This wasn’t exactly the ending K-State fans had in mind.
For possibly the last time ever, the Wildcats played host to Nebraska at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Thursday night. Huge runs by Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez set the tone from the get-go, and K-State ended a nearly century-long series with a 48-13 loss to the Big Red.
Out for revenge after last year’s season-ending loss in Lincoln, the Wildcats received the opening kickoff and marched down the field looking to grab a quick lead. But a decision by head coach Bill Snyder to run the ball on fourth down killed the drive when senior quarterback Carson Coffman was stopped short of the first-down marker. Eight plays later, Martinez ran 14 yards untouched to put the Huskers up 7-0.
Sophomore kicker Josh Cherry pulled the Wildcats to within four with a 46-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, but Martinez quickly took back the momentum to the red-and-white sideline. He answered K-State’s drive with a 35-yard scoring burst, and the onslaught began. The Huskers forced a three-and-out and added a 39-yard field goal from senior Alex Henery en route to a 17-3 halftime lead.
Things didn’t get any better after intermission, as Nebraska scored touchdowns on their first two drives to silence any thoughts of a comeback.
“I knew we’d have trouble with (Martinez),” Snyder said. “How much, I didn’t know. He made it look awfully easy. He’s a tremendous athlete and obviously has excellent speed. He’s quick and he’s fast, and we’re not very fast. That’s not a good matchup.”
“Not a good matchup” might be an understatement. Just like Central Florida signal caller Jeffrey Godfrey did to K-State on Sept. 25, Martinez — also a redshirt freshman — picked up chunks of yards at will. He finished the game with 241 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, both career highs. He reeled off countless bursts without being touched, as he also scored on runs of 80 and 41 yards.
“He made some mistakes, but he did a lot of good things for us,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said of his quarterback. “He ran for a lot of yards. He is an explosive player. He creates some problems for defenses.”
Martinez wasn’t the only one creating problems, as senior running back Roy Helu Jr. carried eight times for 110 yards and a score. When it was all said and done, the Husker backfield combined for 451 yards on the ground. The effort marked the first time a K-State defense has allowed over 400 rushing yards since a loss to Colorado in 1989 — Snyder’s first season in Manhattan.
“It’s always frustrating when a team is gashing you,” senior defensive end Antonio Felder said. “You’ve just got to go to the sideline and try to fix it and keep fighting. We’ve got to put (this game) behind us, but we’ve also got to also fix the things that we had trouble with.”
Offensively, the Wildcats were left looking for answers all night. Senior running back Daniel Thomas turned in his second straight subpar performance, rushing 22 times for just 63 yards. Coffman was once again ineffective and was replaced by sophomore Collin Klein early in the third quarter. Junior Sammuel Lamur also saw some second-half action, which reopened questions about the starting quarterback situation.
“I need to sit down and reflect on it and watch video tape,” Snyder said when asked about his quarterbacks. “We have a lot of things to reassess. We can’t continue the way we were tonight.”
The Wildcats return to action Oct. 14 when they make a trip to Lawrence for a Sunflower Showdown matchup against in-state rival Kansas. The game, which will be televised on Fox Sports Network, marks K-State’s second straight Thursday night contest in as many weeks.