MANHATTAN — K-State’s (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) chances of qualifying for a bowl game took a hit Saturday night, as it fell to West Virginia (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) by a final score of 23-28 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan. It marked K-State’s third straight loss at home.
“There’s probably a stronger word than frustrating (to describe Saturday’s outcome). Take nothing away from West Virginia. They’ve proven to be a very good football team, but (the game) was in our hands. It was ours to win or lose. We could have easily won the ballgame and won it handily,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said.
K-State started freshman quarterback Skylar Thompson at quarterback.
Saturday’s game marked Thompson’s first career start and marked the third different quarterback that K-State has started this season. Thompson struggled in his first start, completing 13-of-26 passes for 159 yards and two interceptions. Thompson also ran the ball 18 times for 53 yards. Snyder assessed Thompson’s performance Saturday.
“He didn’t play as well as he had the previous two games. He had a lot of help in that regard. He did some good things over the course of the ballgame, but he struggled from time to time. It wasn’t just (Thompson). There were an awful lot of reasons why we didn’t win this ballgame,” Snyder said.
K-State couldn’t get a first down on its first drive of the game, as an offensive pass interference wiped away a potential third down conversion. The Wildcats were forced to punt.
On West Virginia’s first offensive drive, junior cornerback D.J. Reed forced and recovered a fumble at the West Virginia 46 yard line with 12:48 remaining in the opening quarter. It was Reed’s first of two turnovers that he forced in the first quarter. Reed intercepted West Virginia quarterback Will Grier on West Virginia’s third offensive drive. Reed returned the interception to West Virginia’s three-yard line. That play set up a 21 yard field goal from senior kicker Matthew McCrane with 7:30 remaining in the first quarter to give K-State a 3-0 lead.
Snyder talked about Reed’s play Saturday.
“(Reed) played well. He had some nice returns on special teams. He played well defensively. He played well overall,” Snyder said.
McCrane connected on a field goal with 2:45 left in the first quarter to give K-State a 6-0 lead. The field goal was McCrane’s 55th career field goal, which passed former K-State kicker Martin Gramatica for a school record for career field goal makes. McCrane talked about setting a school record.
“It’s an honor. It really is, to be up there with (Gramatica), but I want to win football games just like everybody else. It would have been a lot better if we won, especially with the record. It’s neat to be up there, but it hurts,” McCrane said.
McCrane would have two more attempts in the second half. He connected on one of those attempts, but narrowly missed one. The attempt, which came with 3:45 left in the third quarter, appeared to pass directly over the left goalpost, and was ruled a miss. McCrane talked about the miss.
“Apparently it didn’t go in. From where I was standing it was close, but I trust the referee’s judgement. He’s right under the post, so he had the better angle,” McCrane said.
Snyder talked about the missed field goal.
“What I was told was that (the officials) couldn’t do a replay on it, because the ball was above the goalpost. I was not aware of that rule. That’s why they couldn’t do a replay, because wherever it is that makes those decisions when you contest a play couldn’t decipher where the ball was. I saw the replay on it, and (McCrane) was 4-4,” Snyder said.
West Virginia took its first lead of the game with 2:28 left in the first quarter on a 75 yard touchdown pass by Grier on the first play following McCrane’s record-setting field goal. West Virginia expanded its lead near the beginning of the second quarter, as Grier threw his second touchdown pass of the game with 14:56 left in the half to give his team a 14-6 advantage.
K-State junior fullback Winston Dimel scored on a one yard touchdown run with 12:44 left in the half to make the score 13-14 in favor of West Virginia. Dimel scored once more on a two yard run with 1:33 left in the half to make the score 20-21.
The Wildcats had a chance to take a lead into halftime after it recovered a West Virginia fumble near midfield with 48 seconds left in the half, but Thompson threw an interception on a short pass with 10 seconds left in the half. West Virginia would score on a 30 yard touchdown pass with no time remaining to carry a 28-20 lead into halftime. Snyder talked about the end of the first half.
“I guess we could have run the clock out. In hindsight that would have been the best thing to do. Apparently we thought we could get it upfield and have a chance for a field goal, but we didn’t. It was a bad call on my part,” Snyder said.
The score would remain 20-28 through the third quarter, as neither team could gain an advantage.
McCrane kicked a field goal through with 12:44 remaining in the game to trim West Virginia’s lead to 23-28.
K-State had a chance to potentially take the lead later in the quarter, as the Wildcats moved the ball to the West Virginia 19 yard line. Unfortunately, Thompson threw an interception, which was returned into K-State territory with 7:41 left in the game.
West Virginia would run out the clock to secure the win.
K-State will try to earn bowl eligibility Nov. 18, as it will travel to Stillwater, Okla. to face off against No. 10 Oklahoma State.