In its final regular season game of the year, the West Virginia University football team is trying to exact a little bit of payback on one of the few teams they’ve never beat since moving to the Big 12: the Kansas State Wildcats.
The Mountaineers are winless against Kansas State since the conference switch in 2012, and they’ll need to correct that if they intend on reaching their best record as members of the Big 12.
For Mountaineer veterans, especially, who have come up short multiple times against legendary head coach Bill Snyder and the Wildcats, their past failures are just extra motivation.
"It’s a big deal," said junior center Tyler Orlosky. "I read that the last time we defeated them was 1930. They and Oklahoma are the only teams we haven’t beaten in the Big 12, and we take that as something we have to fix. Hopefully we do this weekend."
West Virginia’s last win over Kansas State was indeed in 1930, back when the squad from Manhattan, the Wildcats were known as the Aggies, and Kansas State University was called Kansas State Agricultural College.
Led by head coach Ira Errett Rodgers, West Virginia pulled out a 23-7 win over the Aggies at the old Mountaineer Field on Nov. 8, 1930 – and since then, the Mountaineers have gone 0-4 against Kansas State.
The matchups haven’t been considerably close either since the two began sharing a conference. In 2012, Heisman Trophy candidate Collin Klein and the then-No. 4 Wildcats smashed a reeling Mountaineer squad 55-14 in WVU’s worst loss of its 7-6 season.
Kansas State also won handily in 2013 at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan, 35-12, behind a workmanlike three-touchdown effort from quarterback Jake Waters.
Last season’s encounter was the closest of the bunch, as WVU quarterback Skyler Howard got his first meaningful collegiate action in relief of injured starter Clint Trickett but couldn’t quite complete a comeback in Morgantown. West Virginia fell 26-20, despite limiting the Wildcats to only a single rushing yard.
WVU’s seniors have seen Kansas State three times now, and they know exactly what makes Snyder’s Wildcats such a problem for them.
"They’re probably the most disciplined, well-coached team in the country," said senior cornerback Terrell Chestnut. "They have guys who are going to work hard for Coach Snyder, and they don’t make a lot of mental mistakes. We have to execute everything perfectly to take them out."
Although West Virginia is motivated by getting the winless streak off its record, Kansas State will have plenty of motivation Saturday. Not only are the 5-6 Wildcats playing for bowl eligibility, they’ll be taking the field in what might be the 76-year-old Snyder’s final game.
In his 24 seasons in Manhattan, Snyder has built a program that Sports Illustrated once called "America’s most hapless team" to nearly 200 wins. Along the way, the Wildcats have gained a reputation for a hard-nosed style of ball that reminds the Mountaineers of themselves.
"They’re similar to us," Orlosky said. "They’re a blue-collar team. They obviously don’t have top-notch recruits every year like a Texas or an Oklahoma would have, but they’re a team that works hard and fights for everything they have. We know they’re going to give us a fight, and hopefully we can match their intensity."
The Mountaineers will attempt to overcome recent history, and the Wildcats’ rushing attack, at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas.