LAWRENCE, Kansas — The amount of fans in the stands directly correlated to how the Kansas Jayhawks played against West Virginia on Saturday — neither showed up.
Kansas (0-11, 0-9 Big 12) only managed 221 yards of total offense, and was held to 94 on the ground. A good chunk of that came on a 29-yard run by De'Andre Mann in the fourth quarter. That run wasn't even close to evening the ledger, as West Virginia dominated, shutting out Kansas 49-0.
"That's about as bad offensive football as I've been a part of," Kansas coach David Beaty said. "That's on me. We've got to figure out a way to manufacture offense around here because right now that hasn't been getting done for us."
West Virginia (6-4, 3-4) had no problem with offensive production, especially in the run game.
Skyler Howard threw for 133 yards and a touchdown, ran for 129 yards and another score on the ground, and led a grinding West Virginia offense that is now bowl-eligible for the second straight year.
"It meant a lot to our team to come here and play well," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "It had everything to do with us and nothing to do with them. And I give our players a bunch of credit for attacking this week the right way. They were ready to play."
Wendell Smallwood added 118 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and Rushel Shell finished with 108 yards and two more scores, as the Mountaineers had three players run for at least 100 yards for the first time since Sept. 13, 1969, against Cincinnati.
Their defense did its job, too. It was West Virginia's first road shutout since 2005.
Freshman quarterback Ryan Willis was 13 of 38 for 127 yards with three interceptions. The first, moments after Shell's first TD run, was returned by Terrell Chestnut 32 yards for another touchdown that gave the Mountaineers a 14-0 lead with 11:15 left in the first quarter.
Things only got worse the rest of the way for Kansas.
After the Jayhawks went three-and-out — something they did seven times in the first half — the Mountaineers quickly moved 76 yards for another score to take a 21-0 lead.
Smallwood added a 24-yard TD run, Cody Clay caught a short touchdown pass from Howard, and the quarterback ran for his own touchdown as the Mountaineers took a 42-0 lead by the break.
"On the defense, we're supposed to be the firefighters that are supposed to put out the momentum and we didn't do that today," Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen said.
The only drama in the second half was whether Shell would join Howard and Smallwood in breaking the 100-yard mark. He did it with a 19-yard carry late in the third quarter, making West Virginia the first to accomplish the feat against Kansas since Eric Crouch, Correll Buckhalter and Dan Alexander led Nebraska to a 56-17 romp on Nov. 4, 2000.
In some ways, the total meltdown by the Jayhawks was unexpected.
While they have now lost 14 consecutive games dating to last season, they did show signs of progress a week ago against No. 11 TCU. The Jayhawks had the ball with a chance to drive for a go-ahead touchdown in the closing minutes before falling, 23-17.
Kansas hoped that the momentum from last week would carry over, but it was nowhere to be seen.
"Coming off a tough loss last week, you always want to take steps forward, as coach Beaty says and I feel like as a defense, we stayed the same," Kansas safety Michael Glatczak said.
That near-miss didn't do much to build fan support, though. There were only a few thousand fans in Memorial Stadium on a cold, blustery day, even though students don't leave for Thanksgiving break until next week. The student section behind the West Virginia bench was especially empty.
"You earn one fan at a time and we just haven't played to the point where we're proud of it yet, but we're working to get there," Beaty said.
One reporter for the school newspaper counted just over 400 students in attendance.