The crowd in the south endzone erupted in cheers and dancing before the ball even sailed through the goalposts. They knew.
A flurry of yellow flags swarmed through the air as K-State players on the sideline rushed onto the field to celebrate the win.
Sophomore kicker Jack Cantele’s 41-yard field goal had split the uprights, capturing K-State’s sixth win on the season and giving the team bowl eligibility at 6-4 and 4-3 in the Big 12, while at the same time eliminating TCU from the possibility of its own postseason appearance, lowering their record to 4-7 and 2-6 in conference play.
Cantele’s field goal makes K-State bowl eligible for the fourth straight season, the 15th under Snyder and 17th overall.
“I’m proud of the fact that they came back and won a back-and-forth ballgame,” said head coach Bill Snyder of his team after the game. “I’m certainly awfully proud of Cantele. That’s a great deal of pressure on a young guy like that.”
K-State’s two quarterback system seemed to work well against TCU: sophomore Daniel Sams had 109 yards rushing on 19 attempts and was 3-5 for 23 yards through the air, while junior Jake Waters was 10-24 for 234 passing yards and gained 20 yards on the ground. Sams had one touchdown on the ground while Waters connected for two long touchdowns in the air.
The offensive line was huge in helping the two signal callers succeed, allowing just one sack and giving both ample time to throw and run, especially on the final drive.
On defense, sophomore safety Dante Barnett led all players with nine tackles, while junior defensive back Randall Evans had the Wildcats’ lone sack on the evening. Senior linebacker Blake Slaughter finished with five tackles and a huge interception that he returned for 39 yards to set up K-State’s first touchdown.
Snyder was pleased with his team, but still recognized that there was more they could have done.
“Defensively, we played well a good portion of the time, but we gave up way too much,” said Snyder. “The bottom line is we didn’t play nearly as well as I would like for us to play. We played well enough to win. Those are things we’ll address on Monday, I want our young guys to enjoy the fact that they won another ball game.”
K-State had jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to an 11 yard touchdown run by Sams and a huge 74-yard hookup between Waters and junior wide receiver Tyler Lockett, but by halftime, TCU had pulled closer to trail 17-7. Once the third quarter started, the game was destined to be a hard-fought win for whichever team emerged the victor.
TCU did not take long to find the endzone in the second half, as Horned Frog running back B.J. Catalon scored from 15 yards out within the first four minutes to make it a three point game. After a Daniel Sams fumble, TCU marched down the field again, and Trevone Boykin took it in from seven yards out to give TCU its first lead of the game, 21-17.
The Wildcats were not behind for long, and the back-and-forth scoring began as neither team could pull away from the other. With just under seven minutes left in the third quarter, Waters connected on his second long touchdown of the day, this time a 79 yard bomb to a wide open Tramaine Thompson, and the senior wide receiver had an easy path to pay-dirt after a nifty spin move to shake the safety.
Now down 24-21, TCU took just three plays to regain the lead with a 51 yard strike from the arm of Casey Pachall, making the score 28-24.
Two field goals from Cantele gave K-State the lead again at 30-28, but Horned Frog kicker Jaden Oberkrom was not about to be out-kicked. With just over two minutes remaining, Oberkrom booted a whopping 56-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give TCU a 31-30 lead late in the game.
K-State’s two-minute offense took the field on their own 32 yard line with Waters at the helm and took the ball down to TCU’s 23 yard line thanks to clutch catches by Lockett and junior Curry Sexton.
With three seconds left, Cantele’s right leg delivered the ball into the crowd eagerly waiting in the south endzone and all of the fans at Bill Snyder Family Stadium went crazy.
The win will send K-State to yet another bowl under Snyder, and gives K-State its fourth straight win after beginning the season 2-4. The Wildcats will be back in action next week against Oklahoma in Manhattan for their final home game of the season.