Christopher Jackson, Associated Press
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The final touchdown pass drew only a slight fist pump from Collin Klein. It was still the third quarter, but Milan-Puskar Stadium was half-empty. Most of the West Virginia fans had seen enough of a game that had turned into a Heisman Trophy campaign ad for the Kansas State quarterback.
Klein threw for a career-high 323 yards and three touchdowns and ran for four scores as No. 4 Kansas State got little resistance from No. 17 West Virginia in a 55-14 victory Saturday night.
The Wildcats (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) made it look easy. Klein completed 19 of 21 passes and added 41 yards rushing.
"I think we all felt comfortable tonight," he said. "The coaches did a great job of building a game plan and putting us in positions to succeed."
No doubt. The Wildcats scored on their first eight possessions, including seven straight touchdowns.
"He doesn't do anything wrong," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said of Klein. "He's hard to tackle. He gets them in good plays. He doesn't turn the ball over. You can say what you want to about the throwing motion, but it goes exactly where he wants it go. He's a good football player."
Way too good for West Virginia to stop.
It was no surprise the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2) were awful on defense — it's been that way all season. For the second straight game, though, Geno Smith and the offense did nothing to keep it close.
Smith followed up a clunker at Texas Tech last week with an even worse game, throwing his first two interceptions of the season and finishing 21 of 32 for 143 yards. The senior has gone from Heisman Trophy front-runner to long shot in two weeks.
"We talked about it all week. Don't get impatient. Don't get impatient," Holgorsen said. "You have the ball a couple of times and you look up there and you're down 17 points and you start pressing. It's inevitable.
"We're trying to score 14 points in one play."
Kansas State made it 52-7 with 2:25 left in the third quarter when Klein hit Tyler Lockett over the middle for a 20-yard score. Klein turned toward his sideline and gave a modest shake of his fist before joining his teammates to celebrate. It was the fourth time this season the Wildcats had scored in the 50s.
By that point a long line of cars was creeping out of the parking lot. The only section of the stadium that was still filled was covered in KSU purple.
"I was certainly pleased with the way that our youngsters approached the ballgame, the preparation for the game and how they traveled," said Bill Snyder, whose remarkable 21-year, two-act career as Kansas State coach is only missing a national championship. "I was proud of how they kept their focus. We played great."
The optimism and excitement that was pumping through Morgantown a couple of weeks ago is gone.
In Manhattan, Kan., it's all good, and everything is on the table for Snyder's team. The Wildcats are the only unbeaten squad in the Big 12. Their quarterback is the Heisman front-runner. And with five games left on the schedule, the Wildcats are serious national title contenders.
The first meeting since 1931 of the new Big 12 rivals was so lopsided that by the time it was over it was hard to even remember that it started as a battle for first place in the conference.
On one side was Klein, aka Optimus Klein, the Wildcats' methodical battering ram, whose passes don't look like much, but usually find their target.
On the other side was Smith, the future NFL first-round draft pick with the video game passing statistics.
But Klein got to face West Virginia's beleaguered defense, which ranks near the bottom of the Big 12 and the country in just about every statistic.
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