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FINAL: Kansas State 41, UTSA 17 - Zuber goes off

18 minutes of this game was utterly bereft of meaning, which is a good thing.

Controversy? Not so much anymore, no.
Controversy? Not so much anymore, no.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

UTSA Roadrunners head coach Frank Wilson wanted to make sure of one thing: that Kansas State didn’t run for 500 yards on his defense.

Mission accomplished, as the Wildcats only managed 164. Unfortunately for Wilson, that 164 ended up being just a little over a third of the 449 yards the Wildcat offense piled up in an easy 41-17 win at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Skylar Thompson ended the first half with 213 yards passing and two touchdowns, a 42-yarder to Dalton Schoen and a 23-yard toss to Isaiah Zuber. That was all he had on the day, and all K-State really needed. In the third quarter, Thompson saw a little action, adding the fourth Wildcat touchdown on a 27-yard scamper (which followed a 24-yard run earlier in the same drive), before giving way to Alex Delton for the duration.

All Delton did was perfectly place a pass in Zuber’s hands for a 72-yard touchdown a little over five minutes later to remove any doubt whatsoever as to the final outcome.

That pass was Delton’s only attempt of the day, leaving him with a comically absurd quarterback rating of 1034.8. Thompson’s was a mere 208.3, and it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s some trash talk about that.

Thompson also led the team in rushing with 66 yards on 14 carries (actually 87 on 12 if you ignore sacks), while Alex Barnes had 55 on 13 and the game’s first touchdown, a three-yard push that culminated a drive primarily driven by Zach Reuter. Reuter’s two catches on the day were both in the opening drive, accounting for 45 yards. Dalvin Warmack also got some nice film, rushing for 4.8 yards a carry on five attempts, and Justin Silmon finally got to carry the ball a bit, with eight carries for 22 yards.

It was Zuber that was the star of the game today, however. The speedster hauled in seven catches for 144 yards and the two touchdowns. Schoen’s touchdown was his only catch of the day, Barnes added a 30-yard reception to the total, and 24 yards were accounted for by three guys who finally got on the stat sheet: Isaiah Harris and Chabastin Taylor each had single catches for five yards a piece, and — no, we are not making this up — tight end Blaise Gammon had a 14-yard reception.

The primary problem on the day, if you can have such a thing in a 24-point win, was fumbles. Thompson fumbled twice, losing one. Delton lost a fumble, and Duke Shelley fumbled a kick return but recovered it himself. Kendall Adams did recover a fumble by UTSA backup quarterback D.J. Gillins, giving him his eighth career turnover recovery, but that’s still a minus-one on the day for the Cats, who are now -5 on the year. Very un-Snyderlike.

As for the Roadrunners, aside from a touchdown on their second possession they were unable to do much of significance until K-State’s reserves took over the operation in the fourth quarter. UTSA did manage to exactly hit the 300-yard mark in total offense, but 119 of that came in garbage time. Prior to the fourth quarter, K-State held the visitors to 99 yards on the ground and 82 in the air.

On the defensive side of the ball, we saw some pretty great play by Adams, Shelley, Eli Walker, A.J. Parker, Walter Neil, Trey Dishon, and Wyatt Hubert (who earned the start ahead of Kyle Ball after last week’s interception and generally being pretty great in relief duty the last two weeks).

Shelley was involved in a really bad play at one point, getting smoked on a corner blitz, but that was the wrong call to make anyway; Neil did have one unfortunate play as well, getting flagged for both holding and pass interference on one play.

But those two plays were the only two times the starters really blew it on the afternoon, and that was truly refreshing.

What did we learn?

1) The quarterback discussion is over.

That much was probably obvious simply by observing that Thompson remained in the game until late in the third quarter, but it’s also noteworthy that aside from Delton’s touchdown pass he didn’t accomplish much of anything in relief.

Thompson managed the game effectively and threw a bunch of pitch-perfect passes. Zuber was, to be fair, wide open on his touchdown catch from Thompson, but the pass to Schoen was about fifty yards in the air and landed right in Schoen’s hands after dropping right over his shoulder. It was a thing of beauty.

2) Who said K-State has no deep threat?

Zuber’s got wheels, and he showed them today. Schoen is always a threat to make a catch like the one he made this afternoon. The idea that K-State was going to have trouble stretching the field was always absurd, and it was good to finally get some semblance of evidence.

So why’d it take three weeks?

Quarterbacks and receivers require a rhythm. All through camp, and during practice for Mississippi State, both quarterbacks were sharing first-team practice time evenly and getting roughly the same number of in-game snaps. Thompson got the lion’s share in practice this week, and look what happened.

He needs to remain QB1 and get the practice reps. The passing game will be fine. It’s probably going to need to be.

3) The running game still has issues.

Let’s be clear on this: against a mid-major team, K-State ran for 164 yards. When K-State wins Big 12 games, the rushing yardage tends to be over 200, and it’s presumably going to be harder to run against Big 12 opponents.

Now, in fairness, we do have to refer you back to the opening paragraph of this very article. UTSA was dead-set on stopping the Wildcat run game. Still, it’s a concern, especially when taking a look at the offensive line play during run blocking.

4) Someone taught the defense how to tackle.

This is a subtle thing, but an important one. For years, we have sat by in frustrated anger as Wildcat defenders continually gave up huge gains to opponents after trying to tackle them with one arm around a massive thigh or some other such nonsense.

Watch them now. They are using both arms. They are wrapping opponents and bringing them down. It’s like Christmas in September.

5) A certain linebacker needs to get his game straightened out.

Last year, we called out Jayd Kirby after an early season of frustrating play. He got his game together mid-season, and it was beautiful to watch unfold.

Now, we’re going to have to hope for the same from DaQuan Patton. On UTSA’s first touchdown, it appeared — and we want to stress that word — that he blew his assignment, and his somewhat lethargic jog toward the wide-open Halen Stewart after he caught the ball and hopped into the end zone was unpleasant. It wasn’t the only time today, or in the last two weeks, we’ve had cause to frown at number five.

Kirby was a guy with limitations, and he just had to learn to work within them and lock down his fundamentals. Patton, on the other hand, is here because he’s raw talent. If he can make the same step up Kirby did last year, he will be a beast. But he’s got to get it done.

Hopefully that will happen this week, because Saturday brings a whole new mess of complications for the Wildcats.