Longhorns at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
West Virginia: Travels to Texas Tech next Saturday. The Mountaineers have won four straight over the Red Raiders.
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