Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was sacked twice by Kansas State, including this play by Chaquil Reed.
MANHATTAN, Kan. — The capacity crowd that emptied from Bill Snyder Family Stadium under a purple sunset sensed they had witnessed a transformation in their K-State team. For the visiting squad, however, 35-12 was more confirmation: Testament that a program in this deep of a rebuilding mode doesn’t have a “soft portion” of the schedule. Proof that a bowl berth is now more of a long shot than a likelihood.
Here’s the unit-by-unit breakdown, unflattering though it may be, after West Virginia’s late collapse against the Wildcats:
Despite being benched for the final two drives, Clint Trickett remains West Virginia’s quarterback. Then again, despite making four starts, he’s still not the guy Dana Holgorsen trusts to operate the hurry-up offense.
At least that was the public explanation offered for Paul Millard’s curious relief appearance. But Holgorsen also seemed perturbed about Trickett’s inaccuracy on routine throws and, of course, those two fumbles. The second one was especially careless as K-State safety Ty Zimmerman pried the ball loose with one hand after Trickett scrambled into open space.
Trickett’s scrambling yielded a 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter and, by making a concerted effort to throw more underneath passes for a second straight game, he completed 15-of-28 for 227 yards. Yet he was 0-of-3 passing in the red zone and completed only 3-of-9 on third downs.
Millard, stepping into a 16-point hole and asked to author a miracle, was 4-of-14 with an interception on the game’s final play.
The quick, choppy feet of Charles Sims resulted in a 5.3 per-carry average, but it was too bad Sims carried only eight times. Even though WVU continued to feature him in the passing game—for a team-high seven catches covering 54 yards—were 15 touches out of 71 plays sufficient?
K-State kept Sims’ sidekick Dreamius Smith in check, limiting the junior to 23 yards on seven carries. He looked timid on a first-and-goal run from the 5, cutting away from the designed hole, and WVU settled for a field goal. Late in the game Smith whiffed on a fourth-down blitz pickup, allowing Charmeachealle Moore to hit Millard’s arm mid-throw.
Daikiel Shots made three catches vs, K-State, but was open on several other occasions.
Ronald Carswell caught a 50-yard bomb but let another pass ricochet off his shoulder pads. Kevin White took a tunnel screen 43 yards only to drop a slant on the very next snap. Vernon Davis gained 8 yards on an end around but dropped what should have been his first career catch on a ball thrown slightly behind him.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson’s summation of WVU’s irregular passing-game: “It’s just the non-executing of routine plays. Wide-open people, and we can’t hit them. Can’t catch it when we do.”
Jordan Thompson (three catches for 41 yards) set up WVU’s first touchdown with a 13-yard reception over the middle, hanging on despite a crunching hit by Zimmerman. Daikiel Shorts gained 36 yards on three catches, including a 20-yarder on third-and-2.
West Virginia netted 3.6 yards per carry against what has been a decidedly average K-State run defense, and the Wildcats devoted only six defenders to the box for most of he game. The pass protection allowed three hurries and two sacks—one of which resulted in a lost fumble by Trickett.
Right tackle Curtis Feigt had difficulty against relentless defensive end Ryan Mueller, who spun by to strip Trickett. Nick Kindler was flagged for holding holding and continues to be merely serviceable at right tackle.
Pat Eger’s afternoon was cut short early in the second quarter when linebacker Blake Slaughter rolled into the center’s left ankle. Three plays later, backup Tyler Orlosky surrendered a coverage sack to Chaquil Reed.
The six TFLs were too much for an offense that typically can’t overcome such hiccups, but the news wasn’t all bad. Quinton Spain made some sealed and Mark Glowinski threw a key block to spring White on his 43-yard screen.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
West Virginia defensive lineman Will Clarke (98) pressures Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters (15) during the first half at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
K-State patiently stuck with its ground game, but those 157 yards only amounted to 3.7 yards per rush. Mini-menace John Hubert gained 19 yards on the Wildcats’ first play and finished with 86 yards on 19 carries. WVU contained mobile quarterback Daniel Sams to 16 yards on 14 carries, but Jake Waters posted a surprising 55 yards on 10 runs.
