K-State’s Passing Game Shines at West Virginia

| November 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Cole Manbeck

 

Kansas State’s running game showed its futility once again at West Virginia. But the real story from Thursday night is what the Wildcats managed to do in the passing game despite the non-existence of a running attack.

 

The Mountaineers entered Thursday night’s game with the 17th-best pass efficiency defense in the country. Over their previous four games, they’d held opponents to 60-of-137 passing (44 percent completion rate), which was the best mark in the entire country during that time frame. In those four games, West Virginia opponents threw for 755 yards, an average of only 5.6 yards per pass attempt. Two of the opposing quarterbacks during those four games were TCU’s Trevone Boykin and Baylor’s Bryce Petty. Petty completed just 16-of-37 passes for 223 yards against the Mountaineer defense, while Boykin was just 12-of-30 passing for 166 yards. It could be argued that Petty and Boykin are the two-most prolific passers in the Big 12. They certainly have the most explosive receivers in the league. Combined, TCU and Baylor averaged just 5.9 yards per passing attempt at West Virginia.

 

So what Jake Waters and K-State’s receivers did on Thursday was remarkable. Yes, West Virginia was gearing up to take away the run, which I found surprising due to K-State’s struggles on the ground. However, to throw for 400 yards in below-freezing temperatures is phenomenal. The Wildcats averaged 11.8 yards per passing attempt. West Virginia hadn’t allowed an opposing offense to average more than 7.6 yards per passing attempt in a single game the entire season. K-State is now averaging 9.1 yards per pass on the season, which is the fourth-best mark in the country.

 

Waters completed 65 percent of his passes Thursday night. The only quarterback to have a better completion rate against West Virginia’s defense was Alabama’s Blake Sims, which occurred in week one of this season. Outside of Sims, no opposing quarterback had completed better than 60 percent of his passes against the Mountaineers. So a tip of the hat goes to Waters, Tyler Lockett, Curry Sexton and others for that performance. And while the offensive line struggled in the running game, as did the running backs, they were both superb in their pass protection and blitz pickups, giving Waters plenty of time to find open receivers.

 

Credit should also be given to K-State’s defense. The Wildcats held West Virginia’s offense to 5.1 yards per play. Only two teams – TCU and Texas – held the Mountaineers to less yards per play this season, and those are the two top defenses in the Big 12. The Mountaineers averaged 6.5 yards per pass attempt. Once again, TCU and Texas were the only two teams to hold the Mountaineers to less. West Virginia ran for 123 yards, its second-lowest total in a game this season.

 

K-State, which has struggled with its pass rush, combined to sack Clint Trickett and Skyler Howard a total of four times, tying the season-high for sacks allowed in a game by the Mountaineers’ offensive line.

 

West Virginia came into the contest ranked 120th out of 125 FBS teams with a minus-13 turnover margin, and it once again cost the Mountaineers as K-State won the turnover battle by two.

 

The Wildcats running game is certainly a concern. West Virginia came into Thursday night allowing 5 yards per carry, which ranked 97th in the country. K-State averaged 0 yards per rush Thursday.

 

But there were positives. Aside from K-State’s passing game, Matthew McCrane showed the ability to bounce back from a blocked field goal and a miss on a chip shot (largely due to a bad snap) and make a huge field goal late in the game. And K-State’s defense was solid.

 

While it wasn’t pretty, never apologize for a road win in the Big 12 – especially at West Virginia. The Mountaineers handed Baylor its only loss and should have beaten TCU. If I had told you before the game that K-State would win by six points in Morgantown, I’m quite certain most of you would have gladly taken it. So forget about the ugliness, enjoy the victory, and remember that K-State has a shot to still win the Big 12.

 

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