West Virginia’s bid for upset against No. 12 Kansas State falls short
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –- Unimpressed with their West Virginia Mountaineers and shivering in the chill, much of the season-low crowd of 47,683 on Senior Night left after halftime. Those who hung around were warmed by the hope that something special might unfold.
It nearly did.
Backup quarterback Skyler Howard almost worked a miracle for the Mountaineers, but Kansas State had senior receiver Tyler Lockett, who caught 10 passes for 196 yards and returned a punt 43 yards for a touchdown as the Wildcats won 26-20 and handed WVU (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) its third straight loss.
The game wasn’t over until K-State recovered an onside kick in the final minute.
WVU turned the ball over four times and dug itself a 17-3 halftime hole. That’s huge against the 12th-ranked Wildcats.
“The offense was garbage,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said of the first half. “I thought the defense was very below average, the special teams were horrendous. We should have been winning at halftime. You turn the ball over four times against Kansas State, you’re gonna get beat.”
The son of former NFL receiver Kevin Lockett, Tyler in his previous game set the Wildcats record for career receiving yards previously held by … Kevin Lockett.
This was the third straight season Lockett tortured WVU. It helped that K-State quarterback Jake Waters suffered no discomfort.
“I don’t normally do this, but I went over to Lockett and said, ‘I’m glad you’re graduating,’ ” Holgorsen said. “That kid is a special, special football player. He did it to us three years in a row. He’s as good as it gets, but to play pass defense without a pass rush, you’ve got no chance.”
WVU quarterback Clint Trickett left the game with what was announced as a concussion, and the Mountaineers trailing 20-3 early in the third quarter. His replacement was Howard, a junior college transfer in his first season whose body of work had consisted of two incompletions.
Howard, a sophomore, immediately directed WVU to their first touchdown, a long drive that cut the Wildcats’ lead to 10. But then a flubbed Mountaineers punt return led to a field goal, and it was 23-10. Howard got WVU going again, but the drive fizzled on a fourth-down incompletion.
K-State (8-2, 7-1) missed a chip-shot field goal that would have required two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions just to tie the game. WVU still had a chance, taking over on its 20 with 9:26 to go. Howard quickly moved the Mountaineers 80 yards, the final 53 coming on Mario Alford’s catch and run. Now it was 23-17.
The WVU defense was doing its job, the offense was cooking and plenty of time remained.
But Lockett bit the Mountaineers again. His 28-yard reception on third-and-9 moved the ball to the WVU 25. After a penalty, it was Lockett again for 17 yards to set up fourth-and-1 from the 16. Matthew McCrane booted a 32-yard field goal, and it was a two-score game.
Trickett was 12 of 25 for 112 yards and two interceptions. Howard, the pride of Riverside (Calif.) City College via Stephen F. Austin, came in with 9:23 left in the third quarter. He rallied the Mountaineers, running, scrambling and getting the ball into the end zone to make it 20-10. Even when K-State tacked on a field goal, Howard nearly pulled it out.
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].