A tale of two halves: Despite second half surge, K-State falls 19-14 to No. 18 Texas

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Junior running back Alex Barnes gets tackled as he rushes up the field during the game against Texas on September 29, 2018, at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Sabrina Cline | Collegian Media Group)

When Saturday’s football game kicked off, there probably weren’t very many students in the student section who could remember the last time Texas had beat K-State in Manhattan.

To put matters into context, most of those students were in preschool or kindergarten (if that), when Texas last beat K-State at home in 2002.

So a week after a disappointing 35-6 loss at West Virginia, K-State still had reason to be hopeful at kickoff as it hosted No. 18 Texas for its Big 12 home opener.

But as the game got underway, things did not look any better on the scoreboard for the Wildcats and hopes quickly faded as they found themselves trailing the Longhorns 19-0 at halftime.

Texas got the ball first to open the game, chipping away at the K-State defense. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger launched a pass down field for wide open receiver Devin Duvernay, but overthrew him. The Texas drive was stalled by a block in the back penalty, and soon after it would have to punt.

The first time that the Wildcat offense was on the field, not much happened. They got to their own 35-yard line without attempting a single pass, and then punted.

That is when things started to go downhill for K-State. Despite a 55-yard punt from Andrew Hicks, Texas’s D’Shawn Jamison caught it, escaped one tackler and took it 90 yards to end zone. That return touchdown put the Longhorns up 7-0 with 5:25 to go in the opening quarter.

After K-State gained just 23 yards on its second drive, Texas took over again with a drive that closed out the first quarter and carried over into the second.

The Longhorns’ second drive of the game was highlighted by a 21-yard pass from Ehlinger to wide receiver Collin Johnson and a 21-yard halfback pass from Tre Watson to Ehlinger.

It would end with a four-yard touchdown connection from Ehlinger to Johnson, putting Texas up 14-0 less than a minute into the second quarter.

Things would only get worse for the Wildcats. With 12:56, junior quarterback Alex Delton was sacked in the end zone for a safety as Texas went up 16-0. Later, the Longhorns hit a field goal to extend its lead to 19-0 with 7:15 left in the first half.

In a half plagued by missed tackles resulting in big plays, the K-State defense stepped up on Texas’s final offensive possession of the half.

On second down, the Longhorns ran a reverse. Jamison ran to the left, and turned back right after being stopped. He had nowhere to go as safety Eli Walker made a big hit for a 14-yard loss. On third-and-21, defensive end Reggie Walker knocked the ball out of Ehlinger’s hand. Ehlinger recovered, though, and Texas punted.

K-State took over at the Longhorn 37-yard line with 2:44 remaining before halftime.

After a nine-yard run by Delton, a defensive holding penalty by the Longhorns on the same play, and a completion to wide receiver Isaiah Zuber, K-State was at the 11-yard line. Eventually, it found itself at the two-yard line with two seconds remaining. On the last play of the first half, Delton threw to tight end Adam Harter, and the pass was dropped.

Down 19-0 at the half, the Wildcat offense was as lackluster as it had been a week ago. They finished with just 64 yards of offense and were just two-of-seven on third down conversions. K-State averaged a measly 2.1 yards per play, while the Longhorns gained 5.2 per play.

The K-State defense held Texas to 191 first half yards, but missed tackles resulted in numerous big plays and allowed Texas to keep drives alive.

K-State started the second half with the football, and a change was made at quarterback. Sophomore Skylar Thompson capped off a 10 play, 82-yard drive that was aided by a defensive pass interference penalty against Texas.

Thompson finished off the drive by diving for the pylon on a seven-yard touchdown run. K-State trailed 19-7 with to 11:13 to go in the third quarter.

The 19-7 score would hold for the rest of the third quarter. Texas had a chance to go extend its lead, but missed a 48-yard field goal with 57 seconds left.

The Wildcat offense looked far more competent in the third quarter than in the whole first half. In the third quarter, K-State outgained Texas, 93-80, after posting just 64 yards of offense in the first half.

When K-State took over after the missed field goal, it had the ball for six minutes. After wide receiver Dalton Schoen dropped a big pass, he would redeem himself two plays later, catching a 17-yard pass from Thompson on third down.

With 12:44 to go, K-State faced a fourth-and-six at the Longhorn 17-yard line. Schoen came up big again, hauling in a 10-yard pass to move the chains and keep the drive going. Just a few plays later, the Wildcats were faced with a fourth down and one yard to gain to get in the end zone.

Lined up in the Wildcat formation, running back Alex Barnes took the snap and leaped over the line into for the touchdown. K-State drew within a touchdown, making the score 19-14 in favor of Texas with 9:55 remaining in the game.

The fourth quarter progressed, and the Longhorns took over with a 19-14 lead with 6:20 left in the game. The K-State defense opened the drive with a tackle for loss, and eventually faced a third-and-six. Texas was penalized for a false start and faced third-and-11, but Ehlinger stood in the pocket and completed a 12-yard pass to Johnson for the first down.

After that, Texas ran out the rest of the clock, escaping with a 19-14 win.

All in all, K-State produced 217 yards offensively against 339 for Texas. In the second half though, the Wildcats put up 153 yards against 148 for Texas.

While it did give up close to 350 yards, the Wildcat defense ultimately held the Longhorns to just 10 points, as nine of Texas’ 19 points came from the special teams unit surrendering a punt return touchdown, and the offense surrendering a safety.

As was an issue in the first half, the defense missed numerous tackles, which allowed Texas to convert in long yardage situations and on third downs.

Thompson stole the show in the second half, far surpassing Delton’s play statistically. It was visible that when Thompson was under center, the offensive approach was different than with Delton. That can be supported by Thompson attempting 18 passes compared to seven for Delton, and Delton attempted 16 runs while Thompson attempted just three.

After much speculation and discussion surrounding the quarterback situation, it will be interesting to see the implications their respective performances will have on playing time the remainder of the season.

The Wildcats (2-3, 0-2) will take to the road next weekend, traveling to Waco, Texas to face the Baylor Bears at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on FS1.

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Jarrett Whitson
I’m Jarrett Whitson, the sports editor this semester. I’m from Blue Rapids, KS, a town of just over 1,000 people about 40 miles north of Manhattan. I’m a junior in Public Relations, and a member of FarmHouse Fraternity. I love playing and talking about sports— especially college football