K-State didn’t earn many style points in its 34-14 triumph over San Jose State on Saturday night at Snyder Family Stadium. Not after careless mistakes prevented the Wildcats from putting the game out of reach prior to the fourth quarter.
For starters, those darn penalties haunted them again, just a week after the Wildcats hoped to improve upon – in a big way – their 16-penalty, 141-yard performance against Auburn. K-State was flagged nine times for 96 yards, including a pair of personal fouls.
“Everyone can see that the penalties are holding us back as a team,” wide receiver Jordy Nelson said. “We need to take control and do the right thing.”
Then there was the play of cornerback Justin McKinney, whose aggressiveness in man-to-man coverage made him an easy target. He gave up Jalal Beauchman’s 20-yard touchdown reception midway through the second quarter, a play that pulled the Spartans within 10-7 after they gave up points on each of K-State’s first two possessions.
“I don’t want to play passive – that’s not my type of style,” said McKinney, who also picked up a personal foul and a pass-interference penalty.
Finally, there was Josh Freeman, whose night was altogether solid except for a pair of interceptions. He had 217 yards passing by halftime, but managed only 55 more by game’s end. The two interceptions, he said, were passes he wished he could have back.
“I don’t know if I was feeling too comfortable or what. It should have never happened,” Freeman said.
Still, this was a win for K-State, its first since a Nov. 11, 2006, game against Texas – a stretch of three games dating back to last season.
“It feels like the first time we’ve won in a long time,” said coach Ron Prince, who guided K-State to its 18th straight win in home openers dating back to 1989. “We’re not going to begrudge any win, that’s for sure.”
Before this one turned into a laugher, it looked like San Jose State (0-2) had some staying power. The Spartans trailed by three points prior to Freeman’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:26 remaining in the first half, which gave K-State a 17-7 lead at halftime.
“I thought it was anybody’s to win going into the third quarter,” San Jose State coach Dick Tomey said.
James Johnson and Deon Murphy would soon enough put an end to those thoughts. Johnson, who rushed only seven times for 14 yards last week against Auburn, gained 111 yards on 15 carries. His 4-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter gave K-State a 24-7 lead.
Whether Johnson will continue to get the bulk of the carries remains to be seen, but he said he and fellow running back Leon Patton (six rushes, 21 yards) are willing to share.
“Me and him are not selfish with each other; we just want to see each other do their best,” Johnson said. “The coaches just felt I was in a groove tonight, so they gave me most of the carries.”
Murphy, whose 15-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter helped K-State to a 10-0 lead, added another TD on the ground. He took a wide receiver reverse 21 yards – helped along by left tackle Alesana Alesana’s downfield block – to put K-State up 34-7.
He finished with six catches for 72 yards, and totaled 188 all-purpose yards.
Nelson, meanwhile, made a bit of history. With his 11-yard reception in the third quarter, he moved into 10th-place on K-State’s all-time receptions list.
As for the defense, it was on the field longer than Prince would have liked – 33 minutes, 9 seconds. The Wildcats allowed 20 first downs, five by penalty, and were unable to force a turnover.
But at the end of the night, the Wildcats (1-1) weren’t consumed with some of the negatives. After all, they got what they wanted most – a win.
“It’s not whether you have a good game or a bad game,” Freeman said. “It’s whether you win or lose. We got the job done tonight.”