Last season, Kansas State opened up Big 12 play with six straight losses. On Saturday, the Wildcats assured that something like that would not happen again.
“Man we really needed this one,” senior running back Charles Jones said. “It’s something that we needed.”
K-State (3-2. 1-1) got their first Big 12 victory of the season after a tale of two halves shootout with Texas Tech, 44-38
The first half was a flurry of scores as only one possession between the two teams ended with a punt.
Junior Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes found the end zone five times in the first half however, only four were intentional. The junior ran for three touchdowns and hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Keke Coutee for a 61-yard touchdown pass.
Mahomes finished the game with 504 yards through the air on 45-62 passing and 2 touchdowns.
Mahomes also threw another touchdown pass, this one a 35-yard pick-six to sophomore Wildcat cornerback D.J. Reed.
It was the second pick of the season for Reed and the first pick-six for K-State since 2014.
Meanwhile, K-State put up points in a variety of ways offensively in the first half including a touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jesse Ertz to redshirt freshman receiver Isaiah Zuber and a 1-yard touchdown run by Ertz.
Ertz threw for 104 yards on 10-20 passing and a touchdown to go along with 85 yards rushing.
As a team, K-State gained 335 yards total on offense, an improvement over last weeks 286 yards versus West Virginia.
“From an offensive standpoint we got a little bit better,” head coach Bill Snyder said. “Not dramatically, but a little bit better and that’s what it is all about.”
The Wildcats also found success on special teams with a 20-yard field goal from junior kicker Matt McCrane and an electrifying 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore receiver Byron Pringle.
The return was Pringle’s first of his K-State career and the 42nd kickoff and punt return for a touchdown since 2005.
“We work hard at it,” Pringle said. “We’re not just going through the motions. I knew there would come a time where I’d break one.”
After that, things got quiet.
Both K-State and Texas Tech could not find the end zone in the third quarter and the Red Raiders scored the only points with a 34-yard field goal.
That would be Texas Tech’s only points in the third quarter, the first quarter of the year that the Red Raiders would be held without a touchdown.
Defensively, sophomore cornerback Duke Shelley led the team with 9 tackles and a key touchdown saving break-up in the second half.
K-State came alive offensively in the second half with two field goals by McCrane (a 25 and 42-yarder) and a 2-yard run by Jones.
The senior running back ran for 128 yards on 19 rushes, his second 100-yard performance of his career.
“When (Jones) puts his mind to it and runs hard and aggressively he really helps us,” Snyder said. “I was pleased with the progress we’ve made with our offensive line. (Jones) ran extremely hard and it’s not anything that he hadn’t done before and it’s not it’s not something I didn’t expect.”
Jones credits the offensive line for his big performance.
“One hundred percent it was the offensive line,” Jones said. “They had a great week of practice and they had confidence coming into this game and it made me feel comfortable running behind them.”
Texas Tech would have one final say before the game ended.
Mahomes hooked up with junior wide receiver Cameron Batson to cut the score to single digits with five seconds left in the game. Tech would convert on the onside kick but would be unable to do anything more.
The 10 second half points scored by Texas Tech in the second half was the least of any half this season.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Shelley said. “We came out at halftime and we came together as a defensive unit and we were like, ‘We’ve got to eliminate the big plays and we’ve got to get some stops,’ and we knew if we did that then we could take off with the game.”
The Wildcats will head back onto the road next Saturday to take on a Oklahoma team fresh off of a Red River Rivalry victory.