Kansas State’s time atop the Big 12 standings has come to an end.
The 16th-ranked Wildcats entered Saturday’s road trip to West Virginia at 4-1 overall and tied for first place in the conference with a perfect 4-0 mark in league play, but those good fortunes ended in Morgantown.
The West Virginia defense overwhelmed Kansas State freshman quarterback Will Howard from the start, forcing three interceptions in an eventual 37-10 victory for the Mountaineers.
Howard was picked off on two of Kansas State’s first three offensive possessions, but the game was low-scoring for much of the first half. Midway through the second quarter, though, the WVU offense began to have some success.
What was a 3-3 score after one quarter turned into a 24-10 halftime lead for the Mountaineers. And by the time Howard tossed a pick-six midway through the third quarter, it was pretty apparent that this was going to be a win for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers entered Saturday’s game ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense among teams that had played more than one game. That stellar defensive play continued against the Wildcats, who were limited to just 216 yards of offense and had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Kansas State especially struggled with its ground game. The Wildcats ran the ball 21 times, and finished the day with just 32 yards. That’s a 1.5-yard average. The lack of ground success put pressure on Howard, making his third start in place of injured senior Skylar Thompson, to make plays with his arm. It was too much for the freshman to handle.
West Virginia’s offense didn’t exactly light the world on fire, but the three straight second-quarter scoring drives it put together were all the defense needed to hold off Kansas State over a 60-minute span.
With the loss, No. 6 Oklahoma State (4-0, 3-0 Big 12) is the only Big 12 team without a loss in conference play. That could change later Saturday afternoon when the Cowboys host Texas.
Kansas State will have the chance to make a move in the standings next weekend, though, when it hosts Oklahoma State. No. 23 Iowa State, now 4-1 in Big 12 play after beating Kansas on Saturday, is also in the mix. No. 24 Oklahoma, the five-time reigning conference champion, is also looming.
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