WVU football: Mountaineers hammer Kansas, 59-10
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The ball tucked tightly in the right arm and the right foot planted firmly in the turf, the left leg bent at the knee and the left arm extended out to push back, Tavon Austin left no doubt Saturday about what he wants others to think about the season he's having.
In his final home game for West Virginia, the senior from Baltimore had 110 yards receiving and 77 yards rushing and punctuated his third-quarter touchdown run with the iconic Heisman Trophy pose as the Mountaineers beat Kansas, 59-10, before 51,112 at Mountaineer Field.
"I think my name should be in there, but overall I don't really care that much about it," Austin said. "At the end of the day it's about the win and hopefully one day my real dream comes true and I go to the NFL."
Leading the nation in receptions per game and second in all-purpose yardage, Austin will now wait on an invitation to the Heisman's presentation ceremony in New York next Saturday. His 230 all-purpose yards per game would be the second best mark in NCAA history and trail only what Barry Sanders did in 1988, the year he won the Heisman.
Ballots are due Monday evening and though Austin won't top Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel or Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, his all-around play the past three games may earn a seat at the event.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who's found ways to get Austin the ball 161 times this year, said the 5 foot, 9 inch, 170-pound Austin is "the best player in the country, I don't care who gets the award."
Working against Austin is WVU's five-game losing streak earlier this season that dropped it out of the polls and off the national radar, plus the team's overall record.
"I know one thing," Dawson said. "He plays a lot differently than anyone else. Say what you want about all the other guys. That's good and dandy. I think behind closed doors, if you got people who played us in a room, they'd tell you who the best player is."
The 187 all-purpose yards against the Jayhawks followed 261 against Iowa State and 572 against Oklahoma. He has 1,259 yards receiving and six 100-yard receiving games, 598 yards rushing and 16 total touchdowns -- including one a piece on punt and kickoff returns.
He wasn't the only star, or even the biggest, against lowly Kansas (1-11, 0-9 Big 12), which lost its final 10 games and finished winless in the Big 12 for the second straight season. Quarterback Geno Smith set a school record with 21 consecutive completed passes and finished 23-for-24 for 407 yards and three scores.
Receiver Stedman Bailey, a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, caught 11 passes for 159 and two scores. He has 23 touchdowns this season, the most ever by a player in a BCS conference. Andrew Buie had 100 yards rushing and a touchdown on 12 carries, his best performance since gaining 207 yards in the Oct. 6 win at Texas.
"When we have all the pieces to the puzzle, I feel like we're a pretty good offense," Coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Kansas finished with 274 yards of offense and was 3-for-14 on third down. The program has lost 21 straight conference games, the longest conference losing streak in the country. Ranked No. 19 nationally and No. 2 in the Big 12 with 216.64 rushing yards per game, the Jayhawks 157 yards and just 3.5 per carry.
WVU finished the regular season without allowing a running back 100 yards in a game.
The Mountaineers (7-5, 4-5) had 647 yards of offense and 32 first downs and averaged 9.1 yards per play. They didn't punt until after their final possession. They'll learn their bowl game and opponent Sunday and will almost certainly play in the Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 29 against a Big East team in the Bronx, N.Y., or the Holiday Bowl Dec. 29 against a Pac-12 team in San Diego.
TCU, Texas Tech and Baylor also finished with WVU's record and TCU and Texas Tech beat the Mountaineers.
"Not much we can do about it," Holgorsen said. "I know there's a pecking order and the bowls pick who they want, but I would think when specific bowls have an opportunity to pick - a lot of teams' records are going to be the same, we won some head-to-head matchups and we lost some lead-to-head matchups - I think a whole lot of bowls would want the Mountaineers to come play in a bowl for a number of reasons.
"We have some star power obviously, we have a fan base that will travel and I think we're very marketable. I think there'll be a whole bunch of bowls who want us in their game."
The final regular-season game was over by halftime because WVU was nearly perfect on offense in the first half, which began with a 45-yard pass from Smith to Bailey on the first play from scrimmage and ended with Smith's 8-yard touchdown pass to J.D. Woods with 24 seconds to go for a 35-7 halftime lead.
WVU scored on five of its six possessions and the exception was the lone mistake -- Smith's interception under pressure on the second drive.
"He had a guy in his face, but if he could do what he wanted to do, he would have completed that, too," Dawson said.
WVU scored 2:46 into the game on a 2-yard run by Buie. Kansas threatened after Smith's interception and had a 41-yard pass to the WVU 16-yard line, but took back-to-back pre-snap penalties. A pass on third-and-18 was tipped by Cecil Level and intercepted by safety Karl Joseph.
Smiths' 50-yard pass to Woods flipped the field and the Mountaineers survived a first-and-20 at the Kansas 23 with a 20-yard pass to Austin. Shawne Alston scored on a 2-yard run two plays later for a 14-0 lead.
The Jayhawks got into WVU territory again and had a third-and-2 at the 40, but threw an incomplete pass and then came up a yard short on fourth down. Austin ran 31 yards on the first play and Bailey strolled in on a middle screen pass from 8 yards out four plays later. It was his 100th reception of the season.
Kansas moved again with a 42-yard pass -- the 17th 40-yard pass against the Mountaineers this season -- and made it 21-7 with a 1-yard run by James Sims with 4:30 remaining.
WVU, which has allowed five touchdowns in the final 75 seconds of the first half this season, gave up a sack on first down, but converted the second-and-17 with a 14-yard run by Buie and then a 44-yard catch-and-run by Austin.
Alston's second short touchdown run of the game restored order before Kansas went three-and-out and gave WVU the ball with 2:35 to go. A 20-yard pass to Bailey and a 32-yard pass to Austin set up the touchdown to Woods.
The 35-7 halftime lead the largest of the year for WVU, which had been outscored in the first half in the first 11 games and only led twice at the half of the first eight Big 12 games. The 35 points matched the season high for a half, which was set twice against Baylor.