This was definitely a crossroads game for Kansas State. A loss would have made it very difficult for the Wildcats to keep their spirits up and to reach bowl eligibility. Instead, they pounded West Virginia in the second half for a 35-12 victory and now go into their final five games with momentum.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett were back on the field together for the first time in a month. Jake Waters looked like the quarterback who originally won the starting quarterback job in the preseason. And K-State looked like a new team.
Here is a look at all that and more in this weeks Sunday Rewind:
1. When K-State is at full strength, it is a fun team to watch.
Bill Snyder’s insistence on playing two quarterbacks has held K-State’s offense back at times this season, but it worked to perfection in the second half against West Virginia with Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett back in the lineup. Jake Waters, fresh off two awful games, came off the bench cold several times to complete 10 of 13 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Some of his throws were so good that receiver Curry Sexton said he “started spinning the ball. He was putting the ball in spots where you were forced to catch it. You had no choice.” Daniel Sams also had a big day, completing all eight of his passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. Lockett went over 100 yards and caught three touchdowns. Sexton had more than 100 yards. And Thompson caught a touchdown pass. That kept West Virginia’s defense off balance and helped John Hubert run for 86 yards and a score. Snyder says the two-quarterback system will continue. After Saturday’s game, it should.
2. The Wildcats keep getting better and better on defense.
K-State has come a long way since opening night, when its defense couldn’t get off the field against North Dakota State. The Wildcats have now played above expectations in three straight games, and looked flat-out impressive against West Virginia. They allowed 367 yards, and 93 of those came on two plays. For the most part, K-State held West Virginia in check all afternoon. Ryan Mueller continues to make a big impact up front. Blake Slaughter continues to look solid at linebacker and the secondary keeps improving. After getting torched a few times against Baylor, it only gave up a few big plays against West Virginia. Randall Evans showed drastic improvement.
3. K-State’s odds of reaching a bowl improved dramatically on Saturday.
The Wildcats are three victories away from bowl eligibility. Though a trip to the postseason is by no means assured, it now seems like the odds are in their favor. They should be favored against Iowa State and Kansas, and TCU (now that the Horned Frogs look inept). A trip to Texas Tech will be difficult. So will a home game with Oklahoma. But if K-State takes care of business, and wins the games it should, it will be in the postseason.
– John Hubert looked like the running back many expected to contend for all-conference honors in the preseason. The senior not only rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, he caught a pass for 15 yards. He ran hard and made important blocks. His usage still seems a little low, considering he averaged 4.5 yards per carry, but he is up to 444 yards on the season. It seems like Bill Snyder is finally starting to show confidence in him.
“That is the most consistently he has run hard all year,” Snyder said. “That’s improvement. That’s good.”
– Ty Zimmerman played arguably his finest game of the season. He made 12 tackles, broke up two passes and forced a fumble. Zimmerman got off to a slow start as a senior, but he has delivered in recent games. He remains K-State’s driving force on defense.
– Dante Barnett is still struggling with his run defense. He missed tackles that led to big gains on Saturday.
– Travis Britz is the new Raphael Guidry. The K-State defensive tackle has three blocked kicks in seven games.
K-State quarterbacks threw more touchdowns (4) than incomplete passes (3).
Iowa State started the season the same way as K-State by losing to a FCS opponent, but things have not improved for the Cyclones since. Their only victory came against Tulsa. They got pummeled by Oklahoma State on Saturday. K-State usually beats Iowa State by a slim margin. That may change next week at Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats are favored by 14.5.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“When we are good, that is what we do. We have not always been good.” — Bill Snyder.