MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A rain-soaked crowd of 52,188 watched West Virginia rally from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime, but Kansas responded with 13 points in the extra session to pull out a 55-42 upset victory.
It was Kansas’ first-ever win in Morgantown in a 13-game series that dates back to 1941.
Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels passed for three touchdowns and accounted for 304 yards of total offense in an impressive running and passing performance. The Kansas offense was 11-of-15 on third down and produced 200 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
“We didn’t get off blocks very well, we didn’t tackle very well. We did some things a little bit better in the second half, but it was a track meet, and we didn’t slow them down,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “That’s not good enough. That’s not the way we’ve played defense here for three years.”
Kansas (2-0, 1-0) spotted West Virginia (0-2, 0-1) an early 14-0 lead before finally reaching paydirt early in the second quarter on tight end Mason Fairchild’s 10-yard touchdown catch.
Once more, the Jayhawks trailed by two scores late in the second quarter before Jalon Daniels found running back Devin Neal wide open out of the backfield for a 17-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left in the half.
That score pulled Kansas to within a touchdown, 28-21.
Kansas began the second half with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended in the end zone when Daniel Hishaw squeezed in from the 2, the first of his two rushing touchdowns.
Moments later, a turnover gave Kansas an opportunity to take its first lead. After a rare third-down stop, West Virginia gave the football right back to the Jayhawks when punt returner Reese Smith lost the ball in the lights and muffed Reis Vernon’s kick. Torry Locklin recovered the ball before falling out of bounds at the WVU 24.
Six plays later, Neal was back in the end zone on a 2-yard rush. Jacob Borcia’s conversion kick gave the Jayhawks a 35-28 lead.
West Virginia, which scored touchdowns on its first four offensive possessions of the game, could manage only a Casey Legg 27-yard field goal when its drive stalled at the KU 10. That score made it 35-31, Kansas.
It took Kansas just four plays and 1:52 to score again when Hishaw got loose for a 30-yard touchdown jaunt, giving the Jayhawks a two-possession advantage.
More red zone difficulties forced West Virginia to settle for another short Legg field goal when freshman tight end Treylan Davis was called for a false start penalty as the Mountaineers were trying to score a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play at the KU 1. With the football back at the 6, Brown was forced to kick the field goal to keep it a one-possession deficit.
A tie became more of a possibility when West Virginia got the ball back at its own 15 with 2:17 left once the defense stopped Jalon Daniels a yard short of the sticks on a third-and-two run.
JT Daniels completed a fourth-down pass to Kaden Prather for 10 yards to the WVU 30, and later hooked up with Prather again for 25 yards to the Kansas 23. A JT Daniels pass down the far sideline to Bryce Ford-Wheaton for 21 yards was ruled a catch at the Kansas 2, which was confirmed by replay. WVU got into the end zone two plays later when CJ Donaldson bulled in from the 1.
Ford-Wheaton’s two-point conversion catch in the back of the end zone tied the score at 42 with just 35 seconds left.
In overtime, it appeared West Virginia was about to force a long field-goal attempt when Lance Dixon and Hershey McLaurin converged on Locklin for a six-yard loss, but defensive end Taijh Alston was called for a roughing the passer penalty on the pass play to give Kansas a first-and-goal at the 10.
Two plays later, Jalon Daniels delivered a strike to Quentin Skinner in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
West Virginia’s overtime possession also ended in points, but unfortunately for Kansas. On third and 5 at the 20, JT Daniels tried to deliver a pass to Ford-Wheaton toward the Kansas sideline, but Cobee Bryant stepped in front of the throw and returned the interception 82 yards for a meaningless touchdown to end the game. Two plays prior, the game nearly ended when a heavily pressured Daniels threw a pass to the ground that was ruled a fumble on the field recovered by Kansas, but replay overturned the call.
Statistically, West Virginia outgained Kansas 501-to-419, including 355 yards through the air from Daniels and punted just once, but the two turnovers proved costly.
“We’re disappointed,” Brown said. “We lose two games there at the end – one in overtime and one at the end where we’re driving to tie the game up.
“I get the frustration. I promise you there is nobody more frustrated than me. Like I told our team, we’re two games into this and neither game was the result we wanted it to be, but it’s a long year,” Brown said. “We’re going to get better, and we have to get better. There is only one way to do that, and that’s get back to work. We’ll go back to work tomorrow.”
The Georgia transfer completed 28 of his 40 pass attempts, three going for touchdowns, including a pair of long ones to Sam James and Bryce Ford-Wheaton. James’ touchdown catch covered 59 yards on the fourth play of the game, and Ford-Wheaton took a screen pass at the WVU 35, outrunning the Kansas defense for a 67-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.
JT’s other touchdown pass was 5-yard hookup to Ford-Wheaton with 3:22 left in the second quarter.
Ford-Wheaton led all receivers with 11 catches for 152 yards and two scores. James caught four passes for 91 yards while Prather contributed 79 yards on six receptions.
West Virginia returns to Milan Puskar Stadium to face Towson next Saturday in a non-conference game that will kick off at 1 p.m.