Wildcats suffer frustrating loss at West Virginia

Freshmen quarterback Will Howard went in to the game in the first half after starting quarterback Skylar Thompson went out due to injury against Texas Tech on Oct. 3, 2020. The Wildcats beat the Red Raiders 31-21 at Fort Riley day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Dalton Wainscott | Collegian Media Group).

The Wildcats fell 37-10 to West Virginia on Saturday in a game that was simply all Mountaineers.

Kansas State struggled on offense from the very beginning. The first drive for the Wildcats ended with freshman quarterback Will Howard throwing an interception.

The vaunted West Virginia defense was just getting started.

The Mountaineer defense would go on to pick off Howard two more times and hold K-State to only 225 total yards of offense.

K-State got on the board first with a field goal in the first quarter, but after West Virginia kicked their own field goal to tie it, they followed it up with 3 touchdowns to put the Mountaineers up 24-3.

Wildcat fans found a glimmer of hope when Howard connected with sophomore wide receiver Malik Knowles on a deep ball for 35 yards. Knowles’ first touchdown of the year made it 24-10 at halftime.

But the second half was not much different than the first. West Virginia opened the second half with a long drive. The K-State defense held them to a field goal in the red zone — this one didn’t look promising for the road team.

Then, things got even worse for K-State: West Virginia redshirt senior linebacker Dylan Tonkery picked off Howard and took it for a touchdown.

Head coach Chris Klieman said failure to take advantage of the opportunities K-State had and struggles on third down contributed to K-State’s loss today. He also credited West Virginia, saying they tackled as well as any team the Wildcats have seen this year.

“We had our chances early,” Klieman said. “I thought our effort was good, we just didn’t have great execution today.”

The K-State offense just couldn’t get much going, notching 13 first downs in the game and scoring only one touchdown. Howard threw for 184 yards on a 19-37 day.

Klieman expressed his confidence in Howard, despite Saturday’s rough outing, as did senior running back Harry Trotter.

“[Will] doesn’t get rattled,” said Trotter. “He’s young, but he’s really mature for how old he is, and he’s never gonna get down because of one play or two plays.”

Even star freshman running back Deuce Vaughn, who has been arguably K-State’s best player this year, was practically a non-factor on Saturday. Vaughn finished with only 22 yards rushing and two receptions combining for one yard. West Virginia is the first Big 12 Conference team to keep Vaughn under 75 total yards all year.

The offense was 6 for 14 on third down and possessed the ball for under 26 minutes, compared to West Virginia’s 34:14 time of possession.

Defensively, K-State showed signs of fight at times, including nine tackles for loss, but ultimately couldn’t shut down Jarret Doege and junior running back Leddie Brown. Doege, the redshirt junior quarterback for West Virginia, broke 300 yards passing on 22 for 34, throwing two touchdowns. Meanwhile Brown ran for 102 yards and a touchdown.

“[Brown’s] a very very talented running back,” senior defensive tackle Drew Wiley said. “Probably one of the tougher runners that we’ve faced all year.”

The loss marks the fifth year in a row K-State has fallen to West Virginia, giving them the lead in the all-time series at 6-5. K-State falls to 4-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference.

“We’re all going to take ownership in this, coaches included, myself included,” Klieman said. “But we’ve got to be able to wash it away quickly guys, because we have to get ready for a really good Oklahoma State team.”

K-State will have a tough test next week when they take on Oklahoma State, who came into this week ranked 6th nationally.

“We got to come ready to work tomorrow,” Wiley said. “We got a lot of work to do. Everyone can get better. We need to come together as a team.”