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FINAL: Kansas State 21, Texas Tech 6 - Defense wins games, baby

If this was Bill Snyder’s last home game, his players made him proud.

Of course, Skylar Thompson put together a solid 60 himself.
Of course, Skylar Thompson put together a solid 60 himself.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Texas Tech was held to under 300 yards of total offense, Tommy Tuberville was the head coach. It was November 12, 2011, and the Red Raiders were held to 270 yards of offense in a 66-6 rout at the hands of Oklahoma State. The last time they failed to reach the end zone on the road was in 2006.

Texas Tech did not score a touchdown today, nor did they get 300 yards of offense. They did not get 270. They did not even get 200. K-State‘s defense held the visitors to 31 yards on the ground and only 150 through the air, putting up a dominant performance which resulted in a 21-6 victory in what may have been the final home game for the legendary Bill Snyder.

It could have been a lot worse.

Twice, K-State was foiled trying to convert on fourth down deep in Red Raider territory. A touchdown pass from Skylar Thompson to — get this — Dalton Risner, of all people, was wiped out on an ineligible receiver penalty despite the play being designed for the All-Big 12 tackle. And another drive ended on an interception when Thompson barely missed the mark on a shot to the end zone. K-State could easily have won this contest 49-6 had everything gone their way.

The defense, obviously, is the story here. They were locked in to an extent Wildcat fans haven’t seen a purple defense in years. K-State recorded 8 tackles for loss, four sacks (two each by Reggie Walker and Wyatt Hubert), three breakups, an A.J. Parker interception, and Walker forced a fumble which was recovered by Justin Hughes. Da’Quan Patton and Bronson Massie both had interceptions in their greedy not-so-little hands on the final Tech drive as well, but couldn’t retain their grip. Tech did not record a play of 20 or more yards or reach the K-State red zone until late in the fourth quarter, a 26-yard completion to Da’Leon Ward from Jett Duffey. Only one other Tech offensive play even gained 10 yards, and the Red Raiders were held to an absurd 1.2 yards per carry on the ground.

Special teams were once again special, too. Brock Monty added two points to the scoreboard by blocking a punt through the end zone, Blake Lynch was 4-4 on field goals, and while Devin Anctil only averaged 39 yards a punt, he did not allow any of his three attempts to be returned. The only flaw on special teams resulted in the biggest play of the afternoon for Tech: a 42-yard kickoff return by De’Quan Bowman, which kicked off the drive that included the long reception by Ward and ended with Parker’s interception. No worries, right?

K-State’s offense, despite the red zone failures, was actually on schedule over the afternoon. Thompson was 17-26 for 213 yards, with a QBR of 139.2. The only Wildcat touchdown on the day was hauled in by K-State’s leading receiver on the day: Malik Knowles. Knowles had five catches for 56 yards, making his case for a starring role in 2019. Zach Reuter was a star today as well, grabbing three key drive-extending passes for 48 yards. Dalton Schoen and Isaiah Zuber were involved, catching five passes for 70 yards between them, and even Blaise Gammon and Alex Barnes had two catches each.

Barnes was his normal self, although he was slow to get started. The leading rusher in the Big 12 maintained that status by rambling for 136 yards on 32 carries, responsible for all but 18 yards of the Wildcat net total. Zuber added a 17-yard gain on a reverse to make up the bulk of the difference.

All in all, a very emotionally satisfying victory. The Wildcats played with fire and passion unseen for most of this campaign, and while the offense sputtered in the red zone they were still able to utterly control the pace of play as they held the ball for almost 38 minutes.

As for the defense... well, when was the last time you saw this team get through 60 minutes without the defense breaking even once?

Big questions for the week:

1) Will the true freshmen who’ve already been in four games play Saturday?

This is a key question heading into next weekend’s do-or-die tilt with Iowa State (and we all owe a nod to Tim Fitzgerald for bringing it up on Twitter). Knowles, as well as kick returner Phillip Brooks and defensive back Lance Robinson, could still have four years of eligibility left — as long as they don’t step onto the field Saturday. What will Bill Snyder do? They’re all key components now, and could help ensure a bowl game. Is that worth losing a year in the future?

2) Can the offense do anything against Iowa State anyway?

Iowa State has the league’s best defense now. In some ways, this is a good thing for K-State, as their chances of pulling off the upset in Ames are vastly improved by a low-scoring game. But low-scoring doesn’t mean no-scoring, and today’s red zone failures can’t continue a week from now.

3) Will Bill Snyder ever coach in his own stadium again?

The question isn’t going anywhere. Even if K-State does win Saturday, if Snyder is going to step down he’s going to need to announce it soon. He can’t hold off on that decision until after the bowl game. If he intends to stay, and Gene Taylor is willing to let him, he probably needs to get out in front of that as well. (His refusal to make such an announcement until after the bowl game a couple of years ago may have been a misstep.)

If the team goes to Ames and performs like it did today, it may recharge the old wizard. Ultimately, however, what’s best for the program is the most important factor, and the rumblings from within the complex have not been comforting.

A final note: if you’re in town, be sure to get over to Ahearn this evening. It’s also senior day for the volleyball team, so you should go say goodbye to the raft of seniors making their final appearances.