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Free-fall continues for WVU

MORGANTOWN - Maybe in the Big 12 they're wagon wheels.Whatever the case, though, they've fallen off of West Virginia's football team. They've fallen off West Virginia's football season.On Saturday night, No. 4 Kansas State brought a well-drilled, well-disciplined army of players to Milan Puskar Stadium. WVU brought street fighters.It was no match.The result was a 55-14 Wildcat decision that perpetuated a stunning Mountaineer free-fall that started last Saturday in a 49-14 loss to Texas Tech.WVU is no longer a national title contender. WVU is no longer a Big 12 contender. Geno Smith is no longer the Heisman Trophy front-runner. That probably now defines his counterpart in Saturday's game, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.Was Klein spectacular?Yes.And no.West Virginia's defense appeared so pathetic, especially against the pass, almost any FBS quarterback could pick it apart as if a turkey carcass on Thanksgiving.And Klein feasted Saturday night. And feasted. He completed 19 of 21 passes for 323 yards. He had 41 rushing yards. Oh, and he had seven combined touchdowns. One could say it was like the 6-foot-5, 226-pound senior quarterback took candy from a baby. That, however, is incorrect. Babies at least give a tug.The Mountaineer defense provided no resistance whatsoever Saturday night. It hasn't all year. And defensive coordinator Joe DeForest hasn't prompted a drop of improvement.Yes, his unit has had setbacks. Cornerback Brodrick Jenkins was injured and out of Saturday's game. Freshman Nana Kyeremeh started at cornerback for Jenkins. Big end Will Clarke was missing for most of the night and replaced by Kyle Rose in the starting lineup.It seemed as if the coaches were trying anything.
"We probably played in the neighborhood of 30 guys on defense," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen.At backup slots, Shaq Petteway replaced Tyler Anderson at buck, Jared Barber replaced Jewone Snow at weak-side linebacker and Nick Kwiatkoski took Snow's place behind Isaiah Bruce at strong-side linebacker.
It proved, though, to be the definition of an exercise in futility.While the season began with WVU showing one of the nation's best offenses, it is now defined as a school with perhaps its worst defense ever. It has outside shots at being one of the worst in FBS history. Maryland's allowed 553 yards per game back in the early 1990s. Louisiana-Lafayette's defense once allowed 50.3 points per game.Wherever the WVU defense stands, though, it's embarrassing for DeForest and Holgorsen. Opposing receivers are open more than Wal-Mart. And they have about as much space.At first, of course, Smith and the Mountaineer offense overcame the horrid pass defense. The team ran out to a 5-0 record. It recorded a win at Texas.
The collapse, however, seems to have spread across the team. The special teams followed suit first. Nothing changed Saturday, save for Tavon Austin's electric 100-yard kickoff return.On the game's very first play, the opening kick, WVU's Corey Smith placed the ball beautifully in the right side of the field. But Kansas State's Tramaine Thompson returned it to the 43-yard line. There was the prerequisite Mountaineer shanked punt, this one 25 yards.WVU's offense has also fallen in step. After one quarter, Klein had 118 passing yards. Smith had 12. Smith had his first interception - and second - since last Dec. 1. The Mountaineers had back-to-back games of scoring 14 points. On Saturday, the final total was 243 yards, both rushing (88) and passing (155).The capper: the WVU debacle was not only witnessed by a packed house of 60,101 at Puskar Stadium, but by a national Fox television network audience and a healthy lineup of national media members in the press box.In a span of 3 hours and two minutes Saturday night, WVU completed a transformation from one of the nation's sexiest college football teams to one worthy of winces.In addition, the Mountaineers have fallen from a team gunning for a BCS berth to one now seemed headed to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Big 12 No. 4), Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (No. 5), Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (No. 6) or, perhaps, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl (No. 7) as a member of its new, tougher, conference.Holgorsen tried his best after the game. He said there are no excuses and the blame starts with him. He took up for DeForest, saying "we have good defensive coaches."But opposing coaches have caught up with WVU's offense. The school's defense isn't improving. The team has rolled backward.And those wheels are off.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at    
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