The West Virginia Mountaineers defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 35-6 on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium. Here are some thoughts, awards and grades from the game.
Player of the game
Take your pick from West Virginia’s offense. Will Grier threw for 356 yards and five touchdowns, David Sills caught three touchdowns and Marcus Simms and Tevin Bush got open deep. For K-State, it was Isaiah Zuber. The junior receiver snagged 10 passes for 133 yards. He is playing like the unquestioned star of a sputtering offense.
Play of the game
West Virginia tackled K-State running back Alex Barnes for a loss of four yards when the Wildcats went for it on fourth-and-inches near midfield in the second quarter. The Mountaineers led 7-0 at the time, but went ahead 14-0 on the ensuing drive and then 21-0 before halftime. Game over.
Stat of the game
4. As in the number of turnovers K-State created against West Virginia. Most of them were gifts, like a horribly thrown pass in the first quarter from Grier and an unforced fumble from Leddie Brown, but that’s still an impressive number. Alas, the Wildcats failed to take advantage of those miscues.
Quote to note
“I can’t coach a team that can’t get six inches on a play” — K-State coach Bill Snyder on the Wildcats’ inability to pick up a first down on fourth-and-inches.
Offense: F. In the words of Zuber, “It’s really hard to win a ballgame without scoring a touchdown.” The Wildcats were unable to find the end zone against West Virginia. Their only points came on a pair of Blake Lynch field goals. This unit is struggling. The problems start up front, where it’s clear K-State’s once -heralded offensive line is a weakness. The Wildcats averaged 2.5 yards per rush attempt. Quarterback Skylar Thompson was unable to guide K-State across midfield in the first half. Then, when he got the Cats to the goal line in the third quarter, Blaise Gammon and Zach Reuter dropped back-to-back passes in the end zone. Alex Delton took over in the fourth quarter, and Snyder said he played well. A QB change doesn’t seem like the answer here, but don’t be surprised if Delton sees increased playing time next week.
Defense: D. Give the Wildcats credit for hanging in there on defense and coming up with four turnovers. But that doesn’t make up for allowing the Mountaineers to score on plays of 62 and 82 yards, and doing basically whatever they wanted when they weren’t turning the ball over. Jordan Mittie had a sack, but there wasn’t much of a pass rush otherwise.
Special Teams: C. Lynch connected on two field goals and Andrew Hicks had some quality punts. But K-State’s return game did nothing of note, and even hurt the Wildcats at times with bad decisions. K-State needed bigger plays from this unit.
Coaching: F. It will be interesting to see how K-State players respond to Snyder’s assertion that he can’t coach this team. Snyder usually steps in front of bullets for his players. But he took a different approach after this loss.
Texas started the season with a disheartening loss against Maryland, but that game seems like it happened ages ago. The Longhorns have been a completely different team since, reeling off three straight wins over Tulsa, Southern California and TCU. The last two were most impressive, with Texas winning by scores of 37-14 and 31-16 against teams that were ranked in the preseason.
It seems like Sam Ehlinger has found his groove at quarterback. He threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.
The Longhorns are also looking good on defense. They came up with three interceptions against TCU.
K-State has won five straight at home against Texas, so history will be on the Cats’ side when the Longhorns head to Snyder Family Stadium next week. But Texas will be favored, even on the road.
This could be a pivotal game for K-State. It might be hard for the Wildcats to reach bowl eligibility if they fall below .500.