Kansas State needed a win today to get to .500 and secure a bowl bid the old-fashioned way. And on Senior Day, the Kansas State Wildcats delivered beating the West Virginia Mountaineers 24-23, behind the gutty performances of Kody Cook, Morgan Burns, Deante Burton, Duke Shelley, and Charmeachealle Moore (more on them later).
It was a tale of two halves for this Kansas State team with the halftime serving as the wake up call. The first quarter was a snooze fest as West Virginia scored the only points of the quarter on a field goal. Kansas State tied the game with a Matt McCrane field goal before two Joe Hubener interceptions, which led to Skylar Howard hitting Jovon Durante for a 24 yard TD pass late in the first half. West Virginia would tack on another field goal as time expired to take a 13-3 lead into halftime.
A 67 yard kick-off return by Morgan Burns opened the second half with style for the Wildcats. On the next play, Joe Hubener injured his leg rushing for a gain of four. Insert fifth string QB and Wildcat legend Kody Cook. Cook hit Kyle Klien for a 17 yard play on his first snap at QB, and three plays later Cook pushed his way into the end zone for six.
The Wildcat defense did a shot of Redbull at half, and forced a three and out on the Mountaineers first possession of the second half. Starting at their own 23 yard line, Kody Cook wasted no time hitting Deante Burton for a huge 77 yard TD pass to take a 17-13 lead. West Virginia quickly scored a touchdown followed by a field goal to push its lead up to six. That's when Morgan Burns, a.k.a. Special teams player of the century (h/t Kevin Lockett), struck. He broke off a 97 yard touchdown return to give the Wildcats a 24-23 lead. Outstanding defense by the Wildcats led to a three and out, and a turnover on downs for the Mountaineers which allowed the Wildcats to secure a Senior Day victory and a shot at a winning season.
It wasn't a perfect win. None of the games this season have been. But it was a win none the less and on senior day these five players stood out:
1. Kody Cook
The senior wide receiver solidified his folk-lore status by stepping in for a hurt Joe Hubener and leading the Wilcats to a victory. It was far from perfect as Cook finished 4/12 for 121 yards passing, 19 carries for 34 yards rushing and two total touchdowns, but it got the job done. Cook hit big plays when he had too starting with the 77 yard strike to Burton and finishing with a 14 yard bullet to Burton for a first down which allowed K-State to run the clock down to 1 second. It was fitting way for Kody Cook to finish his last regular season game.
2. Deante Burton
Burton has been somewhat of an enigma for Kansas State, but today he played his best game as a Wildcat. Burton finished the game with five catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. His two biggest catches were the aforementioned 77 yard catch, and the game clinching 14 yard reception. As Kevin Lockett said:
Hopefully, this game will give Burton some confidence to build on heading into bowl practice.
Burton has played as big as I have seen him play all year long. Tons of raw talent.— Kevin Lockett (@klock81) December 6, 2015
3. Duke Shelley
Duke Shelley was huge in coverage today. West Virginia killed Kansas State with short slant passes all game long, but early in the second half, Shelley broke perfectly on a slant pass and forced an incomplete pass. Later, he ran stride-for-stride with Jordan Thompson down field before breaking up that pass. Shelley has been fantastic as a freshman, and could be the best returning corner in the conference next season. Let's check in with Wildcat great Kevin Lockett for his thoughts:
By the end of his career, Duke Shelley has chance to be the best cover corner to come through KSU since Terrance Newman and Chris Canty— Kevin Lockett (@klock81) December 6, 2015
4. Morgan Burns
Morgan Burns decided he wanted to make a late run at the Heisman Trophy. Or at least Big 12 Special Teams player of the year. Burns consistently gave the Wildcats great field position in the second half returning kicks for 67, 37, and 97 yards respectively. The 97 yarder being the game winning score. Burns has been on fire for the past four weeks, and should easily secure his fourth straight Big 12 player of the week award. He also tied Brandon Banks for the Big 12 record in kick-off returns for a touchdown in a single season. Not a bad way to end your senior year.
5. Charmeachealle Moore
Mike Moore had 17 tackles today. 17! Dude came to play, and it showed. His impact was felt all over the field, but his biggest plays came when it mattered most. During West Virginia's last possession Moore split his blockers and threw down Wendell Smallwood for a three yard loss. Two plays later Moore dropped Mountaineer QB Skylar Howard for a one yard loss on fourth and one. It's great to see Moore return to form a year after suffering a season ending injury.
Enjoy the victory, Wildcat faithful. We're going bowling!