October 27, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
It was a nearly perfect way to cap off K-State's homecoming week and 150th birthday celebration - a crisp fall afternoon (59 degrees and sunny, to be exact) and a much-needed Wildcat football win.
After weeks of watching sparks of continual growth on the football field, yesterday's 35-12 victory over West Virginia was promise of a turning point this season for K-State football.
"It feels good to win again, it's been six weeks or something - a long time coming," junior wide receiver Curry Sexton, who finished the game with a career-high 112 receiving yards, said. "We've worked hard for it. We've had some tough battles along the way, but we persevered today and we fought through a rough first half offensively. To come out and get a win, it feels good."
Though the first half had its share of woes (K-State went into halftime trailing the Mountaineers, 9-7, and both quarterbacks, junior Jake Waters and sophomore Daniel Sams, recorded fumbles), the Wildcats never let down and finished the game by executing a fourth quarter made up of some of the best football K-State fans have seen from the team all season.
"We were just killing ourselves early (in the game). We just looked rusty when we started off," senior wide receiver Tramaine Thompson, who finished the game with three catches for 53 yards and one touchdown, said. "But once we got rolling, we saw a little bit of what we were capable of, mainly passing the ball, but I feel like we did a pretty good job."
After the third quarter, where K-State regained the lead after Sams completed a 9-yard touchdown throw to junior Tyler Lockett, K-State knew it would have to keep its head in the game in order to come away with its first conference win of 2013.
In the team's previous three losses against Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor, the Wildcats had held fourth quarter leads, so comfort was something that wasn't felt until after the game, and after K-State's unanswered 21 fourth-quarter points.
"I think this can be a turning point," Lockett said. "It's been a long time since we have gotten a win, so it felt great to be able to celebrate it like that. I think it shows that we have a lot of potential - we just all have to be on the same page. It's always good for me to see times when it's not going to go our way at first, but then at the end things begin to turn around for us because if we ever get in that situation again, we know that we can overcome it."
Finishing the game with eight receptions for 111 yards and three touchdowns, Lockett continued to climb K-State's record books as he became only the eighth player in K-State history to haul in three touchdowns in a single game and his 111 yards gave him his sixth career 100-yard game to tie him for seventh all-time.
But it wasn't just Lockett who shined in those final minutes, in the fourth quarter alone, Waters went 8-for-8 for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
On the Wildcats' first drive, Waters completed a pass to Thompson for a 30-yard touchdown. The following drive, Waters connected with Lockett for the second time during the game for a 24-yard touchdown. Topping off the game's scoring, John Hubert rushed for a 4-yard touchdown and finished with a game-high 89 rushing yards on 19 carries.
"That's the way we need to finish and that's the way we were capable of playing," Waters said. "It gives us a lot of confidence going into next week because that's how we want to play football and that's what we want to do."
By the end of the game, the two-quarterback system of Waters and Sams worked perhaps better than ever before. Sams finished the game completing all eight of his passes for 93 yards and one touchdown while Waters threw 10-of-13 for 198 yards and three touchdowns.
"We've got two guys and they've both earned the opportunity and deserve the opportunity to be out there," Snyder said. "Jake did some good things throwing the deep ball today, so he stayed in there, but Daniel was 8-for-8 in the passing game. You can't deny the fact that he can do it as well. It's a matter of consistency. Both of them are good young guys, they care and I appreciate them."
Enjoying the victory among the nearly 53,000 people in attendance of yesterday's game were a few K-State greats.
Before the game, the 2003 K-State volleyball team was recognized for their achievement of going 30-5 (18-2 Big 12) and winning the program's first and only Big 12 Championship.
"It's pretty surreal," former Wildcat setter Gabby Guerre said. "There are so many stories that we all have been catching up on, and it really makes you remember how much of a family we were back when we were playing. Winning the Big 12 was very, very wonderful for us and just being able to achieve that type of success I think that meant a lot to everybody. It's something that we all wanted. It's hard to find a team where everyone has the same goals and desires and to actually follow through on them. I think that was something very special."
Former Wildcat football stars that are now finding successful careers in the NFL were also recognized at the game. From former K-State linebackers Reggie Walker (San Diego Chargers), Emmanuel Lamur (Cincinnati Bangles), Justin Tuggle (Houston Texans) and Arthur Brown (Baltimore Ravens) to safety Tysyn Hartman (former Kansas City Chief), the players had the opportunity to reunite, reminisce and check out West Stadium Center for the first time.
"It's been a good experience to come back, join the fans and see the game and the faces that I haven't seen in a while," Lamur said. "To see my old teammates, it's a great experience. I'm just so happy to be here."
After a game that will be remembered as one of the 2013 season's high points, K-State football (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) will return to Bill Snyder Family Stadium next Saturday, Nov. 2, to take on Iowa State (1-6, 0-4 Big 12) at 2:30 p.m.
Always taking the season one game at a time, getting back to the weekly routine of preparing for the next opponent starts today.
"It's been a long time since this team's had a victory, and I'm glad we could get this one done, but we're going to move on from it," junior defensive end Ryan Mueller said. "We're looking forward to Sunday's film work to study this tape and see how we can get better and then Monday, focus on Monday's practice and lead up to Iowa State."