For the second consecutive game WVU started slowly but hit its stride in the second and third quarters by building a lead before falling apart in the waning minutes of that third quarter and then careening down the interstate with sparks flying everywhere when the wheels fell completely off in the fourth.
I can just paste in the recap from last week, right?
No? You guys seriously want to talk about this one?
Well let's do it.
Like last week, the offense took a bit to get started with the first 4 drives ending in punts. Fortunately the defense held up and aside from giving up a 35 yard TD pass to Tyler Lockett to open the scoring (he would finish the game with 8 catches for 111 yards and 3 scores and will likely be the Big 12 offensive player of the week - sound familiar?) they did what we want to see them do. Forced some punts and turnovers and generally made life difficult for Kansas State's Jake Waters - the passing quarterback.
Once again like last week, the offense began to find a rhythm as the second quarter opened and methodically moved the ball up and down the field with a nice mix of runs and passes. Third downs were manageable and after a couple exchanges of possessions the Mountaineers won the field position battle as Clint Trickett scored the first rushing TD of his WVU career on a drive that started at the KSU 47.
After that it was more of the same with the WVU D holding and the offense moving the ball - but then the first of many opportunities were lost. A 50 yard bomb to Ronald Carswell set up first and goal at the Wildcat 6, but a short run and some errant throws resulted in only 3 points. The missed chances only compiled on the next possession as a first and 10 at the KSU 12 resulted in another field goal try with a minute left in the first half. Unfortunately the decision was made to attempt a fake - a decision that Dana Holgorsen later informed us was made by players on the field and not coaches - and while the decision might have been sound, the execution was not. Will Clarke missed a key block that would have at least allowed Michael Molinari to gain the first down (at least) and he was stopped a yard and a half short.
The Mountaineers came out of the locker room and dodged an early bullet as a Clint Trickett fumble recovered by the Wildcats at the WVU 18 was in turn fumbled right back to the Mountaineers 2 plays later at the WVU 20. The ensuing drive began with a nifty slip screen to Kevin White for a 43 yard gain but the drive stalled before Josh Lambert nailed his longest field goal of the year - a 50 yarder to give WVU a 12-7 lead.
This would close the WVU scoring.
Kansas State took the ensuing possession and marched down the field in a deliberate and maddening scoring drive that featured 3 third down conversions, all of them 6 yards or longer and the final resulting in a touchdown. It would prove an indicator of what to expect for the rest of the day as KSU was an unthinkable 7 of 8 on third down in the second half after going 1 of 5 in the first half. A Mountaineer secondary that had spent the first half of the season making such strides was shredded for the third straight game and seems to be backsliding much faster than it can backpedal. K State QBs Waters and Daniel Sams finished a combined 18 of 21 for 291 yards and 4 TDs.
It was disheartening as the same possibilities and limitations that we've seen all year - mostly the latter - were on full display. Trickett hit on some passes and seemed to be comfortable - he finished the day 15 of 28 for 227 yards and that TD run, but also fumbled twice and missed some huge throws on a couple third downs that could have kept the chains moving. In a "yes, yes! NOOO!!!" play that provided a perfect metaphor for Trickett's season, he scrambled for a first down on 3rd and 6 with WVU driving and trailing only 9 with 10 minutes left, but failed to secure the ball and fumbled as he went to the ground.
That play would prove too much for Holgorsen as Trickett was benched with 7 minutes left and backup Paul Millard went the rest of the way. He was largely ineffective, going 4 of 13 for 37 yards on a pair of drives and his arm limitations were (again) laid bare.The rest of the team did no better as a slim 12-7 lead evaporated into a 35-12 blowout.
The unfortunate reality is now this team is beginning to define itself as unable to make plays when the chips are down in the fourth quarter and that's no way to enter a stretch that you need to win 3 of 4 to finish bowl eligible. The questions will continue and the grumbling will get louder as this team continues to learn on the fly.
We'll have more analysis as the week continues, so stick around......