In the last twenty-five years, Bill Snyder had lost to Kansas Jayhawks once.
It took a comedy of errors on the part of the Jayhawks, as well as a heroic effort by Alex Delton, Alex Barnes, and Justin Hughes, to keep that statement relevant. Barnes ran for 123 yards on 22 carries, Delton amassed over 200 yards of offense, and Hughes played the fourth quarter like a man possessed, and Kansas State Wildcats held on for a come-from-behind 21-17 victory at Bill Snyder Family Stadium this afternoon.
For 45 minutes, it appeared as if Kansas finally had the Cats number. Yes, K-State took the lead — twice — before the fateful fourth quarter. But both times, Kansas was able to regain the lead within about three minutes, and with just five minutes to go K-State had the ball, but were trailing by three and needed their inconsistent offense to get down the field and score.
A 28-yard pass play to the bedeviled Dalton Schoen, who made a great catch, preceded a 21-yard touchdown run from Delton, and the Cats had the lead with 2:46 to play.
But Kansas wasn’t done yet. Hughes dropped Pooka Williams in the backfield on the first Jayhawk snap, but Peyton Bender completed six of his next eight passes and marched his team down the field basically eight yards at a time. The Wildcat defense was folding, just as we’ve seen so often in the past.
But then Hughes got in Bender’s face, forcing a third incompletion, and with just over 20 seconds remaining Football Jesus extended his index finger and spoke. Bender was victimized by a bad snap (again with Hughes in his face almost immediately). The ball ricocheted around the backfield for a seeming eternity.
And finally, Bronson Massie fell on the loose ball to save the day.
K-State could accomplish nothing in the first half on offense. It was a grinding, endless Jayhawk drive in the second quarter which resulted in the 3-0 lead Kansas would take into the locker room. Kansas ran 18 plays, starting at their own six-yard-line, and chewed up 9:40 in the process. That drive was assisted by a running into the kicker penalty on A.J. Parker which erased one field goal, and ended with another.
It wasn’t until the first Wildcat drive of the second half that K-State managed to string together multiple first downs. Barnes did the bulk of his work on that drive, carrying the ball only three times and posting gains of 18, 11, and 24 yards — the latter for the touchdown which would give the Cats their first lead of the contest.
It took four minutes for the Jayhawks to regain the lead, with Bender hitting Daylon Charlot for a key 21-yard reception on third down and then finding Jeremiah Booker for a 9-yard score. The Cats answered back, eating almost five minutes; Delton ran for 39 yards on the drive, but it was Barnes punching it in from the two out of the Wildcat which put K-State back in front.
When Pooka Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving K-State the ball at the Kansas 26, it looked like the cloud was about to lift. But a holding penalty on Scott Frantz put the Cats back at the 36, and K-State was forced to try a 45-yard field goal. A bad snap resulted in Colby Moore having to throw the ball again; at least it merely fell incomplete this time rather than being picked off.
Two plays later, Kansas had the lead again as Bender found Steven Sims for a 65-yard touchdown. The teams traded three fruitless possessions, and the Jayhawks took over again on their own 18 yard line... at which point Kansas proceeded to Kansas.
Khalil Herbert immediately broke loose for a 74-yard run, hauled down by Parker at the WIldcat 8. But it was called back due to a holding penalty, moving Kansas back to their own 9. A false start moved them back further, to their 5. Williams then ran for 60 yards... but another holding penalty stuck the Jayhawks at their own 3, and they got a bonus unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when Mavin Saunders picked up the flag and tried to hide it.
No, really, that is a thing which happened.
Kansas was ultimately forced to punt from their own 11, giving K-State the short field they’d need for the go-ahead (and ultimately winning) touchdown.
With his 123 yards, Barnes became the 16th Wildcat to eclipse the 1000-yard mark for a season, and he scored twice. Delton added 77 and a touchdown on 16 carries, giving K-State a 200-yard game. Delton was also decent in the air, going 11-17 for 126 yards. Schoen led the way with three catches for 48 yards, and Isaiah Zuber returned from solitary confinement to grab two balls for 26 yards. Wykeen Gill, who’s been making a name for himself lately, had three catches for 22.
Who else was good?
Hughes “only” had five tackles on the day, but three of those were in the Jayhawk backfield, he had the key hurry on the final drive, and he was a man on a mission in the second half. DaQuan Patton led the team with nine tackles, and this was the first game all year where he really seemed like a presence; he made multiple hits to turn what usually turn into big gains against K-State into very, very short ones. Wyatt Hubert and Chase Johnston each recorded a sack, and Johnston doubled down by forcing the fumble on Pooka Williams.
Oh, and then there’s Devin Anctil, whose worst punt of the day was for 39 yards. He kicked four times and averaged 45.5 per, so you can do the math there. For about 40 minutes, it really appeared as though Anctil would be the Wildcat player of the game.
So the Wildcats now sit at 4-6, and are conclusively extricated from the Big 12 cellar. Kansas — whose dreams of ending their decade-long Big 12 road losing streak were scuppered — has Oklahoma and Texas remaining, so that probably solves that problem.
But getting to a bowl is still probably a pipe dream. Managing to pull a win out of their hats against either Texas Tech Red Raiders or Iowa St. Cyclones would be reasonable given Bill Snyder’s history against those teams. Beating them both? Tall order.
Which means this may very well have been the final win of Bill Snyder’s legendary career, and it’s frankly a miracle it was even that. Kansas had multiple opportunities to bury K-State in the first half, and only failed due to their own incompetence; sure touchdown passes were flat dropped by Jayhawk receivers without noticeable assistance from the Wildcat secondary.
Which means that if this season is going to end in anything other than misery and a beloved legend riding off into the sunset, some things have to come correct this week. Period.