An onside kick attempt which bounced too high and sailed out of bounds, untouched, sealed the fate of the Texas Longhorns (3-4, 1-3) as K-State (4-3, 2-2) survived some uncharacteristic fourth-quarter miscues to hold on for a 24-21 win at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
K-State effectively controlled the game for the first 45 minutes, after which they'd already had possession of the ball for over 30 minutes. But a goal-line fumble by Charles Jones on the 'Cats first drive of the half kept K-State from taking a 28-7 lead, which would have an impact as time wound down. Later, a poor decision by Jesse Ertz resulted in an interception, and a fumble on 3rd-and-1 by Ertz gave Texas the chance to close to within a field goal. But the Wildcat defense bowed up and forced a 35-yard field goal attempt on 4th-and-goal.
Indeed, although the offense was functional for the first time in weeks, it was the defense that did the job. Twice, Texas was turned away on fourth down. A third time, a pass interference penalty on Duke Shelley kept Texas alive, but there was only 1:43 left in the game at that point with the Wildcats still leading by 10. Jordan Willis had two sacks and another tackle for loss, freshman Kyle Ball added a sack, and pass coverage was surprisingly good for the entire game, despite a couple of penalties.
The most startling stat of the game is turnover margin, as Texas had three takeaways to none for K-State. That barely beats out the time of possession disparity, as Texas only had the ball for 21:33 the entire game.
Ertz, despite the miscues, had a fine game. He was 20-27 for 171 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and a few of those incompletions were outright drops by the receivers. He added 78 on the ground before leaving the game with a few minutes left after aggravating his shoulder injury. Jones had 81 yards on only 12 carries, while Justin Silmon added 58 on 11. Dalvin Warmack didn't get much of a chance today, largely because he left the field with a very apparent painful shoulder injury after blocking the play after his lone carry.
Dominique Heath led all receivers with seven catches, but Deante Burton led in yardage with 53. Ertz spread the load among six receivers.
For Texas, Buechele was 17-24 for 222 yards and two touchdowns, but showed several moments of freshman confusion which partially led to the Longhorn nightmare. D'Onta Foreman became the first Texas running back to ever break the 100-yard barrier in Manhattan, rushing 24 times for 124 yards. Collin Johnson was Buechele's favorite target, hauling in four balls; Devin Duvernay only caught one, but his 80-yard second-quarter touchdown catch was good enough for the Texas yardage lead.
So, what did we learn?
1) This defense is good.
Look, there have been problems. There were problems tonight. But when it mattered today, the Wildcat defense just flat blew up the Longhorns. Can they do that against Baylor? Who knows? But they've already survived most of their toughest tests this season and emerged mostly unscathed.
2) Against defenses that aren't great, the K-State offense is perfectly capable.
405 yards isn't Baylorrific, but it's not terrible. When you have a defense like K-State's, 405 works just fine. When you get 405 on only 10 real drives, that's okay too. But we'll look at the advanced metrics later to see just how well the offense worked. (Spoiler: K-State had about a 68% offensive efficiency in the first half.)
3) Turnovers hurt. Who knew?
Really, stop and think about this. K-State turnovers resulted in a 14-point swing in this game. It could easily have been 31-14.
4) Bill Snyder can step out of the conservative box!
Twice in this game, K-State went for it on fourth down in their own territory. And made it. On their first drive after going up 14-0, the Wildcats went for the kill shot, throwing deep twice before taking a sack and having to punt. Had Ertz connected there and put K-State up 21-0, the game would have been over right there. Bold decisions, even when they don't work, make EMAW happy.
5) Eight wins isn't out of reach.
It'll be a stretch, but TCU isn't looking as deadly as usual, Oklahoma State is somewhat sketchy, and obviously Iowa State and Kansas are likely wins. That leaves Baylor, which will probably be a loss, but you can't have everything.