It took another fourth-quarter uprising -- and three overtimes -- but when Jeff Driskel's four desperate attempts in the third overtime all completely missed their targets, K-State (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) survived the heroics of Trent Taylor and the apparently not-that-injured Carlos Henderson to escape with a 39-33 victory over Louisiana Tech (1-2, 0-2 CUSA) at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Dominique Heath snagged a touchdown catch in the first overtime, followed by Jeff Driskel hitting Trent Taylor to answer. In the second overtime, a huge third-down sack by Elijah Lee forced Tech's Jonathan Barnes to kick a field goal; a fumbled snap by Joe Hubener forced Jack Cantele to kick a 44-yarder -- his fourth of the game on four attempts, one of which doinked through the uprights -- to extend the game.
In the third overtime, Joe Hubener hit Kody Cook for their second hookup of the game, but K-State failed to make the two-point conversion even after a defensive holding penalty cut the distance in half. But the defense completely stymied Driskel, and K-State escaped with the win.
Cantele booted his third field goal with three minutes to go. That was set up when Jordan Willis recovered a Louisiana Tech fumble inside the Tech 30 just a few plays after a Dominique Heath breakout on a punt return set up an easy touchdown from inside the 10. The sequence erased a seven-point Bulldog lead and put K-State in front with 2:44 to go. And then the defense completely jacked up Louisiana Tech on two straight drives to salvage the victory.
Louisiana Tech piled up 451 yards, 137 on the ground; K-State managed 355, 160 running. For Tech, Jeff Driskel was 30 of 51 for 314 yards and two rushing touchdowns, one passing. Kenneth Dixon had 81 yards, nearly half of which came on one play; Taylor caught 12 balls for 148 yards and a score, while Henderson had 6 catches for 81. For the Wildcats, Joe Hubener was 15 of 26 for 195 with 3 TDs throwing. Deante Burton caught 5 balls for 58 yards, Kody Cook added 4 for 73 with two scores, and Heath caught two balls for 42 and a score as well. As for the running backs...
1. Freeing Justin Silmon was the right call.
Yeah, 24 carries for 114 yards? That's a starting tailback. Silmon becomes the first Wildcat running back to reach the 100-yard mark in a game since John Hubert in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan.
2. The receivers are improving
It wasn't a perfect effort by any stretch, but not only did the drop rate decrease dramatically, there were some exceptional catches -- especially Kody Cook's third quarter touchdown grab. No, today most of the problems in the passing game can be laid at the feet of Joe Hubener, who was off the mark on quite a few throws despite having all day to throw. And shoutouts to Heath and Deante Burton, who caught five balls and didn't drop a one.
3. The defense was let down by the press box
Make no mistake: A huge chunk of Louisiana Tech's yardage on offense had nothing to do with effort or execution on the part of the defense. The Bulldogs had several plays where Tom Hayes was simply outsmarted by Louisiana Tech offensive coordinator Tony Petersen. It was obvious to the viewer; Wildcat defenders were executing their assignments, and the play went where they weren't. There were a couple of exception: Dixon's 36-yard run in the fourth quarter was a result of breaking away from a clutch of multiple tacklers, and the 4th-and-9 conversion when Driskel escaped the backfield in the first overtime. But if the defense fails to execute on one play, you can live with it. When the coaches get out-schemed repeatedly, that's another issue entirely.
4. The offensive line improved from last week.
The line did not dominate Louisiana Tech, but they weren't helpless and overmatched as they appeared to be for large portions of the UTSA game. They were able to provide Hubener lots of time to throw the ball poorly, and they opened up big holes for the running game. In addition to Silmon, Charles Jones managed over 4.7 yards a carry, and bulled his way in for the tying touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
5. We shouldn't get our hopes up
Injuries, and the fear of same, are going to doom this season eventually. The coaching staff's concern at quarterback was made no more apparent than with one stat: Joe Hubener carried the ball 7 times for 13 yards, and one of those "carries" was actually a sack. Nate Jackson got hurt saving a touchdown when Kenneth Dixon broke free for hie one big run of the afternoon, although he did return. Silmon left the field after carrying the Wildcats in the third quarter, but also returned. They weren't major injuries, but they indicate just how precarious the situation here is. As K-State enters Big 12 play, this will be an issue. But at least we've got a ready-made excuse.
Bonus Sixth Thought: Bill Snyder is angry.
The major issue here: how will the offense react once they hear what Snyder said at halftime, assuming he didn't impart that opinion in the locker room?