Playing in Morgantown is never easy – and No. 12 Kansas State found that out firsthand Thursday night. The Wildcats led West Virginia 17-3 at halftime before holding on for a 26-20 win over the pesky Mountaineers.
“It’s good to go on the road in the Big 12 and get a win,” Kansas State wide receiver Curry Sexton said on Ferrall on the Bench. “We left a lot of plays on the field. We made a ton of mistakes tonight. But I think anytime you can come in here and get a win, we’ll gladly take it despite how poorly we’ve played at times.”
Kansas State kicker Matthew McCrane missed a field goal late in the game, which gave West Virginia life. McCrane, however, came right back and drilled a 32-yarder to give the Wildcats a 26-17 lead with just under three minutes remaining.
“Yeah, he’s done well for us all year,” Sexton said. “He’s been big in some big spots for us down the stretch. We were kind of juggling snappers there for a little bit and I think maybe that threw the timing off a little bit of one of the kicks. Matt, he’s been big time for us. He’s made a lot of clutch kicks through this back half of the season. We got all the faith in the world for him. For him to be able to make that kick and put us up by nine points with a couple minutes to go was huge.”
It is worth noting that McCrane made four field goals on the night. Throw in a pair of extra points, and he was responsible for 14 of Kansas State’s 26 points.
“Yeah, any time you make four field goals, that’s pretty impressive,” Sexton said. “There’s a lot more to it (than people think). People always want to blame the kicker if they miss a kick, and you don’t realize there’s a lot that goes into the snap and the hold and the protection upfront – as well as the wind and stuff. I got to give those guys a lot of credit because what they do isn’t easy and I don’t think people realize that at times. But being a kicker, you’re out there on an island, and it’s a tough job. I love the kid and I’m happy he was able to pull through for us.”
Quarterback Jake Waters, meanwhile, had a great game for K-State, throwing for a season-high 400 yards – in fact, it was Waters’ first time surpassing even 300 yards – to go with one touchdown and one interception. Waters’ top targets were Tyler Lockett, who had 10 catches for 196 yards, and Sexton, who had five grabs for 76 yards.
Stunningly, K-State rushed 29 times for just one yard, but the defense forced four turnovers to help the Wildcats improve to 8-2 (6-1). West Virginia, on the other hand, fell to 6-5 (4-4).
“I think (our fast start) was big for us,” Sexton said. “They took the ball first, our defense was able to get a stop and then we drove down and scored real quick. We had some drives where we killed ourselves with penalties and we had a couple dropped passes and we had a kick blocked at the end of the first half that would have put us up 20-3 going in. But like you said, we came out and we were kind of able to dictate the tempo and play the game we wanted to play for the most part in the first half. But they just kind of never died and they kept coming back.”
K-State hosts Kansas (3-7, 1-6) on Nov. 29 before playing No. 7 Baylor (8-1, 5-1) in Waco in the regular-season finale Dec. 6.