Kansas State did not enjoy the talk about potentially accepting a bowl bid with a losing record. The Wildcats decided to extend their season the old fashioned way, and did so with style.
Thanks to receiver-turned-quarterback Kody Cook and yet another kickoff return touchdown by Morgan Burns, K-State rallied to defeat West Virginia, 24-23, on Senior Day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats finished the regular season 6-6.
“The fight and the spirit, that never give up attitude, those are the things that I’ll remember most from this season,” Snyder said. “Having to come back in two out of the last three ball games shows that never-say-die spirit.”
The game didn’t develop much of a rhythm until the second quarter. With the score tied 3-3, K-State staggered as halftime approached. Joe Hubener threw two interceptions in the period, which WVU turned into a 13-3 lead at the intermission.
On the first play of the third quarter, a hard hit on Hubener knocked K-State’s starting quarterback out of the game. Similar to the Oklahoma State game in early October, wide receiver Kody Cook stepped in, and immediately brought a new spark to the offense.
His first drive resulted in the Wildcats’ first touchdown of the game, bringing K-State within 13-10.
On his second drive, he connected with Deante Burton for a 77-yard touchdown that put K-State ahead, 17-13, with 11:14 left in the third. It was the Wildcats’ longest play of the season.
From that point on, the momentum seemed to stay entrenched on the Wildcat sideline.
After the Mountaineers took a 23-17 lead with 13:07 to play, Burns took the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for his fourth such score of the season, giving K-State a 24-23 advantage.
The three-time defending Big 12 special teams player of the week appears to be in line to continue ownership of the award.
“All the credit goes to our blockers,” Burns said. “They make me look a lot better than I am. I felt like our offense and defense fed off the momentum from our special teams in the second half.”
The Wildcat defense, led by Charmeachealle Moore’s 17 tackles, got the stops it needed down the stretch. Moore tackled WVU quarterback Skyler Howard at the line of scrimmage on 4th-and-1 with 3:50 to play.
To ice the game, Cook connected with Burton on 3rd and 7 for 14 yards. Cook, playing in his final game in Manhattan, completed 4 of 12 passes for 121 yards. He also rushed for 34 and a touchdown.
“This is the craziest season I’ve ever been a part of,” Cook said. “I’m just happy that we get to ride a high into our bowl game.”
It took three straight wins to end the season to make a bowl trip possible. Even against an easier schedule down the stretch, it seemed like a tall task for a team that had lost six straight games. But the Wildcats refused to let earlier failures define their season.
“There’s not a player in this program who has been involved in a losing season,” Snyder said. “I wanted that to be important to them, and it was. We talked about not backing into a bowl game. It wouldn’t have nearly the meaning.”
K-State appears to be in line for a Liberty Bowl invitation, but nothing will be set in stone until matchups are announced Sunday afternoon.