Kansas State’s run defense again held tight, and Will Howard spread the ball around to everyone wearing purple as the Wildcats rolled to a 42-13 win over the Troy Trojans today at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Before the game, Kimari Vidal was touted as a serious threat to the K-State defense. It turned out that the only real danger the Wildcats faced today was Troy receiver Chris Lewis, and even his two circus catches weren’t enough to help the Trojans.
Will Howard opened with three straight passes, but it was DJ Giddens and Treshaun Ward who plowed the Wildcats into the red zone on the opening drive, capped by a nine-yard pass from Howard to Jadon Jackson for Jackson’s second Wildcat touchdown. The Cats stuffed Troy on their opening drive, but Troy forced the Cats to punt as well.
The Cats appeared to have forced another immediate fourth down, but a horrible spot gave Troy a first down even though the officials marked the ball short of the 30 after Troy started from a touchback. A few plays later, the Wildcats absolutely blew up Vidal on fourth-and-1 at the Wildcat 43, and K-State took over with their best starting field position so far.
Facing third-and-16 after two blown plays and a false start, Howard found Jackson for 24 yards to move the chains. Ward got the Cats into the red zone, then moved the chains again; a couple of plays later Giddens rolled inside the five on a free play when Troy lined up offside. Two plays later, Phillip Brooks scored on a 2-yard end-around to put the Cats up 14-0.
After Will Lee helped set up a Nate Matlack sack, Brendan Mott hit Gunnar Watson and forced a bad throw, which Lee hauled in for K-State’s first takeaway of the season. But just three plays later, Howard gave it back with an overthrown pass to RJ Garcia — the fourth such overthrow of the game, and the second in which Garcia didn’t even seem to be looking for the ball — which was caught in the end zone by Reddy Stewart.
K-State almost had a 3-and-out set up, but Lewis made a ridiculous catch on an overthrown pass to convert for Troy. On 3rd-and-8, Troy escaped again despie Khalid Duke’s best efforts, then Vidal finally got some yardage to get the Trojans into Wildcat territory. A 27-yard pass to Clayton Ollendeick, which was almost batted down by Keenan Garber, got Troy inside the ten, but the Cats held and forced a 24-yard field goal by Scott Taylor Renfroe — the first points allowed by K-State this season.
After K-State went 3-and-out, Watson hit Jabre Barber for 30 yards, and then a holding call on K-State pushed the Trojans to the Wildcat 35 and a personal foul on VJ Payne moved the ball to the 21. The Cats kept Troy silent for two downs, but on 3rd-and-10 Watson hit Lewis again for a 21-yard touchdown on yet another ludicrous catch on an overthrown ball. To cap off the disastrous quarter, Howard got sacked on the first play of the drive, but he got all of it back and eight more on a fake which he kept himself.
Then Howard hit Brooks for a 39-yard touchdown, leaving 10 seconds on the clock before half. Mott forced a fumble as Watson scrambled, but Troy recovered and even if K-State had the half would have ended.
On 3rd-and-2 after halftime, Troy tried some trickery. K-State did not fall for it. With Watson walking away from his position as though he was calling for an audible from the sideline, the center snapped the ball to Vidal, who was immediately stuffed short. A 29-yard punt return by Brooks put the Cats in Troy territory, but two poor runs to start the series ended up forcing a a 3-and-out as well. Jack Blumer pinned Troy at the four.
A holding call erased a 12-yard run by Asa Martin which would have gotten Troy out of danger, but they had to punt from their own six and the Wildcats again took over in Trojan territory. They again couldn’t get going; they lined up to go for it on 4th-and-4, but Taylor Poitier may have deliberately moved early to get five more yards for the punt attempt. Blumer pinned Troy at the ten this time.
Another 3-and-out ensued as Khalid Duke finally got home and sacked Watson inside the Trojan five. Yet again, the Cats took over inside the 50, but an apparent Giddens fumble looked like another disaster. Giddens already had a knee and an elbow on the ground when the ball came out, however, and the call was overturned. On the next play, Howard ran for the first second half first down by either team, and a penalty on Troy added another 15 yards to the play and put K-State in the red zone. A 17-yard toss to Keagan Johnson got the Cats to the one, and Howard took it in two plays later for a 28-10 lead.
Troy, in response, did not avoid a 3-and-out. A second sack by Duke ensured that, although K-State had to take over at their own 43 this time. A holding call on Kobe Savage gave Troy their first first down of the half with a minute to go in the third; Vidal finally got a huge run, a 46 yard dash to the Wildcat 23, to end the quarter. The Cats stiffened, and Troy had to settle for three on a 37-yarder.
After the kickoff, Howard aired one out for 40 to Jackson in double coverage, and then Ward got 31 of the next 36 yards as K-State stayed on the ground the rest of the drive, which ended with a 1-yard pitch to Ward — technically a forward pass, so Howard’s third of the day — and a 35-13 lead.
