This game started out drunk, devolved into two teams winging wild punches in the pouring rain, and ended in a beat down.
Kansas won the toss and deferred possession until the second half. The Wildcats went 3 and out on their initial drive, but that worked out well. Ty Zentner crushed a punt into the upper atmosphere, and the Kansas punt returner, for reasons only known to an omnipotent God, decided to try and field it. He slipped, dropped the punt, and he always ready special teams unit was in perfect position to pounce. One play later, Malik Knowles sauntered into the end zone untouched on a jet sweep off left tackle, to take a 7-0 lead.
The Jayhawks, aided by an accidental (and incidental) face mask penalty on Desmond Purnell after a bad snap had Jalon Daniel scrambling around 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, answered back with a 9 play, 75 yard touchdown drive capped off Torry Locklin 12 yard run, tying the game at 7.
Will Howard did not like the idea of vile scoundrels from Lawrence being tied with his beloved and much respected Wildcats, in his home stadium, and quickly remedied the situation with a superior 7 play, 75 yard touchdown drive. Howard found Sammy Wheeler hanging out 10 yards behind the Kansas secondary, and delivered a 42 yard touchdown pass to end the drive and put the good guys back on top 14-7. The Jayhawks would not have a piece of the lead for the remainder of the game.
After another special teams miscue pinned Kansas inside their own 5 yard line, Brendan Mott forced the right tackle to bring him down in the end zone. In a small miracle, the ref noticed the right tackle locking up Mott and threw a flag, resulting in a safety and a 16-7 lead.
K-State returned the free kick to their 39. Deuce decided to get into the action and broke off a 32 yard run to start the drive. 8 plays later, the ball was carried across the goal line by Malik on another beautifully executed jet sweep inside the 5, giving the Wildcats a 23-7 lead.
I’ll give the patchouli scented birds credit, instead of following the normal script and laying down, they decided to fight back. Daniels led his team on an 11 play, 75 yard drive. Devin Neal took the last leg of the drive, taking a hand-off and scampering 11 yards for the touchdown, putting the score at 23-14.
This time, Deuce Vaughn took umbrage with an inferior running back disgracing the endzone and took off on an 80 yard adventure, only stopped short of goal line because Deuce has short legs. Howard cleaned up, completing a 14 yard touchdown pass to Phillip Brooks for another 7, stretching the lead to 30-14 with 9 minutes remaining in the half.
The Jayhawks continued to fight back. Daniels led them on yet another 75 yard touchdown drive. Neal found the endzone from 3 yards out, and birds clawed closer, putting the score at 30-21, with 4:12 left in the half.
The teams exchanged punts and then the Wildcats took their boot off the KU’s throat when Howard was stripped from behind at the Kansas 29 yard line. The Wildcats defense forced Daniels into another 3 and out, and the half ended 30-21.
I’m exhausted after typing all that, and it’s only halftime. Oh, and did I mention this all took place during an interment torrential downpour? Crazy man. This K-State offense has turned into one of the most explosive groups in the nation, capable of scoring on any play. Meanwhile the normally stalwart defense struggled to contain the Kansas offense. Tackling remained an issue, and the depleted secondary sprung several leaks. Full credit to Daniels, he’s a tough, talented dude, and should probably transfer someplace where his talents can be appreciated in the near future.
The second half opened with Kansas receiving the kick, running 3 plays, and punting. Kansas State returned the favor with their own 3 and out. The next Kansas possession broke the stalemate. Instead of a 3 and out, the Jayhawks went 3 and fumble. The Wildcats showed appreciation for the Jayhawk largess by cashing in the turnover for 7 points. It took 8 plays, but K-State managed to open their scoring account in the second half with a 1 yard Deuce Vaughn touchdown, making the score 37-21.
The next drive was strange. Daniels eventually ended it with a 1 yard touchdown run, but it took 14 plays and drained 8 minutes and 20 seconds of game time. They cut the lead to 37-27, but used most of the 3rd quarter. I’m not sure I’ve seen a better example of a college football pyrrhic victory.
After an electric Malik Knowles kick return gave the offense the ball at the KU 31, they made it to the 4 before running out of downs and kicking a field goal. Coach Klieman was ready to deliver the coup de grace, but K.T. Leveston took off early, costing the team 5 yards, and making a field goal the only option. Ty Zantner knocked it between the pipes, and K-State stretched the lead to 40-27.
The patented Joe Klanderman halftime adjustments continued to pay off. The defense forced a 3 and out and then Wildcat’s flexed their muscles, shoved the Jayhawks nose in it, and ended the game with a punishing 8 play, 85 yard touchdown drive that featured nothing but Will Howard, Deuce Vaughn, and D.J. Giddens runs. D.J. ran the final leg of the race, and crossed the finish line from 5 yards out, making the lead an insurmountable 47-27.
It was clear at this point that the Hawks were dead on the highway. They ran 3 plays, kicked the ball back to the ‘Cats, and Giddens ran the rest of the clock out, securing the 47-27 victory, and booking their ticked to the Big 12 Championship game!
Will Howard finished the game completing 11/21 passes for 213 yards and 2 touchdowns despite the challenging conditions. Howard spread the ball around to 7 different receivers. Deuce Vaughn finished as the leading receiver with 2 receptions for 82 yards. He had a 2 yard reception and an 80 yard reception. Sammy Wheeler had 1 reception for 42 yards and a touchdown and Phillip Brooks had 2 receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Deuce Vaughn led all rushers with 146 yards on 25 carries and 1 touchdown. Vaughn was an workhorse in the weather, gouging the Jayhawk defense for 5.9 yards a carry, and extending multiple drives with crucial 3rd down runs.
What We Learned
1) We’re at best case scenario in terms of Collin Klein.
The first year offensive coordinator is in a groove, and K-State has one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. His unit has cracked 40 points in the last two games, and has hit 40+ 5 times in total.
2) Deuce Vaughn is the difference.
The Wildcats had Deuce Vaughn, the Jayhawks didn’t. That’s what this game came down to in the end.
3) Tackling is still an issue.
The defense is in good position most of the time, but struggle to get ball carriers on the ground. Better tackling would have saved at least 14 points tonight. They can’t give TCU 14 points because of bad tackling.
4) Malik Knowles is on a mission.
The senior from Mansfield, Texas looked dangerous all night. He caught 2 passes for 10 yards, including an incredible catch in traffic for a first down, rushed for 38 yards on 3 carries and 2 touchdowns, and returned 4 kicks for 135 yards, with a long of 69 yards. If Knowles and Vaughn are both rolling, this offense is almost unstoppable.
Players Of The Game
Impossible not to give the game ball to Deuce Vaughn. He led the team in rushing with 146 yards and a touchdown and receiving with 2 receptions for 82 yards. He was a threat to break off a big run every time he touched the ball.
This wasn’t a vintage defensive effort, but Drake Cheatum get the game ball for toughing it out leading the team in tackles with 10 (9 solo). He was a game time decision, and things would have been much worse without him.
Dallas Baby! AT&T Stadium will host the Kansas State Wildcats and the TCU Horned Frogs in a battle for Big12 supremacy on December 3rd, at 11 am CST. I have no idea why they insist on brunch tailgating but I have an excellent bBoody Mary recipe if anyone is interested.