PREVIEW: Wildcats look to break five-game losing streak against West Virginia

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Kansas State and West Virginia lineup as the Mountaineers attempt an extra point after a touchdown in K-State's 24-20 loss to WVU on Nov. 16, 2019. (Archive photo by Dalton Wainscott I Collegian Media Group)

Coming off a bowl-game-eligibility-clinching win against Kansas, the Kansas State football team (6-3, 3-3 Big 12) is preparing for a big matchup with the West Virginia Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) this Saturday for a chance to move its conference record over .500.

K-State continued its dominance over Kansas this past Saturday with a commanding 35-10 victory at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence. The game not only pushed the Wildcat’s winning streak against the Jayhawks to 13 but gave K-State the sixth season win it needed to gain bowl eligibility.

“So excited for the guys,” head coach Chris Klieman said after defeating KU. “We’re 6-3. We’re bowl-eligible. We have won three games in a row. It tells you an awful lot about the character and the resolve of our guys. When we started off the way we started off in conference and there was always continued belief in that locker room and continued belief with those leaders that we had a good football team and we just needed to turn it around. I can’t say enough about our leaders.”

Sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn showed out with 162 yards and three touchdowns on only 11 carries, good for 14.7 yards-per-carry, including a career-long 80-yard house call to open the second half.

Super-senior quarterback Skylar Thompson had an efficient day, completing 19 of his 24 passing attempts and racking up 244 yards and a touchdown. Vaughn received 60 of those yards, while the touchdown went to junior wide receiver Malik Knowles on a 68-yard bomb, who finished with 94 yards on three catches.

The K-State defense also held up its end of the bargain against the Jayhawks, only allowing 10 points and not allowing a touchdown until late in the third quarter. The defense, led by junior linebacker Daniel Green and sophomore defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah, has only allowed 15.3 points per game during the team’s three-game winning streak.

Looking ahead at West Virginia, the Mountaineers are led by senior quarterback Jarret Doege, an efficient passer with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the season. However, outside of a win against Iowa State where the Mountaineers put up 38 points, West Virginia has only managed to score 17 points per game in Big 12 play.

For more on the Mountaineers, look out for the Collegian’s “Know Your Opponent” article coming later this week. Here’s what else to look out for this weekend:

Losing Streak:

Over the past half-decade, West Virginia has had K-State’s number as the Wildcats are on a five-game losing streak against the Mountaineers. K-State is 5-6 all-time against West Virginia and 4-5 since the two teams became Big 12 foes in 2012.

This year poses the Wildcat’s best chance to get in the win column for the first time since 2015 with the way the offense and defense are playing. There have been close games over the course of the series, including 16-17 and 20-24 losses, and blowouts, with 6-35 and 10-37 losses, so there hasn’t exactly been a trend to the losing streak.

Skylar’s Moving Up:

This past week, I mentioned how Skylar Thompson was close to moving up the all-time record board in career passing yards and touchdowns. While he failed to move up from seventh-place in both categories this past week against Kansas, he moved a lot closer and has a chance to move higher than sixth.

With 78 passing yards against West Virginia, Thompson would move up to sixth all-time in passing yards, fifth place with 202 yards and fourth place with 232 yards. With a 263 yards-per-game average since returning from injury this season, moving up three places against the Mountaineers is very reasonable.

Thompson also needs three touchdowns to move up the all-time passing touchdowns list to sixth-place, four for fifth place, six for fourth place and seven for third place. These stats are very reasonable with four games — including the bowl game — left in the season.

West Virginia Playing for a Bowl Game:

Sitting at 4-5 and two wins away from clinching bowl eligibility with three games remaining on their schedule, the Mountaineers have everything to lose going into this game. Considering they chalk up their last game of the season against KU as a win, West Virginia must beat either K-State this weekend or a Texas team next weekend that has spent the year in and out of the top 25.

While K-State is the better team on paper, West Virginia might be playing with a bit of a fire to keep its season alive. It doesn’t seem like the case, but if K-State players and coaches feel like they’ve completed their goal by just getting to a bowl game, the Wildcats could let this game slip through their fingers.

Bounce Back:

Earlier in the season, I predicted the Wildcats would have a rough start to the Big 12 schedule playing the three toughest teams in Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Iowa State. The team did end up going 0-3 in those games, but as I said, there was greener grass ahead.

After winning three straight games, the Wildcats look better than ever with nothing to lose. If the team keeps up the exciting play, the NCAA could grant K-State a top 25 ranking at the end of the season with a good bowl game for the team that has been high, low and high again.

K-State takes on West Virginia at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game can be viewed on Fox Sports 1, with a recap and analysis on the Collegian after the contest.

The Wildcats are currently favored by 6.5 points, with the over/under set at 47 points.

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