MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The only thing missing was a paintbrush.
As college football fans tuned in Saturday night expecting to see one of the most entertaining games of the day, they ended up watching a Kansas State masterpiece.
The No. 4 Wildcats were nearly flawless at Milan Puskar Stadium, convincingly defeating No. 17 West Virginia 55-14 in front of 60,101 fans and curious Heisman Trophy voters.
It was another statement victory for K-State (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) which came into the game with an already impressive resume. Road wins over the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) and No. 10 Oklahoma give it a stranglehold on the race for a Big 12 championship.
And possibly much, much more.
Saturday might go down as the program’s most significant night in recent memory. Things went perfectly, with K-State proving itself as a serious national championship contender and quarterback Collin Klein establishing himself as the Heisman frontrunner.
Many believed he trailed West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith for the award coming into Saturday’s action. But while Smith was unable to produce his usual gaudy stats against K-State’s defense, Klein put up huge numbers.
He outplayed Smith in every way. Not only was he mistake-free, he delivered highlight after highlight on his way to 323 passing yards, 41 rushing and seven total touchdowns.
“I started calling him John during the game,” senior receiver Chris Harper said. “He was John Elway.”
With West Virginia’s defense concentrating on K-State’s running game, practically daring Klein to throw the ball, he showed off his arm with a 19-for-21 night.
He was at his best in the first half, hitting freshman Tyler Lockett for big gains across the middle and delivering a perfectly-thrown fade pass to him in the corner of the end zone. But he was impressive after the break, too.
“I’m just a man on a great team that is playing extremely hard,” said Klein, sticking with his humble approach.
Lockett and Harper both had their best games. Lockett caught eight passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Harper grabbed six for 95 yards and a score.
“I’ve got to be honest,” Harper said, “everything was working. There wasn’t anything that we weren’t doing out there.”
That’s not much of an exaggeration. The Wildcats scored every time they possessed the ball before coach Bill Snyder used backups early in the fourth quarter. Few could imagine either side showing mercy in this battle of highly-ranked teams and Heisman-contending quarterbacks, but K-State made things look easy and West Virginia look bad.
“Collin is a really great guy, and he played a heck of a game,” West Virginia’s Smith said. “Hats off to him and Kansas State. They kicked our butts.”
The Mountaineers have now lost back-to-back blowouts. K-State’s defense made sure they never put up a fight.
“Collectively, defensively we played extremely well,” Snyder said.
West Virginia had to work for every yard, with Smith throwing for 140 passing yards and its offense failing to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers’ only score before that came on a 100-yard kickoff return from Tavon Austin in the second quarter to make the score 24-7.
The Wildcats were so dominant on defense that they intercepted Smith twice. Before Saturday he had thrown 260 passes without getting picked off, but Arthur Brown and Ty Zimmerman both intercepted him in the second half.
“It was a sign, because that’s all they say on ESPN,” defensive back Randall Evans said. “Geno has never thrown an interception. He has never done this. He has never done that. Our intention was to make him throw an interception.”
Brown’s interception may have clinched the game. On West Virginia’s first play of the third quarter, Evans tipped the pass high into the air, and Brown caught it.
“We all fed off of that play,” Brown said.
Klein hit Harper for a 21-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession, and K-State led 38-7.
Mountaineers fans began fleeing the stadium at that point, and whatever hopes West Virginia had for a comeback disappeared.
“We knew coming in we had to stop the run first and make them one-dimensional,” said Zimmerman, who has intercepted a pass in four straight games. “I think we did that in the first half. They were down so much they had to keep throwing the ball … which allowed us to get those turnovers.”
Klein added two more touchdowns, breaking Darren Sproles’ school record for rushing touchdowns.
Both he and K-State likely wowed viewers, especially those who doubted them, along the way. This night couldn’t have gone much better.
“We’re undefeated,” Harper said. “We’re out here beating these teams that have so many great players. It’s going to be a matter of time before they (realize) these guys can play.”