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Purple reign in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN - The halftime show at Mountaineer Field Saturday night featured West Virginia's band forming the outline of an airplane.

That's all, just a stationary plane. It never moved or taxied, much less pretended to take off.

Then again, it seemed kind of appropriate, actually. After all, West Virginia's football team pretty much just sat there and did nothing, too.

Proving once and for all that its defense might be among the worst in modern football history and then adding a stunningly inept offense to the mix, the Mountaineers were hammered by No. 4 Kansas State 55-14 Saturday night.

It was WVU's worst loss at home since No. 1 Miami won here 58-14 in 1986 and came in front of a crowd of 60,101. It was also the Mountaineers' second straight lopsided defeat, following last Saturday's 49-14 drubbing at Texas Tech.

It certainly means that West Virginia (5-2, 2-2 Big 12), which reached No. 5 in the national rankings after a win at Texas just two weeks ago, will disappear from the rankings.

"There are no excuses,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "It starts with me. We'll fix what's wrong and keep plugging along.''

Kansas State (7-0, 4-0), meanwhile, seems to have little to fix. The Wildcats did nothing to hurt their place in the rankings, dominating West Virginia on both sides of the ball. They scored a field goal and seven touchdowns the first eight times they had the ball and held WVU's offense off the scoreboard until midway through the fourth quarter.

And it wasn't just the second straight week West Virginia was crushed. It was the second straight time that a lopsided defeat seemed to come right out of the blue. The Mountaineers were actually favored in the game, and to hear Holgorsen afterward, it was a complete shock based on the preparation that led up to it.

"I thought we were ready to play,'' he said, echoing his sentiments from a week earlier. "We addressed the effort issues. We just played a good football team. And that's probably as good as they can play.''

Kansas State's Collin Klein certainly played his best, living up to his billing as a fresh Heisman Trophy favorite. But this time he did it with a twist.

Klein ran for four touchdowns, which is not at all unusual for the 6-foot-5, 226-pound senior, but he was also made to look like Peyton Manning as a passer by WVU's porous defense. Quarterbacking the worst passing offense in the Big 12, Klein was a remarkable 19 for 21 for 323 yards and three touchdowns.

And that was in less than three quarters. His third TD pass - and his seventh touchdown overall - made the score 52-7 with 2:25 to play in the third quarter. Klein did play one three-play series in the fourth - Kansas State's first on which it did not score - but did not throw another pass.

"I'm embarrassed about what happened tonight,'' WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said after his team gave up 479 yards. "But we're going to make it right.''

Fortunately the Mountaineers have an extra week to attempt to do that. West Virginia is off this week before resuming play with TCU at home in two weeks.

Meanwhile, by the time Klein was done for the night, West Virginia's Geno Smith and the offense had done nothing. Smith finished the night 21 for 32 passing for 143 yards and was pulled in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. He also threw his first interception since Dec. 1 of last year, then added another a series later.

West Virginia generated just 243 yards of offense.

"We just got beat every which way we could possibly get beat,'' offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "If I had any answers I would have used them early in the game.''

Kansas State really made just one mistake all night - trying to stick with its bread-and-butter running attack on the first drive of the game. Consider that the Wildcats ran the ball on five of their first six plays and had to settle for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. It should have been considered a victory for the WVU defense.

But Kansas State quickly realized the opportunity it had. The one pass in that opening drive was a 31-yarder from Klein to Tyler Lockett to convert a third down, and it was wide open. The next time the Wildcats got the ball, they incorporated the passing game into the game plan and it was off to the races.

Klein threw touchdown passes of 10 and 20 yards to Lockett and 21 yards to Chris Harper. He also ran for three 1-yard touchdowns and another from 8 yards.

Lockett caught nine passes for 194 yards and Harper six for 96.

The game was so lopsided that by the time Kansas State led 52-7, the total yardage was 473-102. Kansas State had 23 first downs to that point, WVU eight; and the Wildcats had allowed West Virginia to run just four plays in K-State territory.

Even the lone bright spot for West Virginia came with a caveat. When Tavon Austin returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, it gave the Mountaineers a spark. But by that time Kansas State had already scored 24 points, and because of Austin's return, it meant West Virginia's defense had to go right back on the field. And so it gave up an eight-play, 77-yard touchdown drive that made the score 35-7 at halftime.

As for Smith, the one-time Heisman front-runner is anything but that after throwing not one, but two interceptions. He did manage to break Trent Dilfer's record for consecutive passes thrown in a single season without an interception (273, two more than Dilfer), but his 274th was tipped and picked off by linebacker Arthur Brown.

That came on the first play of the second half and set up yet another touchdown. And then Smith threw just five more passes without an interception before suffering a second, by safety Ty Zimmerman.

Austin also scored WVU's other touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Smith in the fourth quarter.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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