MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s 21 seniors put on a show in the final home game of their careers Saturday afternoon against Kansas in Morgantown.
Geno Smith completed 23-of-24 passes, including a school-record 21 in a row, for 407 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers to a 59-10 victory over Jayhawks. His 95.8 percent completion percentage today ties Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin’s NCAA record set in 1998.
“Our motivation for this game was we obviously put a lot of it on the 21 seniors that were out there and wanted to finish strong,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “I thought we had a chance to play our best ball in game 12, and on all three sides of the ball I think we did that.”
Kansas had two weeks to prepare for today’s game, but it made little difference as it lost for the 21st time in a row in Big 12 play and essentially out of the game after Dayne Crist threw a red zone pick when trailing only by a touchdown.
West Virginia (7-5, 4-5) turned that Karl Joseph interception into one of the five touchdowns it scored in the first half, going five for five in the red zone against the top red zone defense in the league and five for six overall in scoring possessions.
WVU got a pair of short touchdown runs from senior Shawne Alston, another from Andrew Buie, and short TD catches from seniors Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods (8 yards each) as the Mountaineers rolled up 390 yards of offense in the first half.
After scoring 21 points in the second quarter – the seventh time this year West Virginia has scored more than 20 points in a quarter – the Mountaineers added 17 points in the third quarter to widen their lead to 52-7.
Senior Tyler Bitancurt converted a 30-yard field goal, Bailey got free for a 16-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone and Tavon Austin added a 1-yard TD run with 1:31 remaining in the third quarter. Dustin Garrison completed the scoring with a 26-yard romp with 5:13 remaining in the game.
All Kansas (1-11, 0-9) could muster in the second half was a 32-yard Nick Prolago field goal.
Kansas coach Charlie Weis came into today’s game looking to exploit West Virginia’s struggling pass defense, ranked last in the conference and near the bottom of the NCAA giving up 347.5 yards per game, but Crist managed to complete just one of his five attempts before giving way to option-style quarterback Michael Cummings.
Cummings, a redshirt freshman, engineered Kansas’ best drive of the afternoon, marching the Jayhawks 80 yards in nine plays, including a 42-yard hookup with Tony Pierson to place the ball at the West Virginia 16.
A pair of James Sims runs got the ball to the 1 where he punched it in for Kansas’ lone touchdown of the game.
Kansas quarterbacks finished the afternoon completing 7-of-16 passes for 117 yards while the Jayhawk running game accounted for 157 yards. It was the first time this season that the Mountaineer defense held its opponent to less than 300 total yards. The prior low was 300 by James Madison back on Sept. 15.
“(The defense) has been improving,” said Holgorsen. “Since that bye week I think they’ve been getting better. We’ve played some pretty good offensive football teams that put up some points, I understand that, but a lot of those guys haven’t quit. They’ve just gone out there and kept playing and tried to get better each week.”
Bailey, one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver, made his final case with an 11-catch, 159-yard, two-touchdown performance, boosting his season totals to 106 catches for 1,501 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Austin added four catches for 110 yards to finish the regular season with 110 catches for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns. Austin also added 77 yards on the ground to boost his season total to 598 yards, bringing his career all-purpose yardage total to 7,134 – a WVU best.
Smith elevated his season totals to 350 completions in 490 pass attempts for 4,004 yards and 40 touchdowns. With one game remaining in his career, Smith shows 969 completions in 1,427 attempts for 11,461 yards and 96 touchdowns – all West Virginia records.
“Geno played well, he’s been playing well all year; he’s a great quarterback and I’m proud of his accomplishments and what he’s been able to do,” said Holgorsen. “He’s a great kid and he will be remembered around here for a long, long time.”
Buie added 100 yards for his second 100-plus-yard rushing performance of the season.
An announced crowd of 51,112 watched today’s game.
“In my opinion they’ve been playing pretty good football the last four or five weeks,” said Holgorsen. “We didn’t play well at Texas Tech, we didn’t play well against Kansas State and we had the off-week, and since then I felt we’ve been playing good football.
“We had a couple of tough losses and these guys didn’t quit,” said Holgorsen. “They wanted to finish the year strong. We had a very tough victory at Iowa State and coming here and finishing the game I felt like we played really well and finish strong. The only way these seniors are going to go out on top and have good memories is if they win their last game – and I will use that in their bowl game.”
West Virginia now awaits its bowl destination, which will likely to be announced sometime tomorrow.