No. 4 Kansas St. 55, No. 17 West Virginia 14
The final touchdown pass drew only a slight fist pump from
Collin Klein. It was still the third quarter, but Milan-Puskar
Stadium was half-empty. Most of the West Virginia fans had seen
enough of a game that had turned into a Heisman Trophy campaign ad
for the Kansas State quarterback.
Klein threw for a career-high 323 yards and three touchdowns and
ran for four scores as No. 4 Kansas State got little resistance
from No. 17 West Virginia in a 55-14 victory Saturday night.
The Wildcats (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) made it look easy. Klein
completed 19 of 21 passes and added 41 yards rushing.
”I think we all felt comfortable tonight,” he said. ”The
coaches did a great job of building a game plan and putting us in
positions to succeed.”
No doubt. The Wildcats scored on their first eight possessions,
including seven straight touchdowns.
”He doesn’t do anything wrong,” West Virginia coach Dana
Holgorsen said of Klein. ”He’s hard to tackle. He gets them in
good plays. He doesn’t turn the ball over. You can say what you
want to about the throwing motion, but it goes exactly where he
wants it go. He’s a good football player.”
Way too good for West Virginia to stop.
It was no surprise the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) were awful on
defense – it’s been that way all season. For the second straight
game, though, Geno Smith and the offense did nothing to keep it
Smith followed up a clunker at Texas Tech last week with an even
worse game, throwing his first two interceptions of the season and
finishing 21 of 32 for 143 yards. The senior has gone from Heisman
Trophy front-runner to long shot in two weeks.
”We talked about it all week. Don’t get impatient. Don’t get
impatient,” Holgorsen said. ”You have the ball a couple of times
and you look up there and you’re down 17 points and you start
pressing. It’s inevitable.
”We’re trying to score 14 points in one play.”
Kansas State made it 52-7 with 2:25 left in the third quarter
when Klein hit Tyler Lockett over the middle for a 20-yard score.
Klein turned toward his sideline and gave a modest shake of his
fist before joining his teammates to celebrate. It was the fourth
time this season the Wildcats had scored in the 50s.
By that point a long line of cars was creeping out of the
parking lot. The only section of the stadium that was still filled
was covered in KSU purple.
”I was certainly pleased with the way that our youngsters
approached the ballgame, the preparation for the game and how they
traveled,” said Bill Snyder, whose remarkable 21-year, two-act
career as Kansas State coach is only missing a national
championship. ”I was proud of how they kept their focus. We played
The optimism and excitement that was pumping through Morgantown
a couple of weeks ago is gone.
In Manhattan, Kan., it’s all good, and everything is on the
table for Snyder’s team. The Wildcats are the only unbeaten squad
in the Big 12. Their quarterback is the Heisman front-runner. And
with five games left on the schedule, the Wildcats are serious
national title contenders.
The first meeting since 1931 of the new Big 12 rivals was so
lopsided that by the time it was over it was hard to even remember
that it started as a battle for first place in the conference.
On one side was Klein, aka Optimus Klein, the Wildcats’
methodical battering ram, whose passes don’t look like much, but
usually find their target.
On the other side was Smith, the future NFL first-round draft
pick with the video game passing statistics.
But Klein got to face West Virginia’s beleaguered defense, which
ranks near the bottom of the Big 12 and the country in just about
With the Mountaineers seemingly determined to at least stop the
run early, Klein completed his first seven passes, including a
10-yard touchdown that Lockett made a stretching, toe-dragging
catch on in the back corner of the end zone. That made it 10-0 in
The K-State running game went to work on the third drive and
Klein finished it off with a 1-yard plunge.
Klein made it 24-0 on the next Kansas State drive, taking an
option keeper 8 yards. That gave him 39 rushing touchdowns over the
last two seasons to break an FBS record held by Eric Crouch of
Nebraska and Stacey Robinson of Northern Illinois.
Tavon Austin finally put a little life back into the sellout
crowd when he took the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a score
with 4:12 left in the first half.
The bad news for West Virginia was that it gave the Wildcats
more than enough time to get the ball back in the end zone – which
they did with another 1-yard dive by Klein.
The first-half onslaught went like this for Kansas State: five
possessions, 346 yards, four touchdowns and a field goal. The
offense was unstoppable and the defense was just as good, holding
Smith to 62 yards by flooding the secondary with defenders and
getting a pass rush without blitzing much.
”I thought our defense played well and played aggressive and
pursued the ball,” Snyder said. ”We had a relentless pass rush
and we got our hands on Geno Smith.”
Maybe the pressure of having to score every time he touches the
ball has gotten to Smith, too. That trip to New York for the
Heisman Trophy presentation, which seemed like a lock after the
Mountaineers won at Texas, is now in serious doubt.
”This is about as low as it gets,” Smith said.
As for Klein and the Wildcats, they will face tougher tests. The
gap between the top and the bottom of the Big 12 doesn’t seem all
that wide. But they have now won three conference road games,
including at Oklahoma. They came into the weekend fourth in the BCS
standings, behind Alabama, Florida and Oregon.
With their 73-year-old coach pushing all the right buttons and
their happily married quarterback making all the right plays, the
Wildcats might be due for a promotion.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoAP