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Not very nice: Texas 69, Kansas State 31

Can’t blame Mess for this mess.

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats defense simply had no answers for the Texas Longhorns offense this afternoon as Senior Day was spoiled in epic fashion. Texas gained 608 yards of offense and took the ball away from K-State three times on the way to a 69-31 rout at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The loss leaves K-State (4-6, 4-5) with a losing record no matter what happens later in the month, while Texas improves to 6-3 (5-3) on the year. Texas also, for the first time this century, now holds the lead in the all-time series between the schools at 11-10.

This game almost doesn’t deserve a recap. K-State’s defense gave up almost nine yards a play. Will Howard threw an interception, and also drilled the umpire in the head on a pass 20 yards downfield. There was a botched handoff to Deuce Vaughn, resulting in another turnover. Texas center Derek Kerstetter suffered a gruesome second-quarter injury to his left leg, which isn’t a K-State problem but still sucked because nobody likes to see anyone get seriously hurt.

K-State was down 17-0 before they even really knew what was happening. An opening-drive touchdown and another courtesy of a Jerrin Thompson interception of Will Howard which was returned to the Wildcat three-yard line, plus Cameron Dicker answering a 53-yard doink off the left upright by Blake Lynch with a 28-yard field goal of his own, left the Wildcats in a huge hole. K-State finally found the end zone thanks to Howard, Malik Knowles, and Deuce Vaughn — who scored from 19 yards out to end the drive — all having big plays to move the ball.

But Texas scored again on the first play of the second quarter to go up 24-7. Lynch answered with a 47-yarder, but Texas again charged downfield without opposition and took a 31-10 lead. On the first play after the score, Howard and Vaughn botched a handoff, giving Texas the ball at the Wildcat 16. But the defense finally showed up at that point, and Dicker was wide right from 30 three plays later to keep the Cats within 21.

Once again, K-State’s three major weapons on offense went to work. A five-minute, 80-yard drive ended with a four-yard run by Vaughn, and K-State ended the half by forcing Texas three-and-out for the second time in a row to go into the locker room down 31-17.

On the second play of the second half, Bijan Robinson scored on a 75-yard touchdown on which he broke two tackles and just outran everyone else. Juwan Mitchell got himself ejected for targeting on Howard, and also injured his own teammate Moro Ojomo; that extended the Wildcat drive to midfield. Three plays later K-State was inside the ten, and Howard hit Knowles from seven yards out.

D’Shawn Jamison returned the kickoff 98 yards, dragged down at the one by Kiondre Thomas. Roschon Johnson scored his third touchdown of the day on the next play. The lead was again 21, and with 11 minutes left in the third quarter Texas had already scored more points on K-State than they had in one game since 1942.

A 31-yard run by Vaughn and a 29-yard touchdown catch by a wide-open Knowles brought the Cats back within two scores. Texas again couldn’t be stopped, scoring their seventh rushing touchdown in just over two minutes. After a great kickoff return by Vaughn, K-State went three-and-out and inexplicably punted from the Longhorn 43; Texas again had their way with the Wildcat defense and scored on a eight-play 86-yard drive. On that drive, Texas — which had only been 1-4 on third down to this point — coverted twice to extend the drive.

And then Howard threw another pick, and Sam Ehlinger threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Epps, and all of a sudden it was 66-31, marking the most points Texas has scored on K-State... ever.

K-State burned four minutes off the clock before turning the ball over on downs at the Longhorn 33, and Texas went right back to work again with Casey Thompson under center. They settled for a 21-yard kick by Dicker, and Vaughn was nowhere to be seen once the Wildcat offense came back on the field.

Howard was, again, not great but not horrible. He was 16-27 for 174 yards with two touchdowns and two picks; on the ground he added 79 yards on 18 carries. Vaughn was off the hook, catching four passes for 45 yards and gaining 125 yards on 10 carries. Knowles had six catches for 95 yards.

For Texas, Ehlinger was 20-27 for 241 with two scores, and spread that wealth to nine different receivers, six of whom had more than 30 yards but none over 55. Robinson exploded for 172 yards on only 9 carries, and Johnson added 139 on 14.

Texas outgained K-State 608-448, 334-274 on the ground.

Players of the game

On offense, the choice is obvious: Vaughn. With all respect to Knowles, who had an outstanding game, 200+ all-purpose yards can’t be ignored.

Defensively, nobody really deserves it, but we’ll give the nod to Kiondre Thomas, who had a couple of nice plays in coverage and temporarily saved a touchdown on Jamison’s kickoff return.

What did we learn?

1) The defense’s problem has gone back to “tackling”.

Specifically, all day long K-State’s defenders got in front of Texas ball carriers and just froze, unsure whether to go all in or pick a direction. The result was that defenders were repeatedly being juked while standing motionless, and then were unable to get back into motion to make a stop. When they did get in position, they couldn’t wrap up the ball carrier. It was just bad.

Especially in the third quarter, but we’ve been through all that for weeks now.

One bright spot: Texas was only 3-8 on third down.

2) Malik Knowles played like someone who wants to be here.

There were rumors a couple of weeks ago. Knowles has done quite a bit since then to make it clear he wants to be part of this offense.

3) Deuce was on the loose.

221 all-purpose yards. Almost 14 per touch. Yeah, either someone figured something out to get him back on track, or he got over the mid-season injury bug. If he was being affected more than we thought in the middle of the season, that’s a data point in Courtney Messingham’s favor.

4) We have to acknowledge some hard facts.

Texas owns us. West Virginia owns us. Oklahoma State’s getting close to owning us. Some things have to turn around, pronto. K-State is still the third-best team remaining in this conference since the merger, but somehow we only have a winning all-time record against TCU now. Ugh.

5) Pray for spring practice.

We were sure a year ago that this season would be a struggle. But the early success in September and October showed that the talent was there on this team. The problem, of course, was COVID. Without spring practice, without a solid fall camp, with in-season practices cut short and truncated... the end result was a foregone conclusion.

Even a bowl invitation probably won’t help that much, because the last of those three problems will still be in play. And that being the case, it might be better if the Cats stay home Christmas week.