Taking the field as a road underdog on Saturday afternoon wasn’t new for No. 16 K-State.
Leaving after a 37-10 loss to West Virginia in their first Big 12 defeat of the season was a different experience for the Wildcats.
“I thought our effort was good, we just didn’t have great execution today,” Chris Klieman said. “Had our chances early, maybe punch that first score in instead of getting three. That didn’t help us. We had a couple of opportunities late in the first quarter or early second and we didn’t do anything with it. We weren’t very good on third down on defense.”
K-State (4-2, 4-1) came up with two sacks and jumped out to an early lead in Morgantown, before West Virginia (4-2, 3-2) used a strong second quarter to put away the Wildcats.
The Mountaineers racked up 301 yards through the air on a short-handed K-State secondary.
“For us today, it was probably the play action passes that we really struggled with,” Drew Wiley said. “They’re a tough, physical team and that running back is very talented.”
Malik Knowles came up with a 35-yard touchdown grab to give the Wildcats a boost heading into the break.
Getting the wide receivers more involved has been a point of emphasis for K-State and Knowles’ first touchdown catch of the year was a highlight for the group on Saturday.
It capped off the best drive of the afternoon for the Wildcats, a 73-yard, nine-play drive that saw K-State flash the balanced attack that’s kept the offense on schedule this season.
But it would also mask one of the biggest blows of the afternoon for K-State, as Briley Moore left the game with an injury after his second catch of the game.
Phillip Brooks hauled in four receptions for 39 yards to lead all K-State receivers in Morgantown.
Early in the second half, the K-State defense did their part to get back into the game, holding West Virginia to a field goal attempt at the goal line. The Mountaineers would settle for four field goal attempts on the afternoon.
“Coming into the game, we knew we were going to have to be pretty physical, so just trying to make something happen up front,” Wiley said. “Wish we could have gotten more of it, but Wyatt [Hubert] had a really good game, I thought Eli Huggins had a good game as well.”
An interception returned for a touchdown on the Wildcats’ next drive of the game would prove to be the tipping point. West Virginia brought the nation’s top defense – among teams that have played at least two games – into Saturday’s game and held K-State to just 225 yards of total offense.
Against that Mountaineers defense, K-State struggled to establish the run game that helped them pull road upsets against Oklahoma and TCU this season.
Deuce Vaughn rushed nine times for 22 yards in the loss.
“I told the guys after the game, we’re all going to take ownership of this, coaches included, myself included,” Klieman said. “But we’ve got to be able to wash it away quickly. We have to get ready for a really good Oklahoma State team.”
Saturday also marked the first game of the season where the Wildcats failed to come up with an interception, while three picks helped the West Virginia defense control the flow of the game.
Howard finished the afternoon 19-for-37 for 184 yards and a touchdown.
K-State returns to Manhattan for their next Big 12 matchup, a clash with No. 6 Oklahoma State on November 7 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game will air on ABC at 11 a.m. or FOX at 3 p.m.