Two punts blocked (but one called back), two punt returns for touchdowns (but one called back), four Charles Jones touchdowns (but one called back)... three fourth-quarter touchdowns surrendered by the reserves (and all of them counted)... it was that sort of afternoon for the Wildcats, but they still dominated start to finish in a 30-point rout at Fort Snyder.
Things started swimmingly. UTEP lost seven yards on two running plays (the second due to a fumble), then got back to the original line of scrimmage on third down. Deante Burton and Stanton Weber blew around the line and both got hands on the punt, allowing the Wildcats to take over at the UTEP 25 for their first possession. The run wasn't working, and although Jake Waters did hit Tyler Lockett for a first down mid-drive, K-State was forced to settle for a 25-yard Matt McCrane field goal.
After a decent return caused by some iffy coverage, the defense again did its job, ending a three-and-out with a big Travis Britz sack. But the offense was clearly not gelling early; other than a nine-yard Charles Jones run on second down which followed a loss of yardage on first, the Cats had to kick it away. Again, three-and-out for UTEP, and again, the kick was blocked -- this time by Danzel McDaniel and/or Weston Heibert. But the Wildcats failed to cover the ball, UTEP recovered, and an inadvertant whistle resulted in a 13-minute booth review (after five minutes or so of kvetching on the sideline by Bill Snyder). The ruling was that the down had to be replayed, erasing the blocked kick.
Angry, K-State got the ball back near midfield and started rolling. A 26-yard hookup between Waters and Lockett was followed by a pair of runs from Waters and Jones, who was brought down at the one-foot line, spurring another long review. Waters scored on a sneak on the next play, and the Cats were up 10-0.
After an exchange of fruitless series, Tyler Lockett scored on a punt return, but it was called back on a holding penalty. The Cats shrugged their shoulders marched again. Waters ran for 18, then a couple of plays later Jones busted off a 13-yard gain. Waters hit a wide-open Trujillo -- who FOX announcer Brendan Burke kept calling "True-EE-ho" -- on the pass option for a 31 yard chunk of real estate, going down at the three yard line. Jones capped the drive out of the Wildcat to notch his seventh touchdown of the year.
The special teams shone over the next few minutes. UTEP bobbled the kickoff, and K-State forced UTEP down at the three yard line; Dakorey Johnson was injured on the play and did not return. The Miners were again forced to punt after three downs, and Tyler Lockett raced 58 yards for a touchdown that actually counted.
UTEP actually got a first down on the next drive, but on a screen pass to Aaron Jones, Danzel McDaniel appeared out of nowhere and flat out murdered him. UTEP had to punt, and Lockett returned that one 54 yards before getting hit and fumbling; no worries, as Weston Hiebert was there to pick it up and run another seven yards to add insult to injury.
With 17 seconds left in the half, Jones scored his third touchdown of the day, flat barrelling into the end zone with the assistance of Cody Whitehair, who literally carried him the final four. The Wildcats sailed into the locker room up 31-0 and set to receive the second half kickoff.
Another three plays, another UTEP punt, and on the second play of the next drive Waters hit Trujillo off the POP pass for a 44-yard score. At this point, it was all over but the second-team reps. With Johnson out, and Danzel McDaniel also in the locker room for undisclosed reasons (possibly being questioned by the Manhattan police in connection with a brutal assault), UTEP began moving the ball. In one drive, the Miners quadrupled their first-down total, increased their rushing yardage by a factor of 12, and ruined the K-State shutout on a four-yard fade from Jameill Showers to Ian Hamilton on which Donnie Starks was beaten like a drum.
Next drive? Oh, what the heck, let's just have DeMarcus Robinson run 40 yards for a touchdown. That's just how this game was destined to play out, with everyone doing a little bit of everything.
Of course, there were some problems with the reserves. Joe Hubener tried to throw the ball away to avoid a sack and it looked pretty embarrassing, and on the next play Mitch Lochbihler -- sidelined ever since the punt return for a touchdown against Iowa State -- got another chance and got his punt blocked. The second-team defense -- including such folks as Dylan Schellenberg, Cre Moore, Donnie Starks, and the surprise first appearance by Terrell Clinkscales -- let UTEP drive 53 yards for a second score.
The offense was fun the next drive. Hubener completed decent-gainers to Stanton Weber and Judah Jones, Jarvis Leverett Jr. got some effective carries, then Jones had a catch-and-run which displayed his git-up-and-go to get inside UTEP's ten, and Hubener finished off the drive from the two. Jack Cantele came on to try the PAT, and missed it, which was quite possibly the worst non-injury event of the entire game for a variety of reasons.
Cre Moore was burned on a 69-yard touchdown pass from Showers to Hamilton in the final four minutes, and Lochbihler fumbled the snap after K-State had to punt four plays later, giving UTEP 1st-and-goal at the 7 with a minute to play, which led to the Miners' third touchdown of the quarter. It didn't matter; K-State still covered the spread, which tells you just how brutal the first 50 minutes of the game really were.
Waters finished 10-15 for 209 yards and a touchdown, and added 29 on the ground. Charles Jones had 12 carries for 76, while Robinson had 9 for 56; the three combined for about 6.5 yards a carry. Lockett had four catches for 84 yards to go along with 172 yards in returns and a
pair of touchdowns. Trujillo had a productive day, with three catches for 75 yards and a score; Sexton added two catches for 47. Hubener was an impressive 3-4 for 54 yards in relief of Waters.
In all, K-State did give up 260 yards of offense, but a third of that was in the final ten minutes, 98 of those yards on two UTEP receptions. Even with the struggles of the second string, UTEP was held to 59 yards rushing and a YPC of 1.9; coming into the game they were averaging 314 and 6.1. Aaron Jones, who'd been averaging 183 and 7.8, was held to 47 and 2.5. Not a bad effort.
There are definite problems which need to be addressed, and even more obvious injury concerns which could cause issues in the coming weeks. But there was also a lot of good to take away from this one, and we'll obviously cover that in more depth next week. For now? Celebrate, Purple People. The Cats are halfway to a bowl game.