West Virginia runs wild, clinches bowl in blowout of winless Kansas

Rushel Shell (108 yards, two TDs) was one of three Mountaineers to surpass 100 yards rushing Saturday against Kansas. John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia unleashed its run game and locked up a bowl bid with a 49-0 shutout of winless Kansas on Saturday in Lawrence. What we learned:

What the win means for West Virginia: The Mountaineers, now 6-4, are embracing and executing a run-first offensive identity and are poised to finish the regular season on a five-game winning streak with Iowa State and Kansas State left on the schedule. They kept it nice and simple against KU, had an easy time moving the ball and let starters get some valuable rest by pulling them during the third quarter. Dana Holgorsen's squad has done a great job of rallying back from an 0-4 start in Big 12 play.

What the loss means for Kansas: This one was a tough blow for the progress David Beaty and his staff had been making, but it’s hard to call a setback like this unexpected. When you have no depth, you’re eventually going to pay for it in November. Still, KU was coming home off a four-quarter battle with TCU that should’ve built confidence, but the Jayhawks quickly fell behind by 42 in the first half Saturday. They’ve got one more chance to avoid an 0-12 season next week against Kansas State.

Stat of the game: West Virginia had three players surpass 100 rushing yards on Saturday. Quarterback Skyler Howard dashed for 129 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and he got lots of help from running backs Wendell Smallwood (115 yards and two rushing TDs) and Rushel Shell (108 yards, two TDs). The Mountaineers rushed for a whopping 295 yards on 9.2 yards per carry in the first half and finished with 426 yards and their first trio of 100-yard rushers since 1969.

The game turned when… Kansas freshman quarterback Ryan Willis threw a pick-six in the game’s first four minutes. Willis tried a 10-yard throw to fellow freshman Steven Sims Jr., but West Virginia senior corner Terrell Chestnut broke on the ball, ripped it right out of Sims’ hands and ran 32 yards for the touchdown to make it 14-0. Kansas had to be mistake-free to have a chance against WVU.