After that, Troy put in backup quarterback Goose Crowder, and went 4-and-out with K-State stuffing Vidal on 4th-and-1. On the next play, Giddens plowed forward for 17 and into the red zone again. An 11-yard pass to Garcia got the Cats to the one, then Howard was stuffed once... but not twice. Troy got some pity yardage as the clock wound down, converting on fourth down to try to keep K-State from kneeling the clock out.
They failed, as Toby Osunsanmi sacked Crowder and forced a fumble, recovered by Uso Seumalo. One handoff to Anthony Frias ended the game.
Howard was 21-32 for 250 yards, three touchdowns and a pick; he also ran for 33 yards and two scores. Unlike last week’s parade of 100-yard performances, nobody topped it this week. Brooks had 94 yards on seven catches with a score, plus his two-yard touchdown run; Jackson had 77 yards and a score on four catches. Garcia and Johnson each had three catches. On the ground, Ward had 58 yards on 16 carries, plus 11 yards on two catches and a touchdown; Giddens had 52 yards on 12 touches.
K-State’s defense did the job again, holding Troy to 286 total yards, and only 70 on the ground. The Cats are now allowing 38 yards per game rushing, and had Vidal not gotten loose twice that number would be 15.
The offense piled up 397 yards on the Trojans, 250 in the air and 147 on the ground; they were 10-15 on third down and 5-5 in the red zone. The Cats lost the penalty game, receiving 5-45 while gaining 3-22, and also lost time of possession for a second week in a row, 30:23-29:37.
WHAT WE LEARNED
1) Keagan Johnson’s pretty good.
Johnson didn’t really get into the game until the second half, and once he did he made a couple of really nice catches and looked very good running routes. His ability to get separation is going to be a game-changer once he’s 100% and Howard gets used to him at game speed. Keep an eye out.
2) RJ Garcia was having issues.
Howard targeted Garcia numerous times in the first half, and for the most part overthrew him every time. You might pin that on Howard, except for one thing: he wasn’t overthrowing anyone else. On at least two occasions, it seemed like Garcia wasn’t even expecting the ball, and it looked for all the world like receiver and quarterback just weren’t on the same page. The fact that Johnson all but replaced Garcia in the second half does nothing to disprove the hypothesis.
3) The secondary was not as bad as it may have felt like it was.
For starters, they held a team which was largely forced to throw the ball to 216 yards in the air, so “it wasn’t bad” is objectively correct. But it’s also very, very important to remember that close to half of that yardage came as a result of four plays which were just dumb luck. The two one-handed catches by Lewis were absurd, and couldn’t be defended against by anyone under 6’6” under any circumstances; two other completions were balls just thrown somewhere while Watson was under extreme duress.
4) K-State no longer just packs it in close to halftime.
That last touchdown drive of the first half is a thing which never used to happen here. “We’ve got the lead, no point taking chances” is a thing of the past. After letting Troy get within four points, the Wildcats just went and got that touchdown back, knowing the Trojans would get the ball to start the third quarter. You love to see it.
5) That defense.
Yes, Vidal did break free a couple of times, once for 46 and once for 14. The rest of the game, he spent getting smacked senseless at the line of scrimmage; aside from those two plays he had 23 yards on 15 carries, and was single-handedly responsible for about a third of K-State’s TFL stats. Vidal had 83 yards; the rest of the Trojans had a total of six, not counting sack yardage. Consider that even counting Vidal’s two big runs, K-State is now holding opposing offenses to 38 yards per game on the ground. That’ll play, especially since the secondary is, at the very least, more than competent.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
We were wishy-washy last week on the offensive side of this, but this week the answer is clear, and it’s Will Howard. Ward and Giddens did their jobs, and Brooks and Jackson had great games, but Howard overcame the effective loss of his main weapon from last week and adjusted.
On defense, with apologies to Khalid Duke and his three tackles — all for losses, including two sacks — we’re going with Jacob Parrish this week for reasons which might not be readily apparent from the stat sheet. Parrish “only” had three tackles and two pass breakups, but the statistical definition of a pass breakup doesn’t seem particularly clear at this point. Parrish absolutely prevented at least six completions via direct action today, and had his guy covered so well the rest of the time that there was no point even trying. Will Lee (interception, 1.5 TFL), Nate Matlack (sack), Toby Osunsanmi (sack, forced fumble), Brendan Mott (forced fumble), and — as always — Austin Moore (two TFL) were in the mix, but Parrish really passed the eye test today.
The Cats hit the road for the return trip to Columbia next week, where we’ll hope for a repeat of last year’s Tiger Tussle. Gametime and network aren’t announced yet because it’s in the seven-day window.