K-State, WVU limp in to matchup
By ARNE GREEN
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Telegram
MANHATTAN — The first act left something to be desired, but at least it showed the Kansas State Wildcats glimpses of what might have been, and still could lie, in store.
After stumbling to a 2-4 record and a 0-3 start in the Big 12, the Wildcats had a week off to collect themselves before embarking on the second half of the season at 2:45 p.m. today, when they entertain West Virginia (3-4, 1-3) for homecoming at Snyder Family Stadium.
The burning question now is, after a series of close calls and missed opportunities, whether the Wildcats are poised for a fresh start and a run at bowl eligibility, or just more of the same?
"We think every week is a fresh start, so we're just putting the bad in the past and looking forward," linebacker Mike Moore said. "We're ready for it."
The Wildcats took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter two weeks ago against then-No. 15 Baylor before faltering down the stretch in a 35-25 loss. The week before that they led by 6 at Oklahoma State with less than five minutes and fell, 33-29.
K-State coach Bill Snyder said Tuesday that he was encouraged by the way his team responded during the bye week, and in fact gave the players a whole weekend off before resuming game preparation Monday.
"I think (they reacted) in a favorable way," Snyder said. "I think once they got away from the (Baylor) loss and tried to get focused on correcting the issues that we have and get focused on West Virginia, I think they were in the moment, which is important — not let it linger with you and work diligently in your preparation.
"I think they have attempted to do that."
Not that they had much choice.
"Right now we're just looking to go 1-0 against West Virginia, and we'll move on from there," fullback Glenn Gronkowski said. "When it doesn't work our way, we just have to put it behind us and look forward.
"That's all you can do. You can't go back and change the past, so you've just got to look to the future and keep that mentality."
West Virginia is in much the same boat. The Mountaineers did upset Oklahoma State at home for their lone Big 12 victory but are coming off a blowout loss at Baylor, then a 37-27 home setback against Texas Tech in which they had a double-digit third-quarter lead.
"I can't talk for Kansas State and what's happened the last three games," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They've clearly been in all three games and had a chance to win all three games.
"Our's last week, we just didn't make plays in the key situations. When the game's on the line, it's an obvious high-pressure situation and we've got to do a better job of handling that high-pressure situation and making the plays to be able to win the game, and Texas Tech did a better job of that than we did."
A year ago, K-State traveled to Morgantown, W.Va. and stunned the Mountaineers, 55-14, limiting quarterback Geno Smith to 143 yards passing and keeping standout receiver Tavon Austin in check.
But just as West Virginia's offense is different — Florida State transfer Clint Trickett is the new quarterback and running back Charles Sims the biggest weapon — K-State has had a major turnover on defense with nine new starters.
"They have the same type of players, same offensive system and they seem to be getting things done," K-State safety Dante Barnett said. "They've got a spread, hurry-up offense and want to throw the ball deep, so I feel that's our biggest challenge."
West Virginia has had three different starters at quarterback, but finally settled on a healthy Trickett the past three games. Snyder said K-State will continue with its two-quarterback system, splitting time between Daniel Sams and Jake Waters.
The two teams' offensive production is nearly identical, with K-State ranking sixth in the Big 12 at 400.3 yards per game and West Virginia seventh with 399.1. But K-State has the advantage defensively, giving up 382 yards while the Mountaineers are ninth in the conference at 453.1.