Kansas St.-West Virginia Preview
Tyler Lockett provided further proof of his greatness his last time out even though Kansas State suffered its first Big 12 loss.
West Virginia’s Kevin White, however, has established himself as the conference’s best receiver in terms of production.
The Biletnikoff Award semifinalists meet Thursday night when the No. 12 Wildcats look to spoil the final home game for the Mountaineers’ seniors.
Lockett is Kansas State’s all-time leader with 3,073 receiving yards and ranks 16th in the nation with 97.6 per game after a spectacular 11-catch, 196-yard effort in a 41-20 loss to then-No. 6 TCU on Nov. 8.
West Virginia fans no doubt remember him since Lockett amassed 17 receptions for 305 yards and five touchdowns the last two seasons in wins for the Wildcats by an average of 32.0 points.
Lockett is 122 yards shy of becoming the first player in school history with two 1,000-yard seasons.
"I think Lockett, 16, is one of the best players in the country," Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He hurt us last year, he’s hurt a lot of people over the last couple of years."
While Lockett hauled in eight catches for 111 yards and three scores in last year’s 35-12 home rout of West Virginia, White was mostly a non-factor with two catches for 56 yards.
White is a much better player now with 120.7 yards per game to rank third in the country and first in the conference. He began the season with seven straight efforts of at least 100 yards and had a school-record 16 receptions for 132 yards in a 33-16 defeat at Texas on Nov. 8.
"If you watch him on tape, you realize that he is a gifted young guy," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "He can run, catch, and make you miss after he catches the ball. He has all of it."
The Wildcats’ victory over the Mountaineers last season sparked a turnaround in which they won 13 of 15 before the loss to the Horned Frogs.
TCU, now ranked fifth, leads the conference with a 6-1 mark while Kansas State (7-2, 5-1) is tied for second with No. 6 Baylor. The Wildcats will earn at least a share of the title by winning their remaining three games, including a showdown with the Bears on Dec. 6.
"(Quarterback) Jake Waters looked at me and told us that we still have a lot to play for, like a Big 12 championship," defensive back Morgan Burns said. "We can still have a great season if we finish out well. I think right after the game we started moving forward and realized we have a lot of great things we can play for."
Waters went 20 of 37 with two scores against the Horned Frogs. He was 10 of 13 for 198 yards with the three TDs to Lockett last season against West Virginia (6-4, 4-3) while also running 10 times for 55 yards.
Waters ranks second in the conference among quarterbacks with 45.1 rushing yards per game.
That’s a dimension that his counterpart, Clint Trickett, doesn’t have. The West Virginia signal-caller is sixth in the nation with a Big 12-high 3,173 passing yards.
Trickett has started 18 games with the Mountaineers, with last year’s loss to the Wildcats marking one of four in which he failed to throw a TD.
"I think Clint is throwing the ball awfully well," Snyder said. "He is an accurate thrower. I think he got ingrained in the system consequently like (TCU’s Trevone) Boykin."
Kansas State seeks improvement in its normally stout rushing defense. The Wildcats rank 23rd nationally in allowing 126.8 rushing yards per game, though they surrendered 334 their last time out.
"I think we just had a little bit of lack of discipline on some plays, with some of our technique and our assignments and things like that," linebacker Jonathan Truman said. "Those are the things that we are going to correct for sure."
West Virginia is fourth in the conference with 184.2 rushing yards per game.
Trickett is one of the seniors who will be honored Thursday. His stint in Morgantown revived his career after he transferred from Florida State when he was beat out by Jameis Winston.
"It will be bittersweet," Trickett said. "I’m happy that I am out there, but it will be the last time as a player. It’s something that I have always dreamed about, and it’s something that I never thought would have happened, but I’m glad it is."