MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On Nov. 13, the West Virginia Mountaineers and Kansas State Wildcats will rekindle an 11-year rivalry that spans back to the Great Depression.
Although WVU currently leads the series 6-5, including the last five-straight, this matchup hasn’t always been so skewed. When it began during the 1930 season, the WVU football team, at this point an independent, was lead by sixth-season head coach Ira Rodgers. The team was 4-3 coming into the game. Rodgers and WVU quarterback Jake Sebulsky finished the series’ initial meeting against then-Kansas State Agricultural College with the first series win, 23-7.
It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to reciprocate the winning. The next season, Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science pummeled the Mountaineers 19-0 in Morgantown to cap a four-game win streak, including three-straight that held opponents scoreless. The Wildcats, in the Big Six Conference, concluded their annual meeting with the independent Mountaineers tied at one in the series.
The series would stay tied for 81 years, until the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 Conference in 2012.
The Wildcats added a second series win when the teams met for the third time during that 2012 season. It perpetuated a win streak that extended for 85 seasons. When the No. 17 Mountaineers and No. 4 Wildcats met at Milan Puskar Stadium in October, it was K-State head coach Bill Snyder’s team that continued to win. The Wildcats tallied a 55-14 victory over head coach Dana Holgorsen’s Mountaineer roster, which included senior quarterback Geno Smith. West Virginia was held to two scoreless quarters, while KSU and quarterback Collin Klein, who now works as the Wildcats’ QB coach, tacked on an average of two touchdowns a period.
When the conference opponents met in 2013, it was more of the same. Snyder’s team welcomed the Mountaineers to Manhattan, Kansas, and proceeded to chart another victory. This time: a smaller 35-12 margin. WVU quarterback Clint Trickett passed for 227 yards on 15 completions, but Kansas State edged the Mountaineers’ offense in total yardage 448 to 367, including bookend scoreless quarters. K-State running back John Hubert posted 19 carries for 86 yards in the victory.
In 2014, Milan Puskar Stadium hosted a No. 12 Kansas State Wildcats team. Despite WVU being an unranked opponent and going quickly down 7-0 to begin the game, the Mountaineers came out swinging, primarily on defense. West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard registered 198 yards on 15 completions, good for a pair of touchdowns and a sack. The WVU run game was in full force, winning the rushing yardage comparison 123 yards to a single Wildcat net yard. Even still, Snyder’s team prevailed 26-20.
2015 brought Snyder’s team its final win of the five-game streak, a home, one-point differentialed 24-23 victory. For all intents and purposes, this should have been the Mountaineers’ game. The WVU offense was nearly entirely reliant on Josh Lambert for scoring opportunities; the redshirt junior kicker tallied 92 yards on three field goals, but his nine points paled in comparison to 24 Wildcat points, including a fourth quarter 97-yard kickoff return to close the game’s scoring and push K-State over WVU in the team’s fifth series win.
Back in Morgantown in 2016, the pendulum finally swung in West Virginia’s direction. It only required three scoring opportunities to frame the series’ smallest WVU margin of victory, 17-16. WVU spent the entirety of the first half scoreless while Kansas State tallied a touchdown and a pair of field goals to close the first half 13-0. WVU, armed with Howard, registered a 17-point comeback in the second half to eventually win 17-16. In this series’ second Mountaineer win, Howard passed for 298 yards on 24 completions, one touchdown, and an interception. Running back Justin Crawford put up a 100+ yard run game on 18 attempts, including the Mountaineers’ first touchdown of the game: a fourth quarter one-yard rush into the Wildcat end zone.
