After a rocky start to the Kansas State football season, the Wildcats seem to have found their stride in Saturday’s victory over UTSA.
Sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson and the offense showed immediate improvement after last week’s performance against Mississippi State.
On the first drive, the Wildcats had ten plays for 78 yards leading to the first touchdown of the game by junior running back Alex Barnes. With the first offensive touchdown in the first half all season, K-State took an early 7-0 lead with 10:48 left in the first quarter.
“It is always important to start ballgames well in any phase, offense or defense,” head coach Bill Snyder said after the game. “It was significant, and it is something that you have to be able to do.”
Defensively, the Wildcats also seemed to be very sound the first time on the field. They shut down the Roadrunner offense in six plays, allowing a total of eight yards.
When it came back out on the field, the Wildcat offense seemed like it might work itself into the same rut it had been in the first two games.
Thompson was sacked for a loss of 13 yards, forcing the Wildcats to punt after three plays and only recording one yard during the drive.
The second time that the UTSA offense had the ball, it was more successful. In a matter of seven plays, the Roadrunner offense evened the score at 7-7 with five minutes left in the first quarter on a two-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Cordale Grundy to junior fullback Halen Steward.
That touchdown would be the only UTSA score of the half, and K-State seemed to take control from that point forward.
On the other hand, the Wildcats showed the true potential that they possess after earning 106 passing yards and 30 rushing yards in the first quarter. The passing yards in the first quarter alone outdid the 100 passing yards that the Wildcats were able to accomplish all of the last game against Mississippi State.
Thompson credits some of the change to the fact that he was named the starter publicly on Tuesday. “It helped a little bit,” Thompson said after the game. “The first two games I was not trying to think about that, but when you hear confirmation publicly, it definitely helps a little bit.”
At the end of the first quarter, the Wildcats were able to rack up a field goal by sophomore kicker Blake Lynch, bringing the score to 10-7.
The Wildcats continued to pull away from the Roadrunners as they scored on every drive during the second quarter.
The first K-State score in the second quarter was a 42-yard pass from Thompson to junior wide receiver Dalton Schoen with 6:59 to go in the second quarter. Later, with just 43 seconds to go before the half, Lynch tacked on another field goal.
Soon after, UTSA senior quarterback D.J. Gillins fumbled the ball and senior safety Kendall Adams recovered the ball for the Wildcats and put his team at the 34-yard line with only 34 seconds left.
Adams’ play turned into a big opportunity for the Wildcats. Two plays later, Thompson fired a 23-yard touchdown pass to Zuber, extending the Wildcat lead to 27-7 with 0:20 left in the second, a lead they held at halftime.
After the game, Schoen seemed happy with how the game started and talked about the momentum it brought, saying it is good to know what the team is capable of.
The second quarter success of the Wildcats did not fall off at halftime, but ran into the third quarter.
The Roadrunners started with the ball in the second half, but stalled out after nine plays, turning the ball over on downs with 10:46 left in the third.
On the ensuing K-State drive, Thompson extended the lead to 34-7 with a 27-yard touchdown run with 9:15 to go in the third quarter.
Thompson was eventually replaced by junior Alex Delton at quarterback with 4:44 left in the third.
Delton did not squander his opportunity. After a one-yard rush by Delton, a loss of two yards by Barnes, Delton was able to connect with Zuber for a 72-yard touchdown pass, extending the Wildcat lead to 41-7.
The fourth quarter was fairly quiet for the Wildcats, but when they put in a group of second and third string players, the Roadrunners took advantage of it.
Freshman kicker Jared Sackett came in with a late 37-yard field goal to bring the score to 41-10 with 5:16 left in the fourth quarter.
Then, after a fumble by Delton, UTSA recovered the ball on the K-State 10-yard line. That fumble enabled the Roadrunners to have another chance to attack.
Gillins found sophomore wide receiver Greg Campbell Jr. for a 10-yard touchdown pass, marking the game’s final score 3:35 left in the game.
It was too little too late though, as K-State finished off UTSA, 41-17 for its second win of the season.
The Wildcats will take on the West Virginia Mountaineers next Saturday in Morgantown, West Virginia at 2:30 p.m.