It was a solemn scene as the Wildcats licked their wounds and reflected on their sixth-straight loss after this week’s 44-59 affair versus Texas Tech Saturday night.
Bill Snyder has only been in a position like this once in his head coaching career, and it was before any of the current Wildcat players had been born; it was in 1989, Snyder’s first season as head coach.
“You know why we lost six ball games in a row (back in 1989),” Snyder said. “I was pleased with the progress our team made losing six, seven or eight in a row or 10 in a row … But I was proud of that football team because they got much better every single week. And I’m proud of a number of things that this football team is doing, but there are just some things that we haven’t been able to improve at that are disheartening to me.”
As for the players, spirits were low, voices were quieted and when senior offensive lineman Cody Whitehair was asked if the Wildcats had hit their lowest point of the season, he agreed.
“Yeah, I would say so,” Whitehair said. “You know, 0-6 in the Big 12. I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve done that. We are at rock bottom right now. But I see a determined football team. Even after this loss, the guys are still hungry and look like they’re ready to get a bowl game.”
K-State’s troubles started early as the Wildcats got off to another slow start, allowing the Red Raiders to put up four touchdowns in the first quarter, a Texas Tech record for touchdowns in the first quarter of a Big 12 game.
Two of the touchdowns in the quarter came on the legs of senior running back Deandre Washington, who had a career day running for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Wildcat offense offered no relief, going scoreless in the first quarter; the seven points by K-State were scored by players on special teams.
“We’ve got to do a better job of starting ballgames better,” Snyder said. “You take your pick. The past five, six, eight ballgames we have not been able to be functional on the first drive of a series and that puts you behind.”
The only early points for the Wildcats came right after the Red Raider’s first touchdown, as senior cornerback and returner Morgan Burns followed his teammates’ excellent blocking for a 93-yard touchdown return, which was his second of the season.
The Wildcats found the end zone two more times in the second quarter, both on 1-yard rushes from junior quarterback Joe Hubener.
Hubener ended up rushing for only nine yards, but he recorded three touchdowns to go along with 289 passing yards and two more touchdowns through the air.
Tech found the end zone on a touchdown pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It was his third and final touchdown pass of the game.
Mahomes put up 384 yards on super accurate passing. He completed 33 of 42 passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions to go along with 14 yards on the ground and one touchdown.
The Wildcats, down 14, scored first in the second half with Hubener finding his third touchdown on the ground from one yard out.
Even with the momentum being on K-State’s side, Tech rattled off 17 points to seemingly put the game away at 52-28.
The Wildcats mounted a comeback spurred by a 6-yard touchdown reception from freshman wide receiver Dominique Heath. This was followed by another touchdown from 33 yards out by senior wide receiver Kyle Klein.
K-State converted on the onside kick but fell short of the end zone, settling for a 43-yard field goal from senior Jack Cantele to get K-State within a touchdown and a 2-point conversion.
The Wildcats’ upset hopes ended, though, as Washington drove the Red Raiders down the field after K-State failed to convert their second onside kick. Tech ended up in the end zone with a game-clinching score.
The pressure is on now more than ever for the Wildcats, as they are three wins away from bowl eligibility with three games left on their schedule.
“It really comes down to your identity,” Klein said. “There’s a difference between losing a game and being a loser, and we refuse to be losers. I forget who said it, ‘The only man who is truly beaten is he who refuses to get up.’ So that’s not us; we’re going to keep getting up and keep fighting and leave it all out on the line and whatever happens, happens.”