MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Deuce Vaughn ran for 121 yards and a touchdown, Sammy Wheeler had a touchdown catch along with a crucial fourth-down grab, and Kansas State beat mistake-prone West Virginia 34-17 on Saturday.
Skylar Thompson had just 138 yards passing for the Wildcats (7-3, 4-3 Big 12), but the senior made a couple crucial throws when the Mountaineers (4-6, 2-5) had whittled a 24-3 deficit to seven midway through the fourth quarter.READ MORE: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh Says Build Back Better Will Help Retrain Workers For Pittsburgh's Jobs Of The Future
Jarret Doege had 268 yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions for West Virginia, which had won five straight against the Wildcats dating to the 2015 season. Leddie Brown added 85 yards on the ground.
West Virginia began digging a big hole when Doege was picked on the game’s second play, his throw skipping off Winston Wright Jr.’s hands and into those of Russ Yeast. Kansas State promptly marched 55 yards to take a 7-0 lead.
A few minutes later, the Mountaineers’ VanDarius Cowan hit Thompson with a helmet-to-helmet blow and was ejected.
They eventually got the ball back, but a personal foul for a chop block forced the Mountaineers to punt. The Wildcats’ Ty Bowman slipped around the edge to block it, and teammate Marvin Martin picked up the loose ball for a 14-0 lead.
The problems continued for West Virginia when it gambled on fourth-and-6 at the Kansas State 29 near the end of the first quarter; Doege was sacked for a turnover-on-downs. And when the Mountaineers faced fourth-and-3 later in the second quarter at nearly the same spot on the field, they tried the field goal and Casey Legg pushed it wide right.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 24-3 early in the second half. Malik Knowles nearly broke the opening kickoff for a TD and Thompson took advantage of the good field position to hit Wheeler for the score.
That’s when the Mountaineers got on track for the first time all game.
Late in the third quarter, Doege hit Kaden Prather to convert on fourth down. Then, the senior quarterback found Reese Smith from 13 yards out for West Virginia’s first touchdown in 21 possessions spanning three games.
It wasn’t the last, either.READ MORE: State Lawmaker Has Plan To Collect $104 Million In Lost Turnpike Revenue
After the Wildcats missed a own chip-shot field goal, the Mountaineers went 80 yards the other way. Brown converted on fourth-and-1 early in the drive, and Doege finished it by finding Wright in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the Kansas State 3 to get West Virginia within 24-17 with 11:50 to go.
But the Wildcats proved they can convert on fourth down, too.
Facing fourth-and-9 near midfield, Thompson threw a rope to Wheeler for a 35-yard gain — improving Kansas State to 12 of 14 on fourth downs this year. Vaughn capped the 63-yard drive with a touchdown run to put the game away.
West Virginia simply couldn’t overcome the early mistakes, even though it played nearly flawless most of the second half. Now, the Mountaineers need to beat Texas and Kansas the next two weeks to become bowl-eligible.
Kansas State is working on a better bowl destination now. The Wildcats have ripped off four straight wins heading into a big game against Baylor on Senior Day in Manhattan, then they finish the regular season at Texas.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers return home to play the Longhorns on Saturday.
Kansas State: The Wildcats play the Bears the same night.MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Penguins, Fenway Sports Group Reach Agreement On Sale Of Team
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