MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) – West Virginia cornerback Hakeem Bailey intercepted Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson’s floating pass toward the end zone in the closing seconds Saturday night, allowing the Mountaineers to escape with a 24-20 upset of the Wildcats.
Jarret Doege, starting in place of Austin Kendall, threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns in the first start for the Bowling Green transfer in more than a year. His biggest throw came on third-and-22 in the fourth quarter, a 50-yard touchdown heave that gave West Virginia (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) the lead.
The Wildcats (6-4, 3-4) had plenty of chances to answer, but they turned the ball over on downs and then punted before their final drive. Thompson led them briskly downfield, but his second-down throw floated in the wind whipping out of the south and Bailey outjumped the intended target.
That allowed West Virginia to snap a five-game skid, its longest losing streak since 1986.
The Wildcats, who almost never altered their look under Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder, donned a throwback uniform to the 1988 with white helmets and script “Cats” across them.
Perhaps they should have chosen a season in which they didn’t go 0-11.
Thompson was 24 of 39 for 299 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, and Kansas State had trouble moving the ball all night against a team that allowed 38 points to Texas Tech last week.
The Wildcats ran 32 times but averaged just 3.2 yards per attempt.
The Mountaineers’ season-long growing pains appeared to continue right from the start, though, when they went three-and-out on offense and gave up a 68-yard TD pass on their first play on defense
It was hardly a harbinger of the first half.
West Virginia answered with a 75-yard drive, finished off by Doege’s third-down touchdown pass to Campbell. And when the Wildcats answered with a field goal, the Mountaineers reached the end zone again – though not without a bit of help from the officials.
West Virginia was held to a field goal that Casey Legg missed. But the crew ruled the Wildcats’ Trey Dishon somehow jumped the gun on the rush, giving the Mountaineers a fresh set of downs. They went nowhere on the first two before Campbell hauled in another third-down touchdown pass.
Legg missed another field goal heading into the locker room.
The momentum appeared to have swung the Wildcats’ direction, too. They opened the half with a long, time-consuming touchdown drive to take a 20-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
They were never able to shake loose, though.
Kansas State was forced to punt on each of its next two possessions. Legg drilled a 51-yard field goal to repay coach Neal Brown’s confidence in him, and a few minutes later Doege took advantage of a major coverage lapse on third-and-22 to throw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Wheaton.
That turned out to be all the points the Mountaineers needed.
West Virginia was desperate for some kind of spark, so Doege got the call. He was plenty shaky in his first start since last November, but he also made a couple of crucial plays when they mattered.
Kansas State came out flat after a gut-wrenching last-second loss at Texas last week. The Wildcats have now lost two straight after a three-game win streak highlighted by an upset of Oklahoma.
West Virginia plays its home finale against Oklahoma State next Saturday.
Kansas State visits the Red Raiders for its final road trip next Saturday.