MANHATTAN, Kan.(Kansas State) – K-State scored touchdowns on its opening drive of the first and second half but failed to put a game-winning series together on its final possession in a 24-20 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.
On its 8-yard line with 2:53 to play, K-State (6-4, 3-4) marched to WVU’s 30-yard line with less than 40 seconds left before Skylar Thompson, who recorded career highs in passing yards (299) and completions (24), was intercepted at the Mountaineer 3-yard line. It marked his second interception of the day, after coming into the game with one.
“Obviously, a disappointing loss. West Virginia earned the victory and deserved to win. I thought they outplayed us. All that being said, we had an opportunity late in the game to almost steal a victory,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said. “So, (we’re) disappointed in a number of things but we’ve got to move on, we’ve got to move forward. That’s what we talked about in the locker room, was this one’s going to hurt and we had an opportunity to win, didn’t get it done, (but) it’s our own doing and we’re not going to point fingers because the coaching staff made some errors, the offense made some errors, special teams, defense, everybody made their errors today.”
West Virginia scored the game’s final 10 points, all in the fourth quarter, starting with a 51-yard field goal from Casey Legg. The Mountaineers took the lead on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Jarret Doege on a third-and-22 attempt with 11:27 to play.
“That can’t happen,” Klieman said of the go-ahead score. “All that being said, that was not the play that beat us. That was a key factor, but there’s so many other things throughout the game that could have helped determine our fate.”
One of those key factors: Red zone scoring. While K-State outgained West Virginia, 421 yards to 319, the Wildcats were outscored by four (17-13) in the red zone.
The Mountaineers scored on three of four red zone opportunities and turned two of them into touchdowns on third-down passes of 19 and 15 yards from Doege. His second touchdown pass, which occurred as the first quarter ended to take a 14-10 lead, was made possible after K-State committed a personal foul on a missed field goal attempt to give the Mountaineers a new set of downs.
The Wildcats, in three red zone trips, twice settled for field goals (22 and 33 yards) on drives of 11 and 12 plays, respectively, in the first half. K-State running back James Gilbert notched the team’s lone red zone touchdown, a 3-yard run to cap a 13-play, 70-yard drive that ate up 7:04 of game clock to start the second half.
“That’s been where we’ve had success (this season). We’ve limited people to field goals, and we’ve been scoring the touchdowns,” Klieman said. “Lo and behold, this week it kind of flips on us.”
K-State did start on a positive note, however.
After forcing a West Virginia three-and-out to open the game, Thompson connected with Dalton Schoen for a 68-yard touchdown on the team’s first offensive play. The momentum was short lived, as West Virginia answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive. The Mountaineers found the end zone on their next drive as well.
“You have to come out every week ready to go in this league,” senior defensive tackle Jordan Mittie said of West Virginia. “That’s a capable team. They had 500 yards throwing the ball last week; they just had four turnovers. So, we knew they could move the ball, but we really weren’t able to make those big plays.”
Offensively, Thompson made some big plays with his arm to get K-State into WVU territory.
On a series that reached second-and-25, the redshirt junior quarterback scrambled and hit Phillip Brooks on third-and-10 for 22 yards. The drive ended in a Blake Lynch field goal. Later in the half, Thompson spun out of a near-sack on another third down and hit Landry Weber for 15 yards. That drive also ended with a Lynch field goal, this time from 33 yards out to improve him 13-of-14 on the year.
Thompson converted two third-and-long chances through the air on K-State’s first drive of the second half, highlighted by a 16-yard pass to Schoen on a third-and-15. It helped set up Gilbert’s touchdown, K-State’s last points of the game.
“We just have to stay with it,” Gilbert said, as K-State plays at Texas Tech on Saturday, November 23. “We just have to execute. It starts with the players. It’s not the coaches. It’s not the schemes or anything like that. It starts with the players and we just have to execute a little bit better.”