The West Virginia Mountaineers sent their 21 seniors off with a blowout victory of the Kansas Jayhawks in front of a mostly full stadium. The glaring hole in the attendance at Milan Puskar Stadium was in the designated Kansas section that was approximately 1% full, and that is being generous. It is hard to blame the Jayhawks fans for not making the trip to WVU when their team has been very fortunate to have a win over lowly South Dakota State to avoid a full season of losing.
On the other side of the field, West Virginia fans showed up well to fill in the vast majority of the stadium to honor the class of 2012.The Mountaineers faithful would be loud and proud from the very start.
Geno Smith came out slinging the ball 53 yards to Stedman Bailey to put the Mountaineers on the fast track to an opening drive touchdown. The senior quarterback would play an almost perfect game tonight completing 23 of 24 passes on the afternoon. Smith’s lone mistake came on the second drive of the game when he misread the coverage, throwing an easy interception to the Jayhawks defense.
From that moment on, Geno Smith would complete the rest of his pass attempts, 21 in all. His 21 straight completions set an NCAA record for consecutive completions.
Smith finished with 407 yards passing, 5 yards rushing, and 3 touchdowns. That is an impressive way to end your tenure in Morgantown.
Smith’s great game was somewhat over-shadowed by the potency of the Mountaineers rushing attack. The Mountaineers employed 4 rushers in the game, with 3 of those rushers receiving 10 or more carries. WVU was able to change the tempo and running style on a play to play basis by utilizing Tavon Austin, Shawne Alston, Andrew Buie, and Dustin Garrison. The fantastic four combined for 38 carries for 247 yards and 5 touchdowns against the weak Kansas defense.
Senior, all-purpose star Tavon Austin showed once again why he is one of the most dangerous players in all of college football. Austin carried the ball 12 times for 77 yards and a touchdown. Austin also excelled in the receiving game with 4 grabs for 110 yards. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks punter was able to keep Austin from returning any punts which could have further blown the game open.
Austin’s performance against Kansas should be but a cherry on top of a well deserving consensus All-American season.
Fellow teammate and All-American hopeful Stedman Bailey put in yet another 100+ yard receiving performance. Bailey once again proved to be Geno Smith’s favorite target, hauling in 11 receptions for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns. With tonight’s performance, Stedman Bailey has compiled 95 receptions for 1,501 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Stedman Bailey’s numbers this season scream for the Biletnikoff Award and his final regular season performance should have gone a long ways to helping Bailey bring home the high honor.
Of course, none of those spectacular offensive statistics would have been possible without the exceptional play of the offensive line. Seniors Joe Madsen, Jeff Braun, and Josh Jenkins anchored the line that led the Mountaineers to 647 yards and 8 touchdowns. Hats off to the big men in the trenches for their best performance of the season.
On the defensive side of the ledger, the Mountaineers played well against the run-first Jayhawks. All week long, Charlie Weis stated that he was looking to air the ball out against the struggling WVU secondary. That did not happen in this game as Dayne Crist only lasted for the first few drives of the game, only completing one pass against the Mountaineers secondary and throwing an interception to Karl Joseph on one of the few deep penetration all afternoon by the Jayhawks.
Kansas made the switch to Michael Cummings and Christian Matthews at quarterback for the majority of the game. The game switched almost exclusively to a spread option attack, one that played right into the Mountaineers defensive strength. The Jayhawks rushing attack was snuffed out at the line of scrimmage more times than not. Shaq Rowell and Jorge Wright dominated the interior running channels while Karl Joseph, Terence Garvin, and Josh Francis did an excellent job of playing their assignments correctly, keeping the pitch from going for big yardage.
The Mountaineers defense bottled up Kansas’ offense for only 274 yards and 10 points. The Mountaineers got one turnover from the Jayhawks, the Joseph interception. Joseph would also force a fumble that was recovered by Kansas.
In total, this was the most complete performance that the Mountaineers have put together all season long. The defense forced 6 punts, two turnovers on downs, and one interception while holding the Jayhawks to 10 points. A great night for a unit that has been the lightning rod of blame for the disappointing season.
The win moves the Mountaineers to 7-5 (4-5 in the Big XII). West Virginia will need to wait for the bowl selection committees to determine their bowl fate. The two leading bowl options for the Mountaineers are the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York against a Big East opponent or the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl in San Diego against a Pac-12 opponent.
The bowl committees will select their participants tomorrow afternoon.