After the 15-minute weather delay, the Kansas State Wildcats and Missouri Tigers faced off in an old Big 12 rivalry game. Much anticipation went into the game, including off-the-field anticipation with the Wabash controversy.
After some early “K-S-U” chants, the game began with K-State winning the toss and deferring to the Tigers. Missouri received the ball and made the drive count, scoring the first points against the Wildcats defense.
Missouri quarterback Brady Cook kept the drive with his feet, securing two first downs and gaining another with forcing an offsides penalty on multiple K-State defensive lineman. The drive ended on the runstop from the Wildcat 39-yard line with lineback Austin Moore launching through the line for the stop. The Tigers ended with three points on the drive from a 49-yard field goal.
“Austin’s just a terrific football player and is really an unsung guy that just makes plays and kids love him because he doesn’t say anything. You know, he leads by what he does,” Kleiman said. “He’s deserved and earned what he’s doing right now with hard work.”
Receiving the ball, the Wildcats had a very different first drive from their opening 75-yard Malik Knowles touchdown drive against South Dakota. The Wildcat ten-play opening drive still led to a touchdown and still involved the help from Knowles.
The slow drive faced multiple third downs, with Knowles converting one with a 18-yard catch and catching another first down earlier in the drive. K-State capitalized on a fake QB run as Adrian Martinez found wide receiver Phillip Brooks down the seam on a 28-yard catch, setting up running back Deuce Vaughn for the 1-yard score, taking a 7-3 lead.
After allowing their first points of the season, the Wildcats defense forced a quick three-and-out, reminiscent of the previous week. Safety Josh Hayes, who made his Wildcat debut in the game, and nose guard Eli Huggins each recorded a 4-yard tackle for loss (TFL), helping force the Tigers to punt.
“He [Hayes] missed one early and he knew it, but Josh is a really good football player and it was fun to watch him come back and play physical and play hard,” Kleiman said.
Starting from the Missouri 47-yard line, the Wildcats continued their offensive production. Going all the way to the Tiger 18-yard line, K-State looked for a wide receiver pass from Kade Warner, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, but with nothing open, Warner converted the third-and-1. On the following play, Martinez continued to show his ability with his feet, running for a 16-yard touchdown on a QB run led by blockers center Hayden Gillum, left guard Cooper Beebe and finalized by a block from Vaughn to lead the QB into the endzone.
“You know, Cooper Beebe, Hayden Gillum and Deuce Vaughn obviously, again laying a great block. Couldn’t have drawn it up better,” Martinez said. “I mean, I think anybody could have ran that one and that’s the way you get a great team win again.”
Facing a 14-3 deficit, the Tigers once again weren’t able to convert a first down. While Martinez found success for the Wildcats using his feet finishing the K-State drive, Cook failed in doing so, trying twice to scramble to avoid the punt.
As the heavy rain continued, so did Martinez’s legs, running for a 13-yard first down on the second play following the three-and-out stop. After a holding call on third down, the Wildcats weren’t able to secure the first down and were forced to punt.
Following the Wildcat punt, only two plays were able to be completed by the Tigers before more weather issues caused another delay with 7:44 left in the second quarter. After nearly an hour of no play, the game resumed with the Tigers backed up on third-and-13 on their own 19-yard line.
“We talked about it [the rain] this morning in the pregame that there very well could be some adversity and don’t let your circumstance dictate how you show up,” Kleiman said. “[The] guys came back. They were focused, had really good energy. It was really tough out there.”
Failing to convert, the Tigers were forced into another punt, pushing K-State further ahead. Brooks took the punt from the Wildcat 24-yard line, he ran towards his left into open space and followed blockers into an uncontested 76-yard punt return for a touchdown. After a blocked extra point, the Wildcat’s led 20-3 with 6:36 left in the second quarter.
After each team was forced to punt and a last ditch effort from the Tigers to score, the half ended at 20-3 with K-State having only a 150-119 yard advantage with a 17-point lead.
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Coming out of the half, Missouri gained some momentum early on. After securing a Wildcat punt from a flagged Martinez to Vaughn deep wheel route, Cook came out firing. Taking four shots down the field, Cook hit one back shoulder right in stride with wide receiver Dominic Lovett for 39 yards to the K-State 26-yard line. From there, the Tigers failed to convert another first and kicked a 44-yard field goal to bring the score to 20-6.
Coming off the field goal, the Wildcats offensive drive was highlighted by a 66-yard punt from punter Ty Zentner. With a highlight play following right after the long punt, safety Kobe Savage recorded his first interception of the year on a ball up the middle from Cook.
Placing the Wildcats at the Missouri 33-yard line, a defensive facemask put K-State in better position for a field goal. Failing to find any fruitful plays on offense, kicker Chris Tennant nailed a 35-yard field to put the Wildcats up three possessions at 23-6.
After the score, each team traded mistakes, starting when Missouri backup quarterback Jack Abraham threw an interception at the line of scrimmage to a leaping defender in linebacker Daniel Green. Unable to take advantage of the jumping interception, the offense was held to a field goal attempt which was missed. Back with the ball, the Tigers threw their third interception of the game, this time to linebacker Nick Allen. With the Wildcat offense sputtering, they settled for a field goal, this time making it, taking the lead to 20.
Continuing with the turnovers, the Tigers threw a fourth interception, the third pick in three throws and the fourth drive in-a-row, to safety Cincere Mason, his second in two games. The Wildcats offense finally took advantage of the defense’s takeaways as Vaughn ran for a 29-yard run and then a 24-yard run for a touchdown, pushing the lead to 33-6.
“I felt like every time we sat down to get a rest you looked up and someone was catching an interception,” Vaughn said. “That’s a testament to them boys on the back end.”
The rest of the game slowly bled out until the clock hit zero. The last Wildcat score came from backup running back DJ Giddens on a 28-yard run. K-State now sits at 2-0, each game being led by the run game, big special teams plays and the defense, which collected four interceptions on the day winning the game 40-12.
“The key was we didn’t throw a pick and they threw four of them,” Kleiman said. “It’s defensive line, it’s linebackers. It’s letting those kids be aggressive and lay their ears back.”
The Wildcats have the last of their three-game home stretch against Tulane Green Wave at 2 p.m. on Sept 17.