(MCT) MORGANTOWN — A week after its worst loss since 2001, West Virginia followed with its worst home loss since 1986.
“We’ve gotten our butts kicked, just handed two us, the past two weeks,” quarterback Geno Smith said. “It hurts to say it.”
No. 4 Kansas State extended the misery for the 17th-ranked Mountaineers with a 55-14 win Saturday before a crowd of 60,101 at Mountaineer Field that had mostly vanished by the fourth quarter.
WVU hadn’t lost as badly at home since a 58-14 setback against Miami 26 years ago. The Mountaineers trailed 52-7 in the fourth quarter Saturday, a week after trailing 49-7 in the fourth quarter of a 49-14 loss at Texas Tech. The two-game losing streak is the first since 2010 and follows a nine-game winning streak.
Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein wrested control of the Heisman Trophy competition and added a lot of distance between whoever is in second place with seven total touchdowns. He completed 19 of 21 passes for a career-high 323 yards and three touchdowns and added four scores on just 41 yards rushing.
Klein’s two incomplete passes could well have been completions or even touchdowns. He had an open receiver behind the defense in the first quarter, but threw beyond the target. He had another open receiver again beyond the defense in the second quarter, but his receiver stumbled.
“He doesn’t do anything wrong,” Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He doesn’t make any mistakes. He’s the same guy we watched on film. He was exactly what we thought he’d be.”
Smith was 21-for-32 for 142 yards and a touchdown, but also his first two interceptions of the season. That led to 14 points for Kansas State.
“We’ve reached our low,” Smith said. “This is about as low as it gets and I’ve never had to deal with adversity of this magnitude. I’ve never lost two games in this manner. I’ve got to do a better job being a leader and do a better job getting guys to respond.”
Kansas State (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) finished with 479 yards of offense on 62 snaps. The Wildcats had only nine third downs and converted six. WVU managed just 243 yards, also on 62 snaps, though 113 came after falling behind by 45 points.
Tyler Lockett caught nine passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns for the Wildcats. Chris Harper added 96 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. WVU has now allowed two 300-yard passers, one 400-yard passer and two 500-yard passers in seven games.
Tavon Austin led the Mountaineers with six receptions, 34 yards and a touchdown. He added 199 yards in kickoff returns. The 233 all-purpose yards helped set the school’s career record. He’s at 5,789 now after passing Avon Cobourne and Noel Devine against Kansas State.
WVU had few opportunities against a precise Kansas State attack, but one came late in the first half. Kansas State scored to go up 24-0 and extend WVU’s worst start since a 31-0 hole against Maryland in the 2004 Gator Bowl. Austin returned the kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, his fourth career kickoff return score, to give the Mountaineers and the stadium some life with 4:13 left and WVU set to receive the second-half kickoff.
The Wildcats then covered 78 yards in eight plays and took a 31-7 lead at the half.
Smith started the second half with his first interception of the season on the first play. His throw to the right sideline was deflected into the air and fell into the arms of linebacker Arthur Brown. Last season, Brown was the first person to intercept Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
On the next play, Klein zipped a 21-yard touchdown pass to Harper, who had four defenders in his vicinity.
The Mountaineers went three-and-out and Smith was sacked on second and third down. Tyler Bitancurt’s line-drive punt was returned to WVU’s 16-yard line and Kline’s 1-yard run made it 45-7. WVU moved to the Kansas State 30, the deepest the offense had been in Kansas State territory, but Smith threw another interception when safety Ty Zimmerman stayed underneath a throw to Travares Copeland.
Brown’s interception ended Smith’s NCAA record of consecutive passes without an interception to start a season at 273 straight attempts. He surpassed former Fresno State star Trent Dilfer’s record fo 271. Zimmerman’s interception came six attempts later.
Klein capitalized again when he threw a 20-yard pass to Lockett to take a 52-7 lead.
The Mountaineers, ranked No. 5 and mentioned freely and frequently in national championship conversations two weeks ago, are now 5-2 for a third straight season and slink into an open week with major concerns on offense and defense.
In 16 quarters of Big 12 Conference play, the defense has allowed 29 touchdowns and three field goals and only forced five punts, four turnovers and two fourth-down stops.
“The schemes are fine,” Holgorsen said. “We didn’t just forget how to coach football. There are a bunch of guys in that locker room who are down and upset who’ve won a whole bunch of football games.
“You can say the same thing about the offense. I didn’t forget how to coach offense. The schemes have been the same for a long time and they’ve been successful.”
The offense, which scored 70 points against a Baylor defense that ranks No. 120 in total defense and 48 points against No. 99 Texas, has three touchdowns in the past two games.
The defense looked to have a promising start, though. On the game’s first possession, linebacker Josh Francis raced outside on third down to keep Klein from running for a third down and the Wildcats settled for a 33-yard field goal.
The Mountaineers made it to their 45-yard line, but lost two yards on third-and-one and had to punt — and that was as close as they ever got to Kansas State. The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their next five possessions and had only two third downs in 34 snaps.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.
(c) 2012 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)
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