John Hubert’s 4-yard touchdown run with 21 seconds remaining Saturday had no real impact on the game.
The Wildcats already had this game in the bag — using a dominant second half to run away with a 35-12 victory over West Virginia at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
But being able to deliver that final blow had a deeper meaning for a K-State team that’s struggled to finish all season.
“It wasn’t needed for the game, but it kind of needed for us because we needed to know that we could finish a game,” K-State junior center B.J. Finney said. “We can practice it all the time and it goes 50/50 between the defense and the offense, but in the game, we haven’t been able to do it yet.”
K-State led in the fourth quarter of three of its four losses this season, against North Dakota State, Oklahoma State and Baylor. The Wildcats looked like a team in the second half Saturday that wasn’t about to let another slip away.
The Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) were the model of efficiency in the second half, completing all 13 pass attempts, racking more than 300 yards of total offense in the third and fourth quarters alone and outscoring the Mountaineers 28-3 down the stretch. K-State finished 448 total yards.
Quarterbacks Daniel Sams and Jake Waters combined to finish 18-of-21 passing for 291 yards and four touchdowns, while throwing no interceptions. Waters had 198 yards through the air with three TDs — two going to Tyler Lockett and another to Tramaine Thompson, while Sams competed all eight of his attempts on the day for 93 yards and a 9-yard touchdown pass to Lockett.
Lockett, who missed the Baylor game and three quarters of the loss at OSU with a pulled hamstring, caught eight passes for 111 yards in his return. Curry Sexton had six catches for 112 yards, while Thompson hauled in three passes for 53 yards in his first game since Sept. 21 at Texas.
“As a whole, in the second half, we played pretty well as a team,” said Waters, who also rushed 10 times for 55 yards. “When you get that kind of time from the offensive line and you have Lockett, Tramaine and Curry getting open, John running the ball, that opens up our offense tremendously.”
The Wildcats’ second-half onslaught began with a 14-play scoring drive in the third quarter that lasted more than 8 minutes and covered 78 yards, capped by Sams’ 9-yard TD pass to Lockett, who made a leaping play in the back of the end zone to give the Wildcats a 14-12 lead.
Sams, who struggled to get anything going on the ground all afternoon, had no trouble moving the ball by air on the go-ahead drive, as he completed four passes to Sexton, Hubert and Lockett for 52 yards.
“When we’re good, that’s what we do,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said of the long scoring drive. “And we haven’t always been good, so I was pleased in that respect — just in terms of what it means to our improvement and getting on track doing the things we do.”
But K-State didn’t stop there. The Wildcats added three more scores in the fourth quarter — a 30-yard touchdown pass from Waters to Thompson with 11:11 to play, a 24-yard TD pass from Waters to Lockett with 7:32 remaining and then Hubert’s late rush to put the game away for good. Hubert had 86 yards on 19 carries.
Waters said the return of Lockett and Thompson — two speedy receivers — changed the way the Wildcats could attack and spread out the Mountaineers’ defense.
“As a quarterback, that’s what you want,” Waters said. “You want those guys who can go deep and outrun guys. When you have guys like Tramaine and Tyler out there, it gives all the confidence to me and Daniel and they’re going to make a play.”
It wasn’t always that way on Saturday, though. K-State struggled to do much of anything in the first half, scoring the game’s first touchdown on a 35-yard pass from Waters to Lockett late in the first quarter for the 7-0 lead. But that’s all the Wildcats would get in the first half, as West Virginia (3-5, 1-4) took an impressive 9-7 lead into halftime.
The Mountaineers, who had 367 yards of total offense, got the on the board with a 6-yard run from quarterback Clint Trickett with 10:05 left in the second quarter, but were unable to tie the game because KSU defensive tackle Travis Britz blocked the extra point — his third blocked kick of the season.
West Virginia did take the lead a little bit later on a 21-yard field goal by Josh Lambert with 5:24 to go before the break. Lambert scored the Mountaineers’ only points in the second half on a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Neither quarterback was very good early on Saturday. Sams had two carries for minus-9 yards in the first half — a fumble in the third quarter — and Waters fumbled on the Wildcats’ first possession of the game.
Snyder said the two-quarterback system would continue.
“They’re still inconsistent,” Snyder said. “You have two guys who have earned the opportunity and deserve the opportunity to be out there, so there’s not going to be any mystery about it. Now, who plays more than the other one? Jake did some good things today throwing the ball deep, so he stayed in there. But Daniel was 8 for 8 in the passing game, so you can’t deny he can do it as well.
“I think, its not a matter anymore — it was earlier in the season and maybe a little earlier today, you say, can either one of you walk and chew gum — and then you turn around they play lights-out. It’s a matter of consistency as much as anything… they both have a lot to offer.”
The Wildcats will look for their second Big 12 win this Saturday when they host Iowa State in a 2:30 game on Fox Sports 1. K-State has won the last five meetings between the schools by an average of only seven points.