Kansas State tight end Sammy wheeler (19)

Kansas State tight end Sammy wheeler (19) catches a touchdown pass in a game against West Virginia on Saturday morning. The Wildcats won 34-17 and improved to 7-3 on the season.

After five years of frustration, Kansas State’s losing streak to West Virginia appeared it wouldn’t end with a bang, but with a bludgeoning.

The Wildcats scored the first 17 points of Saturday’s game. At the half, they led 17-3. The Mountaineers reeled off 14 of the next 21 points, however, to pull within 24-17 at the 11:50 mark of the fourth quarter.

But a gutsy decision to go for it on fourth-and-8 at West Virginia’s 39-yard line paid off for K-State: Skylar Thompson hit tight end Sammy Wheeler for a 35-yard gain. Deuce Vaughn dashed in from the 4-yard line on the next snap to push the lead to 31-17 with 7:22 to play.

A fumble recovery by Reggie Stubblefield on the ensuing possession helped the Wildcats hold on for a 34-17 victory at Bill Snyder Family Stadium — and finally end a five-game skid to the Mountaineers.

“Great, great win,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said. “Great team win. So excited for the guys and for the coaches. We’ve got a really fun group to be around right now.”

K-State (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) started quickly. Defensive back Russ Yeast came up with an interception off a deflected pass on the game’s second snap to give the hosts first-and-10 at their own 45.

The Wildcats drove 55 yards in 3:30 for a touchdown, with running back Joe Ervin doing most of the heavy lifting. A 22-yard rush by Ervin set up first-and-goal at the Mountaineers’ 2-yard line. One play later, Ervin ran in, untouched, into the end zone. After a successful point after by Chris Tennant, the Wildcats led 7-0.

K-State leaned on one of its program staples for its next score: special teams.

Receiver Ty Bowman blocked West Virginia punter Tyler Sumpter’s attempted kick. Freshman defensive back Marvin Martin was in the right place at the right time, scooping up the ball for a 7-yard score — and a 14-0 lead after another Tennant extra point at the 3:46 mark of the first quarter.

Klieman said the team “doctored up” the scheme that led to the blocked punt during the week. He also noted he believed the Wildcats only had “one chance” at blocking it before West Virginia would pick up on the look and adjust accordingly.

“How about Ty Bowman?” Klieman said. “A young freshman from Kansas makes a bit-time play, and then Marvin Martin has the wherewithal not to dive on it but to pick it up and score. So a great start to the game getting 14 quick points.”

Tennant added a 32-yard field goal to extend the advantage to 17-0 with 2:57 remaining in the half. His counterpart, West Virginia’s Casey Legg, countered with a field goal of his own to get the visitors on the board before intermission.

When the teams returned from the locker room, the Wildcats kept the good vibes rolling from last week’s win at Kansas: They scored on their opening second-half possession for the second consecutive game. This time, Thompson hit Wheeler for a 4-yard score on fourth-and-goal to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the contest, 24-3, with 10:17 left in the third quarter.

The score, Klieman said, was “a big-time play” for the Wildcats.

“It was a third down — third-and-goal from the 4 — and we kind of gave a little bit of a play-action look, and he beats the guy inside and Skylar has got to throw a bullet that’s low, and Sammy’s got really good hands and made a big play,” Klieman said. “I love Sammy’s confidence, and it’s cool that Sky has so much confidence in him to be able to make that kind of play.”

After Wheeler’s touchdown, the Mountaineers (4-6, 2-5) started their comeback, crossing the goal line on back-to-back drives: a 13-yard pass from Jarret Doege to Reese Smith, and then a 4-yard toss from Doege to Winston Wright — threading a needle into an incredibly tight window — on fourth-and-goal that cut the deficit to 24-17.

K-State fended off the attempted come-from-behind win, though, scoring the game’s final 10 points. After Vaughn’s 4-yard score at the 7:22 mark, Tennant knocked in a 25-yard field goal with 1:59 left.

Following Tennant’s field goal, K-State linebacker Cody Fletcher ended West Virginia’s last possession of the day, picking off Doege to seal the Wildcats’ 17-point victory.

“I couldn’t be happier with us beating a really good West Virginia team,” Klieman said. “West Virginia is doggone good. I’ve got so much respect for (West Virginia head coach) Neal Brown. He’s a great coach. They have physical players. They’re really athletic.

“Our guys just found a way. It wasn’t pretty all the time, but we found a way and we capitalized on some things, whether it was a blocked punt, big kick return, we were able to get a couple of turnovers — all those things played into it.”

K-State is back in action next week, holding its home finale versus Baylor. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. The contest will air nationally on FS1.

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