They've got legs, and they know how to use them. Oddly fitting that we're cribbing from a Texas band, but it's the only fitting epitaph for K-State's 33-31 nailbiter win over TCU.
Things got off to a rousing start for the Wildcats, who scored twice in the first quarter after a tradeoff of stalled drives. A Blake Slaughter interception off Casey Pachall set up an 11-yard Daniel Sams prance, and on the next drive Jake Waters launched a 74-yard bomb to Tyler Lockett, who beat All-American CB Jason Verrett like a rented mule on the play. After that, though, the offense bogged down for the remainder of the half, helped out by Waters throwing an interception right into the waiting arms of Sam Carter.
Worse, Ty Zimmerman went down with an ankle injury and would not return; this would have enormous repercussions through the rest of the game, though the Wildcats got through the rest of the half without the issue becoming apparent. The scoreboard remained untouched for nearly 12 minutes before TCU scored on a 15-yard dash by B.J. Catalon. The Wildcats horribly mismanaged the clock on the half-ending drive, and were forced to settle for a 31-yard Jack Cantele field goal to enter the locker room with a 10-point cushion.
Surely that wouldn't be a problem against the TCU offense, right?
Unfortunately, the Wildcat offense rolled over and died early in the third quarter. TCU took two plays to get from midfield to the two yard line, then another two plays resulted in Trevone Boykin popping a one-yard touchdown jump pass to Josh Doctson . Sams was then stripped of the ball by Verrett near midfield; TCU went 59 yards in eight plays to take the lead on a seven-yard Boykin run.
Artillery took over for the next minute and eighteen seconds. After a sack and an incomplete pass, Waters struck again, launching a horribly ill-advised pass which miraculously turned into a 79-yard touchdown to Tramaine Thompson. TCU responded in almost the exact same fashion; an incompletion and a short run were followed by a 51-yard strike from Casey Pachall to David Porter, who totally pantsed Zimmerman's replacement Dylan Schellenberg.
K-State's ground game got some traction on the following drive. Waters busted off a 19-yard run which turned into a 34-yard gain when he was roughed up at the end. A couple of plays later, John Hubert got his only positive yardage of the game to that point on a 15-yard scamper. The drive bogged down, though, and the Cats had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Cantele, and still trailed 28-27.
Defense ruled much of the final 18 minutes. K-State held TCU on a drive which edged into the fourth quarter, then ground clock mercilessly with a 14-yard drive which gobbled up over eight minutes, aided by a bizarre penalty on a Wildcat punt attempt. Mark Krause managed to drop the punt out of bounds at the two yard line, but then things got crazy. TCU had sent Boykin out to receive the punt, and Verrett out on coverage. The problem? They both wear #2, and Snyder pointed out the problem. TCU was flagged for an illegal equipment infraction, turning fourth-and-six into fourth-and-one; Snyder sent Sams out to convert, and the drive continued. The drive stalled at the TCU 6, however, and on fourth and goal Snyder opted to take the lead, sending Cantele out to hit a 23-yarder. TCU drove into K-State territory, but the defense held on third-and-five at the 39, and it looked like the game was in the bag.
Jaden Oberkrom lined up and belted the 56-yard field goal which put TCU up 31-30, and suddenly things looked grim. But Lockett made a decent return of the ensuing kickoff, and then Jake Waters went to work. After an incompletion, Waters hit Curry Sexton for 28, stopping the clock. Two more incompletions followed before Waters found Lockett for 12 yards and another move of the sticks. K-State had the ball at the TCU 28 with 1:26 to go.
Suddenly, the wheels appeared to fall off. Hubert only gained two; Snyder burned his second timeout. Waters lost a yard; Snyder burned timeout number three. And then a false start pushed the Cats back to the 32. On third and 14, with 33 seconds left and no timeouts, Waters again connected with Lockett for an eight-yard gain, getting back into field goal range for Cantele, who lined up for a 41-yard attempt.
Three seconds remained on the clock when the ball sailed through the uprights. K-State was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct during the celebration afterward, but kicking off from the 20 isn't much of an issue for Ian Patterson. He managed to reach the TCU 20 with the kick; all the laterals in the world didn't save the Frogs, and after the ball hit the turf and got covered up, Kansas State was finally bowl eligible.
Interestingly, now that the goal of extending the season a month has been met, perhaps it doesn't much matter what happens the next two weeks. Yes, finishing the season 8-5 or 9-4 will be nice, and the latter will almost certainly guarantee that the Cats will end up ranked to end the season. That would be a good jumping-off point for the 2014 campaign. But the critical necessity for this team was getting bowl eligibility in pocket so that this squad can get an additional month of practice time in. That's been achieved, through no small heroics the last month, and that bodes well for next season.
Oklahoma still better watch out, though. I think the guys might be a little fired up.