MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s Skyler Howard jumped just before safety Mike Lee plowed into him near the Kansas end zone, sending the quarterback into an awkward somersault and a hard landing on his right hip.
Howard got up from the second-quarter scare at the end of the 15-yard run and went back to the huddle. His gutsy play epitomized his determination to restore confidence in an offense that looked flat a week ago in the Mountaineers’ first loss of the season.
“He plays his best when he’s like that,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I thought he sparked us.”
Howard threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores to lead No. 14 West Virginia to a 48-21 victory over Kansas on Saturday night, sending the Jayhawks to their 40th straight road loss.
Howard was nonchalant about the big hit, saying he was fortunate he didn’t end up in worse shape.
“When I was in the air, it felt like forever,” he said.
West Virginia’s Shelton Gibson, who had 102 receiving yards, including TD grabs of 19 and 32 yards, was a bit more serious about it, knowing how much his quarterback means to the team.
“I grabbed his facemask and said, ‘I don’t want to ever, ever see you do that again,’” Gibson said.
West Virginia (7-1, 4-1 Big 12, No. 20 CFP) bounced back from a 37-20 loss at Oklahoma State by piling up 605 yards of offense against the Jayhawks (1-8, 0-6).
Howard completed 16 of 27 passes for 260 yards and helped get the Mountaineers’ momentum back as they head into a tough four-week stretch that includes home games against No. 12 Oklahoma on Nov. 19 and No. 13 Baylor on Dec. 3.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it and move on to the next one,” Holgorsen said.
Kansas lost its 18th straight conference game and hasn’t won on the road since beating UTEP in September 2009.
“Those are some resilient dudes in there,” Kansas coach David Beaty said. “They hate losing with a passion. I’m proud of them for continuing to fight, I promise you that.”
Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t get off to the fast start that Beaty had hoped for. Kansas trailed 31-0 at halftime. The Jayhawks will have one more chance this season to break the road futility streak on Nov. 26 at Kansas State, which hasn’t lost to Kansas at home since 2007.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers kept pace with first-place Oklahoma by doing what they was expected to do against heavy-underdog Kansas — score early and often and play respectable defense. Rasul Douglas made two interceptions, but a late surge by Kansas halted the Mountaineers’ streak of four straight games of limiting opponents under 400 total yards.
West Virginia’s Justin Crawford ran for 129 yards and a score, and freshman Kennedy McKoy had 127 yards. The pair shared the rushing load in place of Rushel Shell, who missed the game with an ankle injury sustained a week ago.
Holgorsen said it took him a few series to decide whether to throw downfield all game or pound the ball on the ground. West Virginia amassed 341 rushing yards a year after running for 426 yards against the Jayhawks.
Doubling up on Kansas might move the Mountaineers up a few spots in the AP poll , only because other teams ahead of them lost, including Baylor.
Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley was effective in relief of Montell Cozart, completing 9 of 11 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Beaty said Cozart left the game in the third quarter with concussion symptoms.
Kansas heads home to play Iowa State next Saturday. The teams are tied for last place in the Big 12.
West Virginia heads to Texas, which is coming off a 47-37 win at Texas Tech.