Before it went into last week's game against Texas Tech, the No. 13 West Virginia football team was playing about as well as it's ever played to start a season.
With senior quarterback Geno Smith and the rest of the Mountaineer offense clicking on all cylinders, it looked like WVU had what it took to possibly make a run at a Big 12 Conference (and maybe even national) title.
But then the offense sputtered and the defense allowed more than 600 yards of total offense again and the Mountaineers fell victim to a devastating upset at the hands of the Red Raiders.
And as a reward for that disappointing performance, they get No. 4 Kansas State at Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday night in a game that can make or break their title chances. A loss would give West Virginia two losses with the likes of TCU and Oklahoma remaining on the schedule. A win gives the Mountaineers redemption and a new chance at winning the league.
That's why they can't dwell on what happened last week.
In a conference like this where there are no easy victories, West Virginia has to have a short memory and that will all start with the offense.
The Mountaineers had one of their worst weeks offensively a week ago. Their 14 points against Texas Tech was the first time they have scored less than 20 points in a game under head coach Dana Holgorsen and their 408 yards of offense was well below their average of 543 yards per game.
This week West Virginia is hungry to prove that what happened last week was a fluke. Smith, who along with Kansas State signal caller Collin Klein is one of the Heisman Trophy frontrunners, wants to show everyone that he can rebound and continue his staggering performance for the season.
For the most part, we know what the offense can do. We know that there's a great chance that side of the ball will give WVU a good opportunity to win the game.
This week's game will be decided by how well the Mountaineer defense can play.
Up to this point in the season, it hasn't been pretty to watch WVU on defense - especially against the pass-happy Big 12. But Kansas State is a running team, and that's been one of West Virginia's only strong suits so far this season. The Mountaineers are allowing just a little more than three yards per carry on the ground.
But they haven't faced a dual-threat quarterback like Klein yet this season. Klein has thrown for just seven scores on the season, but he's carried the ball almost 100 times and has 10 more touchdowns on the ground.
Don't be surprised to see Klein and the Wildcats' offense throw the ball a little more than usual this week though. West Virginia lost its best cornerback when redshirt junior Brodrick Jenkins was ruled out indefinitely with a slight cartilage tear in his knee. As a replacement, WVU will likely turn to freshmen Ricky Rumph and Nana Kyeremeh for the majority of the snaps.
Night games in Morgantown are always tough for the away team to come away with a victory and the Mountaineers are usually good at bouncing back quickly from losses. Last season WVU was 3-0 in the game following a loss, outscoring opponents 120-62. If the offense can come out and continue playing the way it did in the first five games and the defense can find a way to force turnovers and make a couple of big stops, West Virginia could come away with a win and find itself back in the top 10.
SCORE PREDICTION: WEST VIRGINIA 45, KANSAS STATE 41
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