After two blowout victories for Kansas State, the Tulane Green Wave gave the Wildcats their first opportunity to play in a close game. With having a close game, K-State did not have the first half they became accustomed to this season.
Early on, neither team could get any offense going, until late in the first quarter when Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt hit wide receiver Dea Dea McDougal for a 38-yard pass. The drive ended with the Wildcats allowing their first touchdown in the first half on a 1-yard score out of the Wildcat formation.
Going down 7-0 early, the Wildcats offense took a while to answer the call, failing to score on the next two drives. Both drives were home to stuffed runs at the line of scrimmage, a common theme of the day for running back Deuce Vaughn, and quarterback Adrian Martinez dumping off to ball short rather than going deep.
“Well, people are going to try to stop number 22 [Deuce Vaughn], I think he’s a pretty special player,” Coach Kleiman said regarding how the pass game affected the run game. “We’ve got to find ways to either get the ball on the perimeter to Malik [Knowles] and Phil [Phillip Brooks] and Kade [Warner] and those guys and let them have opportunity with the ball in space or push it downfield. It’s something we have to look at because we’ve got to be obviously a lot more efficient but more importantly, explosive.”
With the defense holding the Tulane offense after their initial score, the Wildcat offense had been given another chance to score. Just under three minutes at 2:43 left in the second quarter, Martinez dropped the ball in a bucket to wide receiver Kade Warner for a 21-yard touchdown on a wheel route, tying the game at 7-7.
The Green Wave had one more opportunity to score before K-State would receive the ball starting the second half. After moving down the field, linebacker Daniel Green picked off Pratt down the seam and placed the Wildcats in scoring position on the Tulane 23-yard line with 28 seconds left.
Finding themselves on the 4-yard line with seven seconds left, Martinez had one final chance to score a touchdown before the half. The ball was thrown away and the Wildcats settled for a field goal and took a 10-7 lead into the half.
Coming out of the break, K-State received the ball and found themselves in Green Wave territory after a 26-yard run by Vaughn. On fourth-and-8, the Wildcats failed to convert, falling a yard short.
In response, Tulane came out in their first offensive drive of the half with execution, converting three plays for 47 combined yards. After a sack from defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah, the Wildcats defense held Tulane on third down, forcing them into a field goal, tying up the game at 10-10.
Neither team was able to score in the third quarter after the 10-10 tie as Vaughn had a brief locker room visit, not coming back until the fourth quarter. Vaughn ran back out of the locker room after an interception from safety Kobe Savage off of a pass breakup by Daniel Green.
Continuing to under-perfrom compared to the defense, the offense was unable to take advantage of the takeaway. With both defenses stifling the other offense, it was the Tulane offense that broke through.
Starting at their own 48-yard line after stopping K-State on fourth down, the Green Wave took five plays to reestablish themselves. Running for 32 yards and throwing for 19, Pratt led Tulane down the field to score a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game up 17-10. Down seven with less than five minutes left, the Wildcats were looking at their possible last chance to stay undefeated.
Only converting one first down, the Wildcats were forced to punt it to Tulane again as boos rang from the crowd. The Green Wave had 2:18 left to kill to come out of Manhattan with the win.
Trying to complete the upset, Tulane ran down the middle on third-and-3 on their own 22-yard line and were ruled short by one yard. A first down away from securing the victory, the Green Wave offense went back out on the field and pushed a QB sneak through the line, landing themselves a first down and securing the 17-10.
Martinez finished the game completing 21 of 31 passes for 150 yards as the offense failed to find a rhythm. The offense failed in short yardage, going a combined 3-20 on third and fourth down.
“Really the game comes down to our inability to convert on third down, going 2-15 and then the inability to convert on fourth down,” Klieman said. “Put that on me, don’t put that on the kids.”
The defense allowed the most points they’ve allowed this season at 17, still below last season’s average as the Tulane offense had 13 drives to work with on the day.
“I thought they played well at times on defense,” Klieman said. “I put them in some tough spots and they bailed us out a number of times.”
The offense’s usual running production struggled with the passing game. Klieman noted that the passing game must improve with Martinez.
“I think we got to build more trust with Adrian,” Warner said. “We built a lot with him in fall camp. It just keeps coming with game reps. You know, I think that as we keep going and the games go on, we’re going to keep seeing ourselves open up the vertical passing game.”
The Tulane win came as a major upset with K-State favored by 14 points. The 2-1 Wildcats face off against No. 6 ranked Oklahoma in Norman at 7 p.m. on Saturday.