Those not already taking Kansas State seriously had better start
No matter the venue, Kansas State is making itself right at home this season
Undefeated, the Wildcats have every intention of battling for a national title
In a battle of Heisman hopefuls, Collin Klein (7 TDs) outshined Geno Smith
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The Kansas State Wildcats are quickly becoming America's rudest houseguests. Invite them in the door at your own risk.
Say you're a powerhouse football program like Oklahoma, a team that loses at home on average about once every four years because your stadium is always rocking. Well, make all the noise you want. Bill Snyder's team doesn't care. Next thing you know, your team will be the one fumbling at the 1-yard-line.
Say you're an upstart like Iowa State, having recently taken down the likes of Nebraska, Texas and No. 2 Oklahoma State at home. Collin Klein is immune to your upset powers. He will patiently grind you down and go home with his victory.
And say you're West Virginia. Your high-flying robo-quarterback and Red Bull-swigging coach had a bit of a setback last week in Lubbock, but Vegas figured you'd come back strong at home Saturday. Snyder says: Bwaaah. By halftime, the spoilsports ... er, Wildcats had so thoroughly embarrassed their hosts that the crowd was booing and hissing in disgust. By midway through the third quarter, Willowdale Road had already backed up from traffic leaving the stadium.
Thanks for coming, everybody. The Wildcats will be happy to see themselves out.
With its 55-14 annihilation of No. 17 West Virginia (5-2) here Saturday, No. 4 Kansas State (7-0) notched its third road win of the season over a ranked team and made it abundantly known it has every intention of eventually climbing those last two spots necessary to reach Miami.
"It's about winning the national championship -- that's the goal," said Wildcats receiver Chris Harper. "You've got to take baby steps. We're going out there trying to win every game and win the national championship."
As of last week, only Alabama, Florida and Oregon stood in front of K-State -- and either the Crimson Tide or Gators are guaranteed an eventual loss. Notre Dame, also 7-0, was right behind the Wildcats. Next week, the Irish visit Oklahoma in by far its toughest test of the season. K-State checked that one off the list Sept 22.
If you weren't already taking the Wildcats seriously, you need to start.
Meanwhile, in a de facto changing of the guard atop every Heisman Watch list on the Internet, K-State star Collin Klein on Saturday notched seven touchdowns (four rushing, three passing) while shredding the porous West Virginia defense for a career-high 323 passing yards on 19-of-21 completions. Conversely, fallen counterpart Geno Smith threw his first two interceptions of the season, endured four sacks and managed just 143 yards.
Klein moved the ball at will in the first half, both running and passing, to stake his team to a 31-7 halftime lead. One of Klein's two incompletions came late in the second quarter when he overthrew wide-open receiver Tyler Lockett deep down the right sideline. On the very next play, Klein went right back to Lockett on a double move and hit him in stride for a 44-yard completion. It was that kind of night.
"I started calling him John during the game, because he was rocking the [Number] 7 like John Elway," said Harper.
Before throwing too many roses Klein's way, one must offer the caveat that West Virginia's defense really is truly, indescribably terrible. Obviously, previous opponents Baylor (63 points), Texas (45) and Texas Tech (49) had served fair warning. K-State did not come in with the same vaunted aerial attack as those teams, yet Klein's receivers -- in particular speedster Lockett (nine catches, 194 yards, two touchdowns) and Harper (six catches, 96 yards, one score), continually raced past sagging safeties into swaths of open field. Even when they were in the right position, those same defenders could barely make a tackle. Rarely has a purported Top 25 team fielded such an inordinately hapless defense.
Still, Klein had to put the right touch on his throws. He had to make the right decisions when to run, which he did almost every time. And when he did, those hapless Mountaineers defenders found out the same thing as so many before them: Klein is no plodder. He's a bruiser, yes, but he can also glide when given a crease. Shortly before halftime, with Kansas State facing a third and 2 at the West Virginia 11, the Mountaineers made a half-hearted attempt to blitz from the right. Klein promptly ran the other direction untouched for a 10-yard gain.
"He doesn't do anything wrong. He doesn't make mistakes," said Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen. "He's hard to tackle, he gets in good plays and doesn't turn the ball over."
Klein's Heisman showcase somewhat overshadowed an even more outstanding performance by the Wildcats' defense. Facing an offense that came in averaging 46 points and 385 passing yards, K-State did not allow an offensive touchdown until there was 7:31 remaining and held Smith to his lowest passing total since Holgorsen's arrival. Smith had just broken the NCAA single-season record for pass attempts without an interception (273) when linebacker Arthur Brown picked off a tipped pass early in the third quarter.
"This is as low as it gets," said Smith. "I have never dealt with adversity of this magnitude."
Smith should call up Oklahoma's Landry Jones for solace. The Wildcats did the same thing to him. It's nothing fancy. Defensive ends Meshak Williams (2.5 sacks) and Adam Davis (1.5) bring pressure, Brown (two tackles for loss) stuffs the run and cornerbacks Nigel Malone (two pass breakups) and Randall Evans and safeties Ty Zimmerman (who also had an interceptions) lock down the receivers.
"They've got a great offense," said Malone. "You've got to take that attitude that we're good too.
Now, it's America's turn to appreciate just how good Malone and his teammates really are.
Snyder's program is generally viewed with a certain deferential respect but with somewhat patronizing hesitation. No question, based on the recruiting rankings, the Wildcats are certifiable overachievers, but that doesn't mean they're not elite.
Asked if he views his team in the same light as Alabama, Oregon and Florida, Harper said, "Yes, definitely. We don't get the same love that they get but we definitely have the players they have. We beat Oklahoma but [the pundits] still talk about Oklahoma --- we beat them. Can we get any kind of love, like please?"
Don't worry, Chris. Keep crashing the party in all these opposing stadiums and there won't be many fan bases left out there to impress.
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