Here’s how significant Kansas State’s 55-14 victory over West Virginia was Saturday night: Hardly anyone is talking about the fact that it gave the Wildcats a huge advantage in the Big 12 championship hunt.
Even though they are now a game up on Oklahoma and Texas Tech, and own impressive road wins against the Sooners and Mountaineers, they are now in position to chase bigger dreams. By pummeling West Virginia, K-State boosted its national title hopes. Fans and media alike are already trying to figure out what it will take for it to jump Alabama, Florida or Oregon in the BCS standings.
And Collin Klein became the new Heisman Trophy frontrunner with a marvelous seven-touchdown performance.
1. The Heisman Trophy is now Collin Klein’s to lose.
On Friday, I talked to an expert on the matter, HeismanPundit.com’s Chris Huston, and he said there were only three legitimate candidates out there. Geno Smith, Braxton Miller and Klein. K-State made Smith look terrible, holding him to 143 yards and intercepting him twice, so he dropped. And Miller left Ohio State’s game with an injury on Saturday, hurting his chances. Meanwhile, Klein threw for 323 yards, ran for 46 and scored seven total touchdowns. West Virginia dared him to throw the ball, and he hit Tyler Lockett and Chris Harper for big gains all night long. This was his night. He gave curious voters highlight plays and a signature game. He is the unquestioned favorite to win the award.
2. Oklahoma is now K-State’s best friend.
If the Wildcats want to climb in the BCS standings, they will root for the Sooners to win the rest of their games. The better they look, the better K-State’s win in Norman looks. Oklahoma has been dominant since losing to the Wildcats, and it next faces unbeaten Notre Dame. If it wins that game, K-State benefits two-fold. The Wildcats will also want to root against Alabama or Florida (you’ve got to figure one of them makes the BCS championship game) and Oregon and Notre Dame.
3. Next week’s game against Texas Tech is suddenly a biggie.
Don’t look now, but the Red Raiders are still in the mix for a Big 12 title. With their only loss coming at home to Oklahoma and road wins over Iowa State and TCU, Tommy Tuberville’s team is playing some of the best football in the conference. Seth Doege is throwing the ball efficiently, and Texas Tech’s defense is vastly improved from previous years. They come to Sndyer Family Stadium, but it will be a tough game for K-State. If Texas Tech wins, it will create a three-way tie at the top of the Big 12 standings. The Red Raiders appear to be the biggest road block in K-State’s way of a Big 12 title.
A few that were good:
Chris Harper could tell Klein was in for a big game during warm-ups. While they threw the ball on the sideline, he noticed all of Klein’s passes were right on the money with a more perfect spiral than normal. That was bad news for a West Virginia defense that dared Klein to throw the ball by backing off the line of scrimmage. Klein threw some of the best passes of his career, including a fade into the end zone for a touchdown, and easily led K-State to victory.
“I think we all felt comfortable,” Klein said. “Coaches did a great job of building a gameplan and putting us in positions to succeed. We were able to get it done.”
The sophomore receiver was open early, late and often against the Mountaineers. On one series, Klein overthrew him deep when he beat his man. No problem. The Wildcats called a similar play on the next snap, and Klein hit him for a 44-yard gain on his second try. He caught nine passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns. This was his best game at K-State.
With more games like that, he might yet approach 1,000 yards. Harper caught six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, always twirling his right fist in the air after big plays (he says the celebration is a shout out to his high school friends). Harper showed great concentration on his touchdown grab, and has put together back-to-back strong performances. He now has 354 yards and two touchdowns through seven games.
Evans is quietly turning into one of the Wildcats best defensive backs. He led K-State with nine tackles on Saturday, and tipped the pass that setup Geno Smith’s first interception of the year. He is excelling out of the nickel formation, and seems to help create a big play in every game.
Brown was the first defender to intercept Robert Griffin III last year, so it’s only natural he was also the first defender to intercept Smith this season. Brown benefited from a tipped ball on the pick, but he was in the right place at the right time (isn’t he always?) and made eight tackles against West Virginia.
His thoughts on the interceptions: “What a coincidence. I’m just thankful that I was in the right position to make a play.”
Another game. Another interception. Zimmerman has picked off a pass in four straight games, becoming the first player of the Snyder era to accomplish the feat, and never lets anything get behind him. After Brown, he might be the second best defender on this team.
The defensive end sacked Geno Smith 2.5 times and forced a fumble. Williams and Adam Davis are both having nice seasons. They are continually putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and tipping passes at the line of scrimmage.
He didn’t get a single carry against North Texas or Oklahoma, and he only ran the ball once against Iowa State, but he was impressive against West Virginia. The backup running back took advantage of his seven touches and rushed for 46 yards, including a nifty 17-yard sprint. He was a nice change-of-pace alongside John Hubert.
A few that were bad:
I guess anyone who was on the field for West Virginia’s 100-yard kickoff return has some reason to be disappointed about the way they played, but that’s about it. This was a near flawless effort all the way around. No one gets singled out in the bad section this week.
Key play you may have overlooked
West Virginia moved the ball well on its first few plays, but was unable to pick up a first down on a third-and-one near midfield. K-State figured the Mountaineers were going to try and run for a first down, so it loaded the box with eight defenders. Geno Smith didn’t call an audible and handed off to Andrew Buie. But Arthur Brown tackled him for a two-yard loss before he could get going. West Virginia punted, and K-State took a 10-0 lead a few minutes later. Looking back, that play seemed to suck the life out of West Virginia’s offense. It punted on its next two drives and fell behind 24-0. The game was over by then.
This was a coaching masterpiece. K-State scored every time it touched the ball until the game was way out of hand in the fourth quarter, and shutdown West Virginia’s offense from start to finish. Maybe Snyder pictured things going better in his head before kickoff, but that performance had to be close to what he drew up.
K-State outgained West Virginia in total yardage 479-243. Impressive, especially when you consider what the Mountaineers did on offense early in the season.
Quote to note
“The scoreboard may look a little strange right now, but that didn’t come easily,” – Bill Snyder on his team’s preparation.