West Virginia defeated Kansas State 28-23 on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
Some lingering thoughts from the game:
1. Skylar Thompson finally played like a freshman.
Skylar Thompson has all the tools to become an excellent quarterback, and has been great at times this season, but he looked like a third-string passer making his first college start against West Virginia.
He seemed nervous from the start and appeared uncomfortable on passing plays, often scrambling out of the pocket when he had solid protection and failing to throw down field when receivers were open.
The poise and moxie he showed while coming off the bench to beat Kansas and West Virginia weren’t present for this one. I guess there is a big difference between preparing for a game like you could be the starter and preparing for a game when you know you are the starter (and there is no trusted backup behind you). Thompson completed 13 of 26 passes for 159 yards and two interceptions, while also adding 53 yards on the ground.
As K-State coach Bill Snyder said afterward: “Things kind of caught up with Skylar a little bit.”
That’s nothing to be alarmed about. There’s a reason Snyder rarely plays freshmen, especially at quarterback. Growing pains were to be expected. And it’s not like K-State’s offensive struggles were all on him. Alex Barnes, Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack combined for 117 rushing yards, and K-State receivers could have done more.
The coaches could have also given Thompson more high-percentage plays with short throws to boost his confidence in the first half.
Under the circumstances, the entire offense needed to play at a high level to help Thompson. Instead, the unit was inconsistent.
They will need to be much better this week if they hope to compete as 17.5-point underdogs against Oklahoma State.
Bill Snyder has insisted that Jesse Ertz will play again this season, and he has not ruled out the possibility of Alex Delton returning to the field, but both quarterbacks looked a long way from action while watching Saturday’s game on the sideline. At this point, it seems like Thompson is K-State’s best and only option at quarterback.
This will be a good learning experience for him.
2. Another wasted opportunity.
This game was there for the taking. K-State simply couldn’t take advantage.
West Virginia turned the ball over four times in the first half and then went scoreless in the second half. K-State had big plays on special teams and on defense. All the ingredients were there for an ugly, vintage Wildcats victory. But it didn’t matter.
The offense too often failed to score touchdowns with excellent field position, and a coaching blunder at the end of the first half allowed West Virginia to take a 28-20 lead when taking a knee would have kept the score 21-20. That’s twice this season K-State has possessed the ball in that type of situation and appeared unable to commit to a plan. Were the Wildcats trying to get into field-goal range? Were they trying to run out the clock? Handing the ball to Dalvin Warmack, not calling a timeout and then throwing a screen pass to fullback Winston Dimel accomplished neither objective.
K-State coaches need to be more aggressive, one way or another, and commit to a plan in that situation.
That being said, even if you take away that blunder West Virginia would have led 21-20 at halftime ... While committing four turnovers. K-State had bigger issues in this game than one or two coaching errors.
Still, a win would have made the Wildcats bowl eligible and given them a win over a ranked team. It could have been a great day, but they squandered the opportunity.
3. Only three players spoke to media.
While I am grateful for every interview I get with K-State football players, it was a bit surprising to see only kicker Matthew McCrane, linebacker Trent Tanking and running back Dalvin Warmack show up for postgame interviews on Saturday.
In my nine seasons on the beat, I can’t recall a lower player turnout. Even after the ugliest of losses, you can usually count on captains and impact players. But not Saturday.
Skylar Thompson (starting QB), D.J. Reed (two turnovers), Winston Dimel (two touchdowns), and several other players that had good games were requested to attend the media session. None of them did. That’s too bad for the fans that passionately follow the team and want to hear their thoughts on the game.
Beyond that, though, it’s hard to know what skipping media interviews says about anything. Players were understandably frustrated after another close loss. Perhaps not talking to media shows they care. Maybe it shows they don’t care. Maybe it reveals nothing at all.
I remember last basketball season when Oklahoma beat K-State by 30 late in the year in Norman, and Bruce Weber’s players refused to speak with media afterward. Some thought the move signaled a lack of accountability/leadership on the team. Yet, the Wildcats won their next three games and rallied to make the NCAA Tournament.
Probably best not to try and read into the situation, but it would be nice to hear from more voices on a team that lists over 100 players on its active roster.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett