MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Collin Klein completed 19-of-21 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns and ran for four more scores to lead fourth-ranked Kansas State to a convincing 55-14 victory over No. 17 West Virginia Saturday night at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Klein had touchdown runs of 1, 8, 1 and 1 yards and scoring throws of 10, 21 and 20 yards – two of those going to Tyler Lockett and the other to Chris Harper.
“(Klein) doesn’t do anything wrong,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “He doesn’t make any mistakes. He was the same guy we watched on film. He is exactly what we thought he’d be – he’s hard to tackle, he gets them into good plays, he doesn’t turn the ball over and you can say what you want about his throwing motion, but it goes exactly where he wants it to go. He’s a good football player.”
“I was pleased with the way our youngsters approached the ball game and how they traveled and kept their focus,” added Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. “We played very well. We made mistakes and need to get better, but collectively, I think we did a nice job.”
The Mountaineer secondary once again offered little resistance against the passing game, allowing Lockett to catch nine balls for 194 yards and Harper to snare six passes for 96 yards.
West Virginia’s defense has now allowed 63 points to Baylor, 45 to Texas, 49 to Texas Tech and 55 to Kansas State in its opening four Big 12 games this year.
“There are no excuses. It’s starts with me,” said Holgorsen. “We will fix what the problems are; we will keep plugging along and try to get better.”
K-State dominated the game from the outset as the Wildcats scored all five times it had the ball in the first half to build a commanding 31-7 lead at intermission.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm,” said Holgorsen. “I think we ran probably 14 plays in the first half. We had the ball three times so it’s hard to get into a rhythm when you do that. And there are no excuses for the three times that we had the ball and we didn’t move it. There are a bunch of reasons for that and it all starts with not blocking very well. The pass protection wasn’t very good, we didn’t get open and we didn’t make good throws.”
The only blemish on an otherwise flawless first half was the Wildcats’ decision to kick off to Tavon Austin after going up 24-0. Austin took Anthony Cantele’s kick at the goal line, made a quick move to his left, and got past a wave of defenders for a 100-yard touchdown return. It was the fourth kickoff return for a score for Austin’s career.
Austin had another nice return to begin the second half, taking the ball out to midfield, but Cody Clay was called for holding on the play to move the ball back to the WVU nine.
It was there where Geno Smith threw his first interception of the season, snapping his streak of 327 consecutive passes without a pick dating back to last year. K-State linebacker Arthur Brown, who also ended Robert Griffin III’s streak of passes without an interception, was the culprit once again.
From there, K-State took over at the Mountaineer 24 and needed just two plays to get back into the end zone when Klein threw into double coverage and Chris Harper was able to make a nice catch between WVU freshmen defensive backs Karl Joseph and Nana Kyeremeh.
Four minutes later, Kansas State’s lead swelled to 45-7 on a Klein 1-yard run, and then the senior got the Wildcats into the end zone once more with 2:25 remaining in the third quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Lockett.
Kansas State concluded its scoring with 3:48 left in the game when Cantele kicked a 42-yard field goal – his second field goal of the game.
In between, West Virginia’s offense finally managed to get on the scoreboard when Smith found Austin for a 5-yard scoring toss with 7:31 remaining.
“I thought we were ready to play,” said Holgorsen. “We had a good week. We addressed a lot of the effort issues. I saw a lot of guys who were out there trying. We played a good football team and they probably played as well as they can play. They made no mistakes. They were sound defensively. They tackled well. Offensively, they ran ball pretty good. They threw the ball pretty good.”
It is West Virginia’s worst home defeat since suffering a 58-14 setback at the hands of No. 1-ranked Miami on Oct. 11, 1986.
It was also West Virginia’s worst offensive performance of the season and the lowest passing output for Smith, who finished the night completing 21-of-32 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. The Mountaineers had 243 total yards and did not cross the 50 until seven minutes were left in the third quarter.
Holgorsen thought Smith began pressing as the game wore on and the Mountaineers were struggling to move the chains.
“We talked about it all week, don’t get impatient, 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,” said Holgorsen. “We talked to him at halftime about relaxing and controlling what we can control and the first play of the second half he underthrew it, the guy tipped it up and (Brown) made a good play. We’re trying to score 14 points in one play and that’s just not good offensive football.”
“We had a relentless pass rush, so to speak; we got our hands on Geno, who by the way, regardless of the score, is a talented quarterback,” said Snyder.
Kansas State’s offense, meanwhile, accumulated 479 total yards, including 333 through the air.
The win boosts Kansas State’s record to 7-0 and keeps the Wildcats at the top of the Big 12 standings with a 4-0 league mark.
West Virginia falls to 5-2, 2-2, and now has lost consecutive games by 35 points to Texas Tech and 41 points to Kansas State. That represents the most lopsided back-to-back losses since the end of the 1978 season when Pitt defeated the Mountaineers by 45 (52-7) and Colorado State beat West Virginia by 36 (50-14).
“We played probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 players on defense,” said Holgorsen. “That’s what we’ve got and we’re going to focus hard on it, especially with all of the young guys that we’ve got. On several different occasions I saw eight or nine freshmen out there. Those guys will get better and we’ll keep coaching them hard.”
West Virginia has a week off before returning to action on Saturday, Nov. 3, against TCU at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Horned Frogs lost a tough, 56-53 triple-overtime decision to Texas Tech earlier today. TCU plays at Oklahoma State next week.