There was a lot of talk before the teams even stepped on the field at Milo Pucks… uhhh… Miller Parkway… no… screw it… West Virginia's Stadium. There was the already infamous goEMAW thread. There was the ensuing letter to the NCAA. There were questions about the Wildcats ability to handle the long trek into the backwoods. Questions about Snyder's history against the air raid and the current state of the Wildcat defensive backfield. Even our friends over at The Smoking Musket warned us that this Mountaineer team would likely pull a Jules and "strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger" after getting throttled by the Red Raiders. And of course, the never ending "Sure Collin Klein can run but can he…?" And then there was silence.
The sound of 60,000 screaming proud hillbillies was reduced to the coos of a near vacant maternity ward nursery as EMAW Nation played the part of Shang Tsung and sucked the soul out of every Mountaineer from Geno Smith to Sam Huff.
It was beautiful. Here's my analysis.
Optimus was quoting General Patton in the weekly press conference last Tuesday but after the game Saturday he should have been quoting another World War II icon, J. Robert Oppenheimer1:
"I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."
On Tuesday before the game, Mountaineer coach Dana Holgerson said that his defense* would try to stuff the Wildcat run game and force Klein to throw, but cautioned "You look at [Klein] throwing the ball, and it doesn’t look very good, but it goes exactly where you want it to go."
That Dana Holgerson has a helluva brain under that combover-mullet thing. On Saturday night Klein's passes went exactly where he wanted them to go 19 of 21 times. That is 90 percent. Ninety. Percent. Those 19 gorgeous completions accounted for 323 gorgeous yards and three gorgeous touchdowns.
Not only that but the passes were thrown with a confidence and authority that we haven't yet seen from Coach Yoda's young Jedi. The offensive line gave him plenty of time but Klein didn't seem to take as much as he normally does, showing decisiveness and command in the pocket.
No other pass he threw all night signified his pocket presence more than the touchdown he delivered to Chris Harper in the third quarter. With a defender blitzing and in his face, Klein delivered a slightly lofted pass that zipped between two Mountaineer defenders—one of whom was committing blatant interference—to the waiting arms of Harper. Harper bobbled it for a second, then pulled it in to put the Cats up 38-7. It was a risky throw but it showed that Klein has faith in his arm and knows that he can win ball games that way if he needs to. I loved it.
Klein also ran the ball for 41 yards and four (four!) scores, putting him atop K-State's career rushing touchdown list and giving him a total of seven scores on the night. The night that David Ubben—among others—said would help clarify the front runner in the Heisman hunt.
All-in-all, Klein—behind the best offensive line in the conference2—put together his best, most complete game of his illustrious career and gave us all even more hope that this time around number seven would go to New York and bring home hardware.
Who says Tramaine Thompson is Collin's go-to-guy? Young Tyler looked just as good as his father and uncle before him in this one, snagging nine passes for 194 yards and two scores, both of which made Klein to Lockett look every bit as legitimate as Montana to Rice—except for that janky throwing motion of course. Lockett finished with over 21 yards per completion and caught every pass thrown his way save one, which sailed just out of his reach. But Klein made it up to him on the next play, hitting him—"right on the button" as the great Gus Johnson said—for 44 yards, the longest completion of the night.
The West Virginia defensive backs continually played Lockett soft in coverage giving him what at times seemed to be almost 20 yards of cushion, and he proceeded to burn them anyway. Sometimes with a stutter step, sometimes with flat-out speed but always with the same result. Number 16 spent a majority of the night more wide open than a hillbilly smile.
And he's gonna be around for two more years.
Bill Snyder's offense is legendary in its variety and depth and he put on a play calling clinic in this one. That multiple offense is rarely more multiple than it was on this night. No one but Snyder, the coaching staff and the eleven guys on offense knew what was coming next. They ran, they threw, they audibled and they produced. So much so that Snyder took the time to apologize to Holgerson at the post-game hand shake for running up the score. The Wildcat offense could seemingly do no wrong in this one—except for the first drive. It was clear that they were trying to establish the run but John Hubert just couldn't get it going all night. If not for Thompson's big return on the opening kick, K-State might not have even gotten a field goal out of it. But it wasn't long before the passing game came along and the rout was on.