Will Clarke made two TFLs among his four tackles, and in a game where K-State’s QBs threw only three incompletions, he the defensive line contributed two breakups (Clarke and Kyle Rose).
Shaq Rowell committed one of WVU’s three penalties, jumping offsides, and was part of a nose-tackle rotation that included Noble Nwachukwu, Eric Kinsey and even true freshman Darrien Howard, who sacrificed a redshirt by appearing in the eighth game of the season.
“We needed him,” said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson.
Nick Kwiatkoski registered West Virginia’s lone sack, chasing down Sams outside the pocket, and later poked a fumble loose from Sams to temporarily delay K-State taking the lead in the third quarter. A team-high 12 tackles seemed to indicate Kwiatkoski is fully recovered from the hamstring issue that sidelined him for parts of three games.
However, Kwiatkoski fell victim to a fake-run jump pass that resulted in a 32-yard Waters’ completion to Curry Sexton. The same run-into-the-line play-action that sucked up Jared Barber on Sams’ 15-yarder to Sexton. Not surprising that a Bill Snyder-coached team would still be utilizing single-wing concepts.
On the outside, Isaiah Bruce and Brandon Golson made six tackles each, but neither was able to pressure the passer during the crucial drives in the second half. Nor was the unit wasn’t as sound on its gap responsibility as Keith Patterson had hoped
K-State’s quarterbacks combined to go 18-of-21 passing and, get this, 13-of-13 in the second half. That’s some impressive pitching-and-catching there, and these weren’t dink and dunks. WVU’s secondary isn’t talented enough to hold water when the pass rush is lacking and the linebackers are biting on play-action, and thus, Saturday devolved into a brutal exploitation.
Along with a 12-tackle day, Karl Joseph stopped two red-zone threats, stripping Waters in the opening quarter and recovering Sams’ fumble in the third.
But the safety also busted a coverage by failing to bracket Tyler Lockett on K-State’s first touchdown. It was third-and-15 when Joseph followed tight end Zach Trujillio into the flat, leaving Lockett—the Wildcats’ most dangerous receiver—room to beat cornerback Icky Banks inside on the deep post.
While strong in run support, Joseph can be exploited in man coverage, which was the case when Tramaine Thompson worked him for a 30-yard touchdown that put K-State up 21-12 in the fourth quarter.
With freshman Daryl Worley reportedly sidelined by an injury, Banks was victimized repeatedly by Lockett, including a lapse in which the smaller receiver leaped for 9-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
With eight catches for 111 yards, Lockett was an equal opportunity abuser, running past Travis Bell on a 24-yard scoring catch.
Said Holgosen in his trademark sarcasm: “When they’re running routes our defenders are supposed to cover them.”
With the wind at his back, Josh Lambert crushed a career-best 50-yard field goal and also chipped in a 21-yarder, but WVU’s kicking unit committed two glaring gaffes. First came a blocked PAT when K-State’s Travis Britz burst through the middle of the line; and then moments before the half, holder Michael Molinari called for an ill-advised fake field goal on fourth-and-7 at the 9.
Holgorsen said WVU’s staff intended to run the fake only if K-State repeated an alignment shown earlier. Despite KSU presenting a different look, Molinari took the snap and ran off the left side for a 4-yard gain. “We obviously didn’t get through to Mike what we needed to get through to him,” Holgorsen said. “It wasn’t the correct look, wasn’t the correct call.”
Nick O’Toole marked his Ray Guy nomination by punting like Family Guy, averaging 32 yards on five attempts (four of those which were into a stiff wind.) One positive bi-product of O’Toole’s bad day: K-State’s nation-leading punt returners didn’t have a chance to work their magic.
From the communication breakdown on the fake field goal to the team’s complete meltdown in the second half, this was another failed mission for the coaching staff. K-State entered with just as many deficiencies as WVU, yet Bill Snyder’s crew showed more poise and resilience in dominating the game’s late stages.