It appears as if the magic has indeed returned to Manhattan, KS, if only for the moment. The Wildcats took to the field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday, still in pursuit of their first Big 12 conference win this season, against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The Wildcats had a slow lead in the first quarter and trailed by halftime. They continued to trail for part of the second half, before racking up 28 unanswered points.
Both quarterbacks saw action again this game and contributed 362 total yards and four combined touchdowns, with 273 yards and three touchdowns in the second half alone.
Quarterback Daniel Sams contributed to the Wildcats second half, offensive outbreak and threw 8-of-8 in the pocket, collecting one touchdown and 93 yards. Quarterback Jake Waters came out with a new energy against the Mountaineers, with potentially his best game of the season. Waters threw for three touchdown passes and completed 10-of-13 pass attempts in the game, for 198 yards. Waters also had 10 carries for 55 rushing yards.
With Tyler Lockett returned from a hamstring injury and Tramaine Thompson back in the game, the Wildcats offense shined in a way that it hasn’t for awhile. Collectively, the Wildcats offense totaled 448 yards for the game. Lockett had 8 receptions for 111 yards and three touchdowns. He had 9-yard and 35-yard touchdowns in the first quarter and a 24-yard score in the fourth quarter, both from Waters.
Thompson caught three passes for 53 yards, one of which included a 30-yard touchdown reception from Waters.
Another significant contributor was John Hubert, who had a solid effort with 19 carries for 86 yards and touchdown in the fourth quarter making it 35-12.
One of the biggest factors of the game, besides the return of players Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson, was the intensity and persistence of the Wildcats defense, in the second quarter. The Wildcats put on the pressure as West Virginia only converted four of its 16 third down chances, amassing 110 yards total on its final four drives. Defensive back, Ty Zimmerman had 12 tackles, closely followed by Blake Slaughter who had nine.
It is no coincidence or fluke that the Wildcats came away with a win against the Mountaineers. Had the Wildcats stayed consistent and showed the same cohesiveness earlier in the season, their standings might reflect much differently. If they can come out against Iowa State with the same level of focus, then they should have the game in the bag.
Here are some key factors that the Wildcats should keep in mind for the rest of the season.
Keys to success:
- Utilize defensive strengths. The Wildcats defense has done a good job at suppressing third-down conversions as of late, holding Baylor to 4-13 and West Virginia to 4-16. If they can continue to apply that pressure, that will compensate for the Wildcats typically less dynamic offensive game.
- Continue to minimize costly errors. Though their penalty yardage was comparable to their game against Baylor, the team has continued to decrease their penalties and fundamental mistakes; the highlight of this game being no interceptions, a recurring issue this season.
- Don’t lose it in the fourth. This season, the Wildcats have somehow managed to hang in or lead into the fourth quarter, just before executing a series of foul-ups at crucial play points in the game. One key to the win over the Mountaineers was a consistent and later explosive effort in the fourth quarter, sans costly fumbles or interceptions for touchdowns.