WVU runs over Kansas in blowout
Throughout the last month, the overwhelming storyline concerning West Virginia's offense has been the drastic change of head coach Dana Holgorsen's willingness to run the football.
On Saturday, the evolution of playing calling by Holgorsen continued and West Virginia rushed for 426 yards as a team during a 49-0 victory over Kansas at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.
295 of those total rushing yards came in the first half as West Virginia jumped ahead of the Jayhawks quickly.
West Virginia scored on its second offensive possession of the game, going 63 yards on five rushing plays. Running back Wendell Smallwood had a 15-yard carry, quarterback Skyler Howard had a 35-yard run and running back Rushel Shell capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown to put West Virginia ahead 7-0, setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
All three guys - Howard, Smallwood and Shell - each ran for over 100 yards in the game marking just the fourth time in program history that three rushers each racked up more than 100 yards in the same game.
Howard finished the contest with a career-high 129 rushing yards. Smallwood, who already had cracked the 1000-yard mark on the season, continued his strong campaign with 115 yards on the ground against the Jayhawks to eclipse 1200 yards on the season. It was the fourth straight game and seventh time in the last eight that Smallwood ran for more than 100 yards.
Shell scored the second offensive touchdown of the game on the following offensive possession for West Virginia. He went untouched on a 26-yard run right through the middle of Kansas' defense to give West Virginia a three-touchdown lead.
While the running game was strong early, so was cornerback Terrell Chestnut leading West Virginia's defense.
Before the impressive first scoring drive, West Virginia obtained the ball when Chestnut forced Kansas wide receiver Tre' Parmalee to fumble after a 23-yard reception. Safety Jarrod Harper was credited with the recovery.
On the next offensive series for Kansas, quarterback Ryan Willis was intercepted by Chestnut and the fifth-year senior standout went 32 yards into the end zone to convert the pick-six.
West Virginia ended their dominating first quarter with 3:26 to go when Smallwood scored on a 24-yard touchdown. The 28 points scored in the quarter were the most West Virginia had scored in a quarter since the second quarter of the 2012 Orange Bowl, when they tallied 35 points against Clemson.
Kansas was never competitive in the contest, so West Virginia never had to look back from there.
Howard added a two-yard scoring toss to tight end Cody Clay and then registered a nine-yard rushing touchdown before the end of the first half to give West Virginia a 42-0 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
While Howard was efficient running the football, he also managed to throw it fairly well on a windy day. He completed 60-percent of his passes for 133 yards and the touchdown to Clay. By throwing for more than 100 yards, Howard became the first West Virginia player to pass and rush for at least 100 yards since Pat White did it against Louisville in 2008.
The win for West Virginia (6-4, 3-4) clinches bowl eligibility marking the fourth time in five years under Holgorsen that the program will play in a postseason game. The Mountaineers return home to Morgantown next week to meet Iowa State on senior day at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Winless Kansas (0-11, 0-8) wraps up their season next week against instate rival Kansas State.