Lockett’s return from injury spurs Wildcats to win

By Grant Guggisberg

Anyone curious how much of an impact Tyler Lockett makes for the Kansas State offense need not wonder anymore.

After missing a game and a half with a hamstring injury, the junior receiver was a welcome sight for both of K-State’s quarterbacks, pacing the offense in Saturday’s 35-12 win over West Virginia with eight catches for 111 yards and three touchdowns.

Lockett even made sure to be an equal-opportunity scorer, catching two of his TDs from Jake Waters and the other from Daniel Sams.

Paired with the return of receiver Tramaine Thompson, who missed the last two games with mono, the offense put up its highest scoring total in more than a month. The feat was even more impressive after a forgettable first half that saw K-State trailing the Mountaineers 9-7 at the break.

“It was frustrating, when the last three games, and even this game, don’t go the way you want it to go,” Lockett said of the first half. “We just had to go out there and play. We had to try and be tougher and do the little things that were missing throughout those other games, and I think we did great in that at the end.”

After missing part of the game against Oklahoma State and the entire Baylor game, Lockett’s three touchdowns helped turn a close game into a comfortable win in the second half.

His 9-yard touchdown catch from Sams in the back of the end zone in the third quarter was a tough catch that proved to be a momentum booster for the Wildcats.

“That was a real big catch,” Lockett said. “You’ve got to give a shoutout to Daniel for standing in the pocket and even throwing the ball to give me a chance. That helped turn it around a little bit, especially on a third-down play — it’s either a touchdown or a field goal there.”

Considering how badly K-State needed this victory, the addition of Lockett back into the lineup was especially helpful. The Wildcats still need at least a 3-2 record the rest of the way to make a bowl game, but the win over the Mountaineers should at least provide a confidence boost.

Waters, who threw two of Lockett’s touchdowns, hitting him in stride downfield both times, appreciated having his top two receivers back.

“Whenever you can have two guys like that, it’s big for your offense,” Waters said. “You want to get them the ball, and that definitely opened up the run for John (Hubert), and Curry (Sexton) stepped up today, too.”

Lockett said the receiving corps have adjusted to life with two quarterbacks, with Saturday’s offensive output as proof.

“We were on the same page, and that’s what you need,” Lockett said. “That’s starting to happen with the quarterbacks as a whole, whether it’s Jake or Daniel, we’re all on the same page, and that helps.”

Head coach Bill Snyder said all of his receivers played well.

“If you go back and look at the catches — there were some extremely fine catches, and they held onto the ball after some serious contact,” Snyder said. “Curry played well, Tramaine played well and Tyler played well. I was proud of them.”

While Lockett and Thompson both add a deep threat that was lacking in the last two games, Snyder pointed to good pass protection and improvement from each of his two quarterbacks as factors, too.

“We had good enough protection to throw the ball down the field, which takes a little bit longer, a period of time,” Snyder said. “And not to take anything away from the quarterbacks, they did a good job of putting the ball where it needed to be.”

Lockett said the two games he and Thompson spent on the sidelines were invaluable to the teammates taking their place, and should provide depth going forward.

“We’ve gotten to see a lot of good things with me and Tramaine out,” Lockett said. “We got to see us doing the little things, moving the ball, taking time off the clock against Baylor. You see people working hard, and you have people out there who may not have been in that position, but by being there, now you have more people you can trust.”

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