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

close.

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

great.”

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

every statistic.

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 first.

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