As Skylar Thompson began sliding to the ground, it never crossed his mind that he might get hit.
Exree Loe didn't get the memo.
Loe, a linebacker for West Virginia, launched into Thompson, hitting K-State's starting quarterback with his shoulder. Thompson remained on the ground for an extended time, stopping last week's game in the fourth as trainers walked onto the field to check him over. Thompson gingerly walked to the sideline. Nick Ast, the Wildcats' backup signal-caller, trotted on for one play: a handoff to Jordon Brown that went for 11 yards.
Thompson then returned, and finished the game, in what eventually turned out to be a 24-20 loss for K-State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Afterward, Thompson admitted the hit left a mark.
"My bell was rung a little bit. I just kind of sat there," he said. "I wasn't expecting to get hit, at all, when I was going down — and I did. I got hit in the head. I don't know how that's not a targeting call."
Initially, it was. Had the targeting been upheld, Loe would have been ejected from the game, and had to miss the first half of the Mountaineers' next contest.
"I'm not the one calling it in the stripes, but I've had a concussion in the same situation like that before: getting hit in the head — on the ground, though," Thompson said. "Not like that. I just needed to take a second, because my bell was shook a little bit."
The effects of the collision lingered, long enough that Thompson said he still felt it during K-State's final drive, when West Virginia defensive back Hakeem Bailey picked off Thompson to seal the visitors' upset.
"I felt a little rattled. But that's no excuse," Thompson said. "I've got to make that throw. That's just part of it."
Chris Klieman didn't have an opinion on the reversal of the targeting penalty. He still hasn't watched a replay. All he knows is that Thompson "took a pretty good shot" on the play.
"Without question," Klieman, in his first year as K-State's head coach, said Tuesday, "He was sore (Monday)."
All Klieman cared about was that Thompson didn't suffer a concussion.
"That was the biggest thing that we were concerned about," Klieman said. "Oftentimes, you may not know it’s a concussion during that time. Then the next day or that night, you start having effects of a concussion. It was not, so we were pleased with that. He’s healthy."
K-State offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said he shared those same fears. As trainers tended to Thompson on the field and the sideline, Messingham said he pondered what might have happened.
Did Thompson have a concussion? Did he injure his shoulder? Or was it something else entirely?
"You’re never real sure," Messingham said. " The one good thing about him is, as soon as he got back over to the sideline, right away the coaches talking to him were like, ‘No coach, he’ll be all right. He’s ready to go.’"
For quarterbacks coach Collin Klein, watching his marquee player go down, even for if it only was for a snap, resulted in a "roller coaster of emotions" last week.
"You don't want anyone to get hurt," Klein said. "You're hoping he's OK and you're trying to figure that part out, but then on the flip side, you've just got to say, 'Next man up' and find a way to win the ballgame."
Both Messingham and Klein expressed confidence that, had Ast been called upon to do more, K-State's offense would have continued plugging along.
"The play, actually, when Nick was in, it was an 11-yard gain," Messingham said. "I think the O-line in that setting is saying, ‘That’s all right. We want our guy back there, but somebody else has to pick up the mantle and play.’ So I think we would have been fine.”
Klein also said extended playing time for Ast would have meant the coaching staff would have had to figure out, on the fly, what he would feel most comfortable doing within the confines of the offense. And more importantly, what would have put the offense in the best position to win the game.
"He had prepared well all week, as he always does," Klein said. "He was into the game plan. He has some different strengths and weaknesses than Skylar does in different areas. I know he was going to give everything he had and was prepared to go in there and play.”
Still, Klein acknowledged a feeling of relief washed over him when Thompson went back under center.
Missing just one snap is about the most Klein said he could ask for given the circumstances.
"Sometimes the ones that make you go, 'Oh my gosh. That's horrible' are not that bad. Sometimes the one that doesn't look like anything ends up being something big," Klein said. "So you try to let it happen and let the training staff do their evaluation. You just take it as it comes."