I'd have to go back and watch the OU game again to be sure, but this might have been the most complex offensive game Snyder has called all year. One thing's for sure, the contrast was stark between the two units when Klein and the offense were on the field and Joe DeForest looked red-faced and on the edge of a coronary for most of the contest.
When Wildcat Radio color commentator Stan Weber was asked who his defensive MVP was in the post-game, he proceeded to list the names of all eleven starters on the K-State defense. I couldn't concur more. A lot was said about the Texas Tech defense after last week but Tech played the Mountaineers in Lubbock and allowed over 400 yards. The Cats played them in Morgantown and allowed less than 250. Geno Smith threw for 275 yards and a score against Tech. The Purple Geno Eaters held him to 143 yards and his only score was on a dumpy little shovel pass to Tavon Austin in garbage time that barely counts as a throw.
The Cats also forced Geno to throw his first two picks of the year, the first of which was snagged by a newly rejuvenated Arthur Brown—who also got the first pick on RG3 last year. The pick was set up by Randall Evans who has apparently been practicing with the VolleyCats as he jumped up and set that ball for the football equivalent of a spike, a demoralizing interception.
K-State also managed to sack Geno four times—at one point they sacked him on two consecutive plays down by the Mountaineer goal line. The Red Raiders never sacked Smith once.
The defensive balance the Cats showed was amazing. No one player tallied more than five tackles but a total of four Wildcats—led by Brown—were able to reach that number. Two others had four.
Some of the defensive success could certainly be credited to the offensive pace and ball control—the Mountaineers only had the ball three times in the first half—but mostly it was nothing more than sound fundamentals and discipline.
I just want to mention this really briefly before I get to my other notes but the pride on this team is astounding. Even late in the game with mostly second unit players in, the Cats never stopped executing. The defense made sound form tackles and both units never seemed to play like they were in the lead. The pride on this team can be summed up simply in this tweet by GoPowercat.com writer Ryan Wallace:
You should've heard the KSU sideline after Austin's TD. Pissed off. You'd think it was 7-0 WVU. A lot of pride down here! Great sign.— Ryan Wallace (@call_me_WALLACE) October 21, 2012
According to GoPowercat's D. Scott Fritchen, the 55 points is the most K-State has scored outside of Kansas in 102 years.
Daniel Sams played! And he threw the ball! He threw it twice actually. The first was a great looking frozen rope to Torrell Miller thrown on the run, and the second was a deep ball to Miller in the end zone that should have been picked. Really tight spiral though. A lot of potential there.
John Hubert led the team in rushing with 52 yards on 16 carries but Angelo Pease carried the ball only seven times for 46 yards and a team leading 6.6 yards per carry.
After looking less than stellar through the first three contests this year, Ty Zimmerman has had a pick in each of the last four games. Keep it up Zimm.
Chris Harper told David Ubben in post-game that this is the first time Collin Klein has thrown for over 300 yards in a game in his entire football career. Not just college. And to think he looked like he does it every game.
By my count, this is the second game in which DeMarcus Robinson has carried the football. The first was against Miami. At the beginning of the year, who would have thought that DeMarcus Robinson would carry the football against Miami and West Virginia without injury?
Next week is back in the Bill for Homecoming against the Red Raiders and I'm willing to bet the atmosphere will be more electric than its been in years. So talk it up Cat fans. Say what you will. This team knows how to back it up.
* I think this asterisk is entirely self-explanatory—but just in case—I put this explanation down here to explain that it is, in fact, self explanatory.
1. Though often credited as the words of Oppenheimer himself, the physicist actually borrowed the quote from the ancient Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita. I know, nerdy and pointless. But I like to be accurate.
2. Maybe the country?