2017 pitted a then-No. 23 West Virginia team against an unranked 5-5 Kansas State team that was on a two-game win streak through the Big 12. As per the name of the game, WVU was held scoreless in the entire second half, but had already tacked on enough of a first half presence to stall the Wildcats’ advances. Kansas State tacked on two back-to-back first quarter field goals, but WVU’s Will Grier put the commotion to bed when one play later, he nailed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Ka’Raun White with 11 seconds left in the opening quarter to secure the lead 7-6, one which would stick for the remainder of the game. Even after K-State defenders drove Grier into the turf of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium twice, he logged 372 yards on 27 completions which proved sufficient for four touchdowns. Crawford registered another 100-plus yard performance on 17 rushes to bring the series’ third WVU win back to Morgantown, 28-23.
When Milan Puskar hosted the rivalry next, the game produced WVU’s largest margin of victory: a 35-6 showing from the then-No. 12 Mountaineers. Grier completed 25-of-35 attempts for 356 yards; ten of those went to wide receiver David Sills V for 73 yards, and three resulted in touchdowns. Five passes also sailed over to receiver Marcus Simms for a season-high 136 yards and a single score. While WVU was working the score up in increments of seven, the Wildcats and sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson couldn’t find the end zone the entire game. K-State kicker Blake Lynch only got close enough (25 and 38-yards) to send two field goals through the uprights. This marked the first time the Mountaineer defense held an opponent to zero touchdowns since Iowa State in 2015. It narrowed the series record to 5-4 Wildcats, but the yearly meetings with Kansas State appeared to be historically trending in the Mountaineers’ favor.
The next season proved that to be true. Under first season head coach Neal Brown, the 4-6 WVU Football team flew to the Little Apple to take on a No. 24-ranked Kansas State team lead by equally as rookie a head coach in Chris Klieman. This was the first start for WVU’s quarterback Jarret Doege, and what a performance it was. He went 20-for-30 for 234 yards and three touchdowns; two of those were headed for wide receiver George Campbell, who notched the pair of touchdowns which served to solidify the lead WVU needed. K-State’s Thompson threw for 299 yards on 24 completions, including an opening 68-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Schoen on the first play from scrimmage, but it proved insufficient. Both of Campbell’s scores came in the first quarter, but Klieman’s defense handed WVU two scoreless quarters around the half. Even still, with K-State up 20-14 entering the final quarter, Brown’s team kicked it into gear. Kicker Casey Legg smashed a 51-yard field goal, his career best to this day, to close the lead 20-17. Then, Doege found Bryce Ford-Wheaton for a 50-yard heave and eventual touchdown to put the game away 24-20 and upset the top-25 Cats at home.
Now equipped with a five-game series win streak, Brown, Doege, and the Mountaineers set the stage for the conference matchup at Milan Puskar Stadium last season. No. 16 Kansas State entered Morgantown on Halloween afternoon and were forced to prepare for another showing like 2019. What they found was a WVU team in battle mode. Doege completed 22 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-10 upset of the ranked Wildcats for the second season in a row. The score proved to be WVU’s largest victory over a top-25 team since beating No. 14 Clemson 70-33 at the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl. Ford-Wheaton caught three passes for 104 yards and Leddie Brown notched a 102-yard rushing effort. WVU’s Dylan Tonkery nabbed a quick tipped ball from Wildcat freshman quarterback Will Howard and ran it back for an 18-yard score to put Kansas State out of its misery in the third quarter. When Legg came back out to boot another field goal, the 45-yard attempt sealed the game’s scoring and brought the Mountaineers a home win 37-10 in front of a COVID-19 reduced crowd of just slightly more than 10,000 fans.
Tomorrow, the rivalry heads back to the Little Apple and will pit the 4-5 Mountaineers against Klieman’s 6-3 (3-3) Wildcats. Kansas State is on a three-game winning tear through conference play, while West Virginia struggles for season-capping wins and bowl eligibility at 2-4 in the Big 12 Conference. Even still, the Doege-Thompson matchup is set to be a great game, as both quarterbacks are regularly logging approximately 350 yards of offense per game each. The spread is 6.5 points in favor of K-State, but that hasn’t stopped WVU in years past. The over/under is 47 points and kickoff in Manhattan will grace FS1 at 12 p.m. EST.