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October 26, 2013

Quarterbacks rally Cats to win

Kansas State hopes the story of its 2013 season will be told as a tale of two halves. Its game against West Virginia on Saturday certainly fits that criteria. Wildcat quarterback Jake Waters passed for 152 yards and two scores in the second half and K-State rallied from a lackluster first half to beat West Virginia 35-12 in front of a sellout crowd at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

"I was pleased with the way we came back," K-State coach Bill Snyder said.

K-State won its first conference game of the season after consecutive losses to Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. In two of those games, K-State held leads in the fourth quarter and did not finish the job.

It was different against the Mountaineers.

"All we were talking about on the sidelines was finishing," Waters said. "We knew we hadn't finished in some of our games. We kept talking about needing to finish this one."

The Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) struck first on a 35-yard pass from Waters to Tyler Lockett late in the first quarter, but for the next two quarters following, K-State's two-quarterback offense looked as lost as it has all season, plagued by turnovers and penalties. The Wildcats trailed 9-7 at halftime and had just one first down in the second quarter.

"The defense played lights out and kept us in the game when we were struggling," receiver Curry Sexton said. "It was frustrating at times but we never gave up."

Lockett and Tramaine Thompson both returned to action after missing the last two contests. Once they found some open space late in the third quarter, the game changed drastically.

Quarterback Daniel Sams found Lockett for a 9-yard touchdown to give K-State a 14-12 lead before Waters took over the game.

"We never really got down on ourselves," Sams said. "The quarterback run game wasn't really working today, so we went to something else and did it through the air."

Waters connected on touchdown passes of 30 and 24 yards to Lockett and Thompson, respectively, in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Meanwhile, the K-State defensive line played one of its best games of the season, holding WVU to just 103 yards rushing on 29 carries.

"Overall, if you hold a team to 100 yards rushing, that's a decent day," said K-State linebacker Blake Slaughter, who recorded nine tackles. "I can't complain. We want to keep improving."

The Wildcat defense forced three turnovers, including a pair of second-half fumbles by WVU quarterback Clint Trickett.

K-State safety Ty Zimmerman said the takeaways were huge momentum boosters that accelerated the team's turnaround.

"It's always huge to force turnovers like that," he said. "When you take advantage of them, like our offense did in the second half, it makes everything a lot easier."

Trickett finished the day 15 of 28 passing for 227 yards and a rushing touchdown.

Lockett had 111 receiving yards and three scores. Sexton added a career-best 112 yards on just six catches.

"When we're good, that's what we do," Snyder said of his team's surge. "We haven't always been good. So I was pleased from that respect.

"We had a good third quarter and we had a good fourth quarter. We finished. We haven't finished every ball game we've played."

The Mountaineers (3-5, 1-4) fell to 0-4 away from Morgantown, WV this season.

Waters had a message for K-State fans after the game.

"Just stick with us," he said. "We finally closed out a game. We're learning. We're getting better every game."

Snyder said his team received a moral boost by winning its first league game of the season.

"I watched their response in the locker room and they were excited and happy," he said. "I think they deserve the opportunity to celebrate."

The Wildcats will look to take their next step forward when 1-6 Iowa State comes to Manhattan next week.

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