The Giddens show leads K-State to high-scoring 44-31 win over UCF

Running back DJ Giddens is lifted into the air by offensive lineman Taylor Poitier after scoring one of Giddens' four touchdowns. Giddens had a total of 293 yards — 207 from rushing — as K-State defeated UCF 44-31. (Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

Running back DJ Giddens had a historic performance as Kansas State football took down UCF 44-31 in the Golden Knights’ first Big 12 game.

“The easy name is DJ Giddens,” head coach Chris Klieman said about the recipe to beat UCF. “We challenged DJ. We said, ‘We were gonna give you the football, you needed to step up, you have all the ability in the world, we’ve got to believe in you and we’re gonna keep giving it to you and keep giving it to you.’”

The Wildcats started with the ball and once again scored on its first drive. Giddens began his career day in the first drive, taking a run for 36 yards and finishing it off with a one-yard score.

The Golden Knights responded through running back Johnny Richardson with a 48-yard run. K-State halted UCF to just a field goal but then picked off quarterback Will Howard on a slant route on the next drive who threw zero touchdowns but 255 yards.

“I think it’s good,” Howard said on scoring 44 points. “I mean, I think we had more out there though. I think you know, I’m not gonna sit here and say 44 points is phenomenal because I think we got more.”

The interception led to a 27-yard screen to running back RJ Harvey on a 3rd-and-15 blitz. Nevertheless, the running back battle continued as Giddens collected 37 total yards and his second score on the next drive to regain the lead 14-10.

K-State not only took the lead back but also the ball. Linebacker Desmond Purnell forced a fumble from Harvey near midfield, recovered by safety VJ Payne.

“Des was a dude today,” Klieman said. “Des Purnell was phenomenal. He got one of our players of the game. He was all over the place.”

The offense took full advantage thanks again to the work of Giddens. Following a 16-yard run, the sophomore ran an 18-yard carry to the house with his third score of the night.

The final score of the half came off a UCF flea-flicker with quarterback Timmy McClain finding wide receiver Kobe Hudson for their first deep connection of the game for a score. The two teams entered the half with K-State up 21-17 and UCF receiving the ball to start the second.

UCF opened the half with a 51-yard kickoff return from Richardson. The offense only spent three plays on the field with McClain and Hudson connecting again, this time for a 49-yard deep shot to take the lead back.

The lead would not last long for UCF. After kicking a tying field goal and forcing a punt, Howard ran a two-yard touchdown to get the Wildcats back up 31-24.

In need of breaking the game away, K-State had one more game-sealing scoring drive in it. Thirteen plays led to Giddens’ fourth touchdown of the night. Adding insult to injury, Howard later scored an extra touchdown on a 31-yard run to give K-State 44 points.

Giddens historic performance featuring runs of power and finesse as well as receiving skills ended with a statline of 207 rushing yards, a team high 86 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Giddens compared the night to catching a 20-pound catfish in terms of fishing and credited his teammates.

“Shoutout to the O-line, for real, and for Will in trusting, throwing the ball [to me],” Giddens said. “The O-line making holes, that’s really what it was, [I] just tried to make one or two people miss.”

The K-State defense still had struggles, allowing multiple big plays on the ground, in the air and on special teams.

“I get a little frustrated with the fact of, we play good teams and they’re teams of really good players,” Klieman said about criticism of the defense. “If I had told you we were gonna give up one trick play I’d have probably taken it.”

K-State moves onto its first road game of Big 12 play after a bye week against Oklahoma State at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6.