For our next installment of the 100 day countdown to kickoff against North Dakota State University, 92 days represents the 92 yard drive that put K-State up 10-0 over West Virginia last October. The drive opened up the floodgates to what was a 41 point victory that validated the still uncertain championship hype surrounding the Wildcats. It also allowed Tyler Lockett to truly break into the national conscience.
K-State already had two great victories to hang its hat on when it faced off against West Virginia in Morgantown, with a beatdown of Miami at home and five point victory at #6 Oklahoma. However, in the two games following the victory over the Sooners, K-State struggled in the first half against lowly KU and only managed a six point victory against Iowa State. And though some of the game’s luster were tarnished the week before when West Viriginia fell to Texas Tech, this was still the game that looked to decide the Big 12 Champion. K-State was undefeated, sitting at 6-0 with a 3-0 conference record and #4 ranking. WVU was 5-1 (2-1) and at #13. Plus the game was in Morgantown and the offense appeared primed to bounce back. Fireworks were expected in the sky, but they were all the color purple.
The drive that set the tone of the game for K-State’s offense and Tyler Lockett was the team’s second possession. After settling for a 33-yard field goal, the defense held the Mountaineers to 18 yards and the punt which was downed at the eight-yard line. The drive got off to a slow start with Collin Klein rushing for one yard, but on second down Klein found Chris Harper for an 18-yard gain. With the ball on the 27-yard line, Klein then found Tremaine Thompson for a five-yard gain, which was wiped out due to a holding penalty on Lockett that brought K-State back to the 22.
At this point we have two good plays by two different wide receivers, and a bad play by the third, but that changed quickly. Following an offside penalty on West Virginia that was accepted rather than decline and take the three yard run by Collin Klein, Lockett ran a beautiful corner route for a 35 yard pick up that put the ball in West Virginia territory.
John Hubert then went to work, picking up four yards up the middle, watching Chris Harper catch a five yard pass, and then taking another four yard carry off-tackle. A pass intended for Chris Harper in the end zone drew a pass interference penalty against WVU, and following a Hubert run where he was met at the line of scrimmage and bottled up, Klein found Lockett in the end zone for the touchdown. You can watch the play on the video embedded below, and it’s worth watching. Lockett seems to be sprinting at full speed while looking back, and has a better command of his location than seems natural. Klein puts the ball in perfect position, landing the rainbow in Lockett’s outstretched hands in the corner of the end zone where only the receiver can catch it.
The importance of this drive really can’t be overstated. Sure, K-State’s defense did a tremendous job of keeping Geno Smith in check and the offense went on to score several more touchdowns. However, this was the one that set the tone for the game. It put Collin Klein in front of Smith in the Heisman race, when Smith came into the season as a favorite to win (Klein finished 19/21 for 323 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions. Incredible stat line).
Two of those touchdown passes landed in the welcoming arms of Lockett, who finished with nine catches and 194 yards as Klein’s go-to threat of the game (Lockett’s second-best game of the year was a 75 yard effort against Oklahoma State). And in the process, K-State’s championship aspirations were validated. Sure, the win over Oklahoma was huge. But this was a manhandling of a top 20 team that expected to compete for the the Big 12 title. K-State has risen to the top already, and had now proved its worth. It also makes me excited about what happens when West Virginia visits Manhattan this fall…