Kansas State overcome mid-game lull to win over Texas Tech 37-28

Senior Ty Zentner punts the ball down the field during the game against Texas Tech on Oct. 1. (Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Taking down the Oklahoma Sooners jumpstarted Kansas State in Big 12 play. Returning to Manhattan to face off against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the Wildcats continued their high-level play in defeating Texas Tech 37-28.

Quarterback Adrian Martinez started the game right where he left off in Norman, Oklahoma. On the first play of the game, he took a read option for a 57-yard run. Martinez finished the drive soon after with a 18-yard line rushing touchdown. In just 40 seconds, Martinez had two rushes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

“The threat on Adrian to run,” Cooper Beebe, offensive lineman, said on difficulties for defense against the K-State offense. “They got to account for that. They got to take an extra dude to account for that so then it opens up the middle.”

The offense got the ball back quickly from the help of a sack from linebacker Khalid Duke and continued to find production. The next drive was highlighted by Martinez escaping pressure on third and long to find wide receiver Phillip Brooks for a first down. After finding themselves inside the 10-yard line, K-State was forced to settle for a field goal to take a 10-0 lead.

Texas Tech was quickly pushed into fourth and 1 on their own 34-yard line and went for the first down. Lining up in shotgun, Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith took a QB power and was tackled short by linebacker Austin Moore. The Wildcat defense put the offense on the Red Raiders 31-yard line. Again, kicker Chris Tennant finished the drive with a field goal to increase the lead by three.

Action early on in the second half was spotlighted by defensive play. The Wildcat defense completed back-to-back sacks from defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah and Duke. It was followed up by a third down interception down the field from Moore, but the Red Raiders quickly got the ball back on a fumble from running back Deuce Vaughn.

The Red Raiders converted a fourth down, but the defense didn’t stop to make game-changing plays. Safety Kobe Savage forced a fumble from running back Tahj Brooks with defensive end Nate Matlack recovering the ball on their own 34-yard line.

After a few second quarter punts, the Texas Tech offense was able to take a drive down the field. The drive was led by two big runs from running back SaRodorick Thompson. Smith ended the drive by completing a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nehemiah Martinez. Texas Tech received the ball back and converted a last second field goal to put the score at 13-10 at the half.

On Texas Tech’s first second-half drive, they converted one first down but were stalled by another sack from Anudike-Uzomah. After another Wildcat punt, Smith led Texas Tech to another field goal to tie the game at 13-13.

The four straight three-and-outs was the limit for K-State. Out of the gate, Vaughn took a run from under-center for 69 yards into the red zone. Martinez and Phillip Brooks finished off the drive on a 18-yard passing touchdown. The score gave the Wildcats a 20-13 lead.

Falling down by seven, it took the Red Raiders just over three minutes of game time to respond. Smith leaned on wide receiver Xaiver White for the majority of the drive. White caught four passes for 56 yards and caught the 12-yard touchdown to tie the game back up.

A failed flea-flicker on the next drive led to a K-State punt. Texas Tech responded with a 58-yard pass to wide receiver Trey Cleveland III to the K-State 15-yard line. On second down, Duke recorded his third sack of the game, his second sack that resulted from an initial pressure from Anudike-Uzomah. K-State forced a fourth down and a Red Raider field goal attempt to go ahead. The 42-yard attempt went wide left as kicker Trey Wolff failed to take the lead for Texas Tech.

“It could be great,” Duke said about his and Anudike-Uzomah potential together. “It has no limit.”

K-State was given a chance to regain the lead and took it. On third and 2, Martinez ran the ball for the first time in the half. Martinez took the QB keeper all the way to the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown. The run put K-State ahead 27-20 with 13:34 left in the fourth quarter.

The Red Raiders were down by seven again and sided with aggression. On their own 40-yard line on fourth down, they decided to go for it. Smith attempted a pass down the middle that was broken up by cornerback Ekow Boye-Doe, giving the Wildcats the ball in an advantageous position. K-State did not fully take advantage but still kicked a field goal to go up 30-20.

Coming off the field, Anudike-Uzomah once again found his way to Smith. This time he forced a fumble which nose guard Robert Hentz II recovered. The sack fumble gave Anudike-Uzomah his third sack and tied the record for most forced fumbles in K-State history. His historic play placed the offense in position to put the game away.

“That’s what we strive for everyday,” Anudike-Uzomah said about takeaways. “Our coordinator [defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman] is a great coordinator and he finds ways to get us home.”

With a chance to push away from Texas Tech, K-State delivered. The 27-yard drive was topped off by a 12-yard rushing touchdown from Martinez. The run propelled Martinez to 171 rushing yards and four total touchdowns, three coming on the ground. K-State took a three lead score of 37-20 with 5:54 remaining, a near impossible hurdle for the Red Raiders to leap.

Texas Tech did gain some momentum, scoring a touchdown with a two-point conversion while also recovering an onside kick. Down 37-28, the Red Raiders had a chance to bring it to one score. That chance ended on an interception from cornerback Julius Brents with under two minutes left. While the play brought confusion on the field to the ruling, it was called an interception, the first of the year for Brents. Vaughn sealed the game with an 18-yard run and the first down. The run gave Vaughn 170 rushing yards, just one less than Martinez.

“Unbelievable. Sustaining blocking, catching blocks downfield and just the overall scheme that we use as an offense,” Vaughn said about the team effort in the run game. “It’s really as a collective.”

The performances from Martinez, Vaughn, Anudike-Uzomah and Duke were the catalysts in the eventful victory. Smith led Texas Tech with 359 passing yards but threw two interceptions. The two interceptions were two of six takeaways the K-State defense collected.

“They really bailed us out,” Martinez said about the defense. “I think they played a tremendous game and when the momentum might have been in their [Texas Tech’s] favor, they [K-State defense] got it back in ours.”

Securing a 4-1, 2-0 Big 12 record, K-State heads to Ames, Iowa to go up against Iowa State on Saturday Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m before they have a week off.

“People aren’t going to come in here and push us around at home,” head coach Klieman said. “So proud of the guys’ resolve in the second half. We have to empty the tank one more week before we break.”