The football team displayed a plethora of young talent in its 31-21 win over Texas Tech on Saturday.
The biggest concern for the Wildcats going forward is the loss of senior quarterback Skylar Thompson, who left with an injury in the second quarter.
Thompson completed a major milestone becoming the second quarterback in school history to record 5,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards in his career at Kansas State. The Independence, Missouri, native was the first to join the 4,000/1,000 club before his senior season. Thompson recorded the feat in the second play of the game.
In the first possession of the game, the Wildcats drove down the field with promising efficiency, but attempted a failed fake field goal at the Texas Tech 25-yard line.
The Red Raiders would not capitalize on the attempt, and a blocked punt from senior defensive back Brock Monty give K-State the ball in the red zone. The Wildcats became the first team in the FBS to record blocked punts in the first three games of the season since 2012.
The Wildcats took a 7-0 lead on a 12-yard pass to senior tight end Briley Moore, his second of the season.
Texas Tech sophomore quarterback Alan Bowman left the game in the first quarter after a low hit, resulting in a penalty. Junior backup quarterback Henry Columbi, a transfer from Utah State, filled in, but the Red Raiders failed to get on the board after a missed 33-yard field goal on the drive.
Thompson went down after a roughing-the-passer with fewer than eight minutes remaining in the half. He immediately went to the locker room and did not return to play. He went 5-10 for 33 yards and a touchdown.
Freshman quarterback Will Howard stepped in for Thompson, continuing a drive that began on the K-State three-yard line. The 13-play, 97-yard drive was finished with an 18-yard run by freshman running back Deuce Vaughn. With 5:25 remaining in the first half, the Wildcats were up 14-0.
The Red Raiders pushed the ball down the field in the final five minutes, but missed a 35-yard field goal attempt. The Wildcats took a 14-0 lead into the half, but both teams were without their starting quarterbacks.
Texas Tech was limited to 139 total yards in the half and went three for eight on third down.
The Red Raiders opened the third quarter with an 18-play, 88-yard drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown catch from junior wide receiver KeSean Carter to get on the board.
They trailed the Wildcats 14-7 with 8:05 remaining in the quarter. The Red Raiders scored on the first three possessions in the second half.
K-State responded with a 28-yard field goal from senior kicker Blake Lynch to take a 17-7 lead.
Texas Tech quickly made it a three-point game late in the third quarter with a 49-yard touchdown run led by sophomore running back Xavier White. Following a K-State punt, the Red Raiders took a 21-17 lead on a 13-yard reception by Myles Prince with 11:11 remaining in the game.
K-State reached the red zone on a 66-yard reception from Moore. Senior running back Harry Trotter punched it in the following play on a four-yard run to regain the lead, 24-21.
Senior defensive back Jahron McPherson stopped a promising Texas Tech drive with his second interception of the year give the Wildcats the ball back. A quick three-and-out from K-State gave Texas Tech the ball right back with 5:32 left on the clock.
Vaughn sealed the game for K-State with a 70-yard touchdown reception, taking a 31-21 lead. On the play, Vaughn saw the opportunity to make the Red Raiders pay.
“We knew they wanted to blitz and put a linebacker on me,” Vaughn said. “When I saw that, Will and I looked at each other and thought we had a good matchup.”
The K-State defense kept offensive weapons TJ Vasher and SaRodorick Thompson in check throughout the game. The Wildcats held Vasher to two receptions for 10 yards and SaRodorick Thompson to 46 yards on 12 carries.
White helped keep the Red Raiders in the game with 113 rush yards and a touchdown. Texas Tech gained 471 yards, but the K-State defense held the offense, who average 45.5 points per game, to 21. Columbi finished with 244 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the game.
The Wildcats finished with 404 total yards led by another productive day from Vaughn, who had 194 total yards and two touchdowns. He became the first true freshman since 2008 to have over 100 rushing yards in a game. The Wildcats broke over 100 yards rushing for the first time since the final regular-season game last season against Iowa State.
“[Vaughn]’s obviously a special talent and really good with the ball in his hands,” Klieman said. “I can’t say enough about our offensive line today. Our offensive line showed up and play exceptionally well.”
The lack of experience on the offensive line was the biggest question for the Wildcats headed into the season.
“I prepare every week like I’m the starter,” Howard said. “Skylar has helped me watching film and has been a great mentor for me, so I felt ready.”
Howard became the first true freshman quarterback to have over 100 passing yards in a game since Josh Freeman in 2006.
K-State will travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to face TCU at 3 p.m. Saturday on FOX.