The Hangover: You play to win the game

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(Graphic by Sarah Unruh | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State kept its foot on West Virginia’s throat throughout the Wildcats’ 34-17 win over the Mountaineers Saturday afternoon in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Picture this — it is a one-touchdown game in the fourth quarter, and West Virginia seems to have seized some momentum. You only have six yards on third-and-fourteen to set up a fourth-and-five just inside the opponent’s 40-yard line. What do you do?

A team playing not to lose might try to pin the opponent deep and trust its defense. I’ll admit, this is what I expected K-State to do and what I probably would have done. Instead, the K-State coaching staff elected to go for the win right there. They dialed up a 35-yard strike up the seam to Sammy Wheeler.

Deuce Vaughn powered his way in for a touchdown on the next play to spread the lead back to 14 with just seven minutes to play.

Throat, meet foot.

This was straight-up domination by the K-State coaching staff. Everything K-State fans have been upset about this season — penalties, turnovers, lack of big special teams plays, struggling defense — melted away in an excellent performance against an average conference opponent.

The Wildcats committed one penalty for ten yards, had two interceptions and forced a pair of fumbles (recovering one), had a blocked punt touchdown and held one of the Big 12’s better running backs to 85 yards.

Skylar Thompson was once again quietly efficient. He was 14/19 for 138 yards and a touchdown, completing passes to seven different receivers. Meanwhile, Vaughn ran for 121 yards and a touchdown.

The Wildcats punted just three times and had a frustrating missed field goal in the second half.

On defense, K-State forced Jarret Doege to throw the ball by bottling up his main weapon, running back Leddie Brown.

KEY MATCH-UPS:

In my weekly Know Your Opponent preview, I identified three aspects of the game that K-State would need to succeed in to win. Let’s see how K-State did.

Get Deuce Loose:

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown seemed very worried about Deuce Vaughn in his midweek press conference. The Mountaineers actually held Vaughn down in the receiving game, where he has been very successful for a running back.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they were not able to keep him down on the ground. He had 4.8 yards per rush and found the endzone.

Get to the quarterback:

Doege proved to be a little more slippery than I anticipated, but K-State’s three-man pass rush was able to sack him three times, knock a pair of fumbles out of his hands and hurry him three more times.

I predicted that West Virginia would focus on Felix Anudike and double-team him as much as possible. They did that and kept him fairly quiet in the pass rush. Meanwhile, Nate Matlack had a sack and a forced fumble, along with Eli Huggins and linebacker Daniel Green.

Short field:

If I were doing letter grades, this would be an A+. K-State used special teams to score a non-offensive touchdown, set up a 55-yard touchdown drive on an interception, had a punt return to the WVU 32 and a kickoff return to the WVU 33.

The defense also gave K-State pretty good field position thanks to a fourth-down sack around mid-field.

PREDICTION:

I predicted a 28-23 win for K-State. K-State looked better than I had anticipated on both sides of the ball, and they also had the blocked-punt touchdown to add a touchdown.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.