Junior quarterback Skylar Thompson willed the Kansas State football team to a 24-17 win with an 11-play, 95-yard drive that ate up over five of the last eight minutes of the game.
“We said ‘Let’s be aggressive,’” head coach Chris Klieman said. “It was not a question in our mind that we were going for that on fourth down because I didn’t want to have a three-point lead, we wanted to have a seven-point lead.”
Thompson managed a 61-yard run on that drive. He hit sophomore receiver Chabastin Taylor for 10 yards on 3rd and 11.
“We called the quarterback draw and they gave us the look that we had been anticipating all week on film, so I knew it was going to be a big play right before I even said ‘Hike’,” Thompson said.
He followed that up by running a defender over at the first down marker on 4th and one.
“[Making a play for my team] is what it’s all about for me,” Thompson said. “It was so much fun. We get in the huddle and the game is on the linen — it’s fourth and one— and my O-line is telling me they love me … that’s what this game is all about. … It makes it easy to put your body out there and go get a first down.”
Five plays later, he made the right read on 3rd and goal and got a three-yard touchdown run to seal the game.
Thompson was only 11-23 on the day, but he managed 172 passing yards and two passing touchdowns. He added 68 rushing yards — a number limited by big rushing losses trying to burn the clock — and the go-ahead touchdown.
“I thought Skylar [Thompson] was big-time when he needed to be,” Klieman said.
On the following drive, TCU looked like they were going to move the ball downfield to challenge for a game-tying touchdown, but sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert sacked the TCU quarterback for a loss of nine on first down.
“The call was perfect. [Defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton] put us in a position to make that play,” Hubert said.
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TCU could not recover from the loss of yards and Hubert forced the quarterback to throw too fast for an incompletion on 4th and 11.
“I love Wyatt [Hubert] because of his motor and competitiveness,” Klieman said. “He’s a captain as a redshirt sophomore … The guys look up to him, he’s a freak of nature, and he’s a great football player and an even better person.”
Early in the game, K-State and TCU traded punts after short drives until junior safety Jonathan Alexander got a hand on a TCU punt. The Wildcats recovered it on the TCU 20 and Thompson found sophomore tight end Nick Lenners for a 21-yard touchdown.
“We did a really good job of getting hands on it,” Klieman said. “We almost scooped-and-scored it, we were trying to, but the bigger part of that was then to get a touchdown out of it.”
TCU answered with a touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter, but Thompson pushed the K-State lead back to seven with a 13-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Wykeen Gill. A TCU field goal at the end of the half left K-State with a 14-10 lead at half.
K-State came out of the half and drove the ball right down the field, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Blake Lynch.
Then, TCU freshman quarterback Max Duggan came alive in the rushing game. He scrambled for 24 yards to convert a 3rd and 10, and then 46 yards for a touchdown.
“[Dugan’s running] really was [surprising] because we were thinking that that was going to be more [Alex] Delton,” Klieman said. “He had shown on tape that he’s a tough kid, he’s only a freshman. I thought he played exceptionally well.”
The game sat tied at 17 for most of the third quarter, and nearly all of the fourth before Thompson led K-State 95 yards for the game sealing touchdown.
“[Celebrating with athletics director Gene Taylor] was joy. That was elation. That was a big win, guys,” Klieman said. “I was excited for the players first, because I know how hard they work.”