Howard battles but unable to complete upset win

Then-defensive back Tee Denson reaches to stop TCU from getting more yards on the play. (Archive photo by Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State looked to take first place in the Big 12 early on in the matchup against TCU. As K-State struggled with injuries on each side of the ball, the early 28-10 lead was not enough to hold off the Horned Frogs.

The Wildcats started the game on offense with a 19-yard run from Adrian Martinez but were unable to convert another first down. TCU quarterback Max Duggan responded with a 65-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Derius Davis to put the Horned Frogs up 7-0.

Receiving the ball back, the Wildcats had an unexpected issue. Martinez left the field and went to the locker room, leaving backup quarterback Will Howard to come in and replace him. K-State didn’t skip a beat with Howard, as he ran for 14 yards and threw back-to-back 28-yard passes. The second throw found wide receiver Kade Warner on a contested catch for a touchdown, tying the game at 7-7.

TCU again drove down the field, reaching all the way to the K-State 25-yard line until they were forced to settle for a field goal. Howard and the offense would go down 10-7 but would continue to find success in the air. Howard finished the drive with 74 passing yards and a 1-yard rushing touchdown.

The offense would continue to build off the 14-10 lead in the first half. After another defensive stop, Howard continued to build off of his career game, throwing three passes for 55 yards with a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Sammy Wheeler.

Another defensive stop gave the Wildcats a chance to build even further on the lead. Instead of dissecting the Horned Frogs defense through Howard’s arm, the Wildcats scored their fourth straight touchdown from a 47-yard touchdown run from running back Deuce Vaughn. The Wildcats appeared to have taken full control of the game up 28-10 with 8:09 left in the second quarter.

Both the Horned Frogs and the Wildcats would fail to score on their next drives. However, TCU proceeded to score a touchdown with 20 seconds left in the half from a pass to tight end Jared Wiley. Down 28-17, the Horned Frogs would receive the ball at the start of the second half.

TCU would come out of the half to bring the game within four points on a 13-play drive. At the K-State 2-yard line on fourth and one, Horned Frogs running back Keandre Miller converted the first down and took the ball in the end zone.

Up 28-24, the K-State offense drove down to the TCU 26-yard line but were forced to attempt a field goal after Howard got injured on the previous play. The 44-yard attempt from kicker Chris Tennant failed, and the Horned Frogs took the lead from there.

Duggan finally converted a huge gain on the next drive after the Wildcat defense seemed to limit the big TCU plays. Wide receiver Quentin Johnston broke past cornerback Julius Brents — after Brents appeared to injure his hamstring — and connected with Duggan for a 55-yard touchdown. 

Replacing Howard was third-string quarterback Jake Rubley who threw an interception on his first play. TCU would fail to score on the drive, but they took a 38-28 lead after stopping the K-State offense again.

Neither team would score the rest of the game as the Wildcats missed another field goal. 

With 4:09 left in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats had a chance to comeback with Howard back in the game. Howard’s career game featured his first turnover as he threw an interception to TCU cornerback Tre’vius Hodges-Tomlinson to seal the game.

Howard’s performance was not enough to earn first-place in the Big 12. K-State falls to a 5-2 record with a 3-1 record in Big 12 play. The undefeated Horned Frogs stand in first while the Wildcats are tied with No. 11 Oklahoma State at second place. The two teams face off at Bill Snyder Football Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 29, in a battle for seeding in the conference.