MORGANTOWN - No. 17 West Virginia is in a free fall.
The Mountaineers surrendered scores on No. 4 Kansas State's first eight possessions and had no chance of catching up behind Geno Smith, falling to the Wildcats 55-14 Saturday night.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein ran for four scores and threw for three more. The anticipated Showdown in Morgantown was one sided, with West Virginia providing little fight.
West Virginia running back Andrew Buie (13) is tackled by Kansas State’s Jarard Milo (23) during Saturday night’s Big 12 battle in Morgantown. The Wildcats rolled, 55-14.
"This is about as low as it gets," Smith said. "I've never had to deal with adversity of this manner and I've got to do a better job of being a leader and stepping up and getting guys to respond."
Just like a 49-14 loss to Texas Tech a week ago, there will be plenty of blame to go around again for the Mountaineers, especially on defense.
Kansas State didn't punt until there were 10 minutes left in the game. Klein threw for a career-high 323 yards. He went 19 of 21 without an interception.
"I hope they're embarrassed," West Virginia defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said of his unit. "I'm embarrassed. This is not how a West Virginia defense is played."
West Virginia has allowed an average of 53 points over its last four games, so Kansas State's offensive prowess wasn't a shocker.
But a second straight lethargic game from West Virginia's offense was. The Mountaineers didn't cross midfield until midway through the third quarter and were limited to 243 total yards. Smith threw his first two interceptions of the season and was sacked four times.
Smith completed 21 of 32 passes for just 143 yards - far below the enormous numbers he put up earlier in the season in moving into the Heisman Trophy discussion.
"We've got no excuses," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
"It starts with me. We've got to keep plugging along and trying to get better."
West Virginia's only offensive touchdown came midway through the fourth quarter, a 5-yard pass from Smith to Tavon Austin. The other score came on Austin's 101-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
West Virginia will now have two weeks to work on its problems before resuming play Nov. 3 at home against TCU.
"We definitely need to start playing with a little more heart," Austin said.
The Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2), ranked No. 5 just two weeks ago, have now lost two straight and are in serious jeopardy of tumbling out of the rankings.
They fell two games behind first-place Kansas State (7-0, 4-0) in the Big 12 standings and, barring a turnaround in the second half of the season, their hopes of going to a second straight BCS bowl are fading, too.
Facing its biggest halftime deficit at home since 2005, West Virginia simply had too much to overcome.
Smith's first pass attempt of the second half was intercepted by Arthur Brown, bringing to an end Smith's streak of 326 consecutive passes without an interception. Klein followed with a 21-yard scoring pass for a 38-7 lead.
Smith's second interception two possessions later led to another Wildcats score. By then, the sellout crowd of 60,101 started filing out.
West Virginia's game plan was to force Klein to throw the ball as often as possible - but the Mountaineers did little to defend the pass. Klein completed his first 6 attempts and his receivers were left wide open. West Virginia rotated players into its young secondary throughout the game to no avail.
Even when Klein made a rare mistake, he quickly made up for it.
Late in the second quarter, Klein overthrew a wide open Tyler Lockett with freshman defender Ricky Rumph far behind the play. On the next snap, Lockett blew past freshman Karl Joseph and Klein hit him for a 44-yard gain, setting up another Klein scoring run.
The Mountaineers also had trouble defending the running of Klein and John Hubert, as well as Klein's option pitches to Angelo Pease. Kansas State amassed 479 total yards and averaged 7.7 yards per play.
Holgorsen said Klein was "exactly who we thought he would be. He's hard to tackle. He doesn't turn the ball over. You can say what you want about the throwing motion, but he throws it exactly where he wants it to go. He's a good football player."