Kansas State beat TCU 21-14 in Fort Worth yesterday to stay atop the Big 12 standings. It was mostly a contest between the two defenses, and if you’re surprised that the Wildcats’ defense won that battle, welcome to the club.
For their efforts and for moving to 3-1 on the season, the Wildcats got a bit of national respect. Kansas State is now #22 in both the AP Top 25 and the Amway Coaches Poll. Maybe poll voters are just trying to make up for all this DISRESPECT?
On a day when TCU managed more total yards and held the ball longer than Kansas State, the Kansas State defense really needed to step it up, and boy did Joe Klanderman’s unit deliver. Sitting on a small lead for much of the game, the defense stood tall, forcing five TCU three-and-outs, and getting a pick-six to put Kansas State ahead for good. The Wildcats also held TCU quarterback Max Duggan in check for much of the game. He only had 153 yards through the air, well under his average for the season so far.
Kudos to the special teams too. In addition to a huge return by Phillip Brooks, there was also a blocked field goal, the Wildcats’ fourth block in as many games. Blake Lynch kicked two field goals early in the game to help Kansas State pull within one, including a career-long kick of 53 yards.
This was true freshman Will Howard’s first start in a game of firsts. He ended up being the first Wildcats true freshman starter to win his first road game for the Wildcats. It’s true that Kansas State doesn’t have much history with starting true freshmen in the first place, but Howard is already one-up on Josh Freeman.
The Wildcats offense didn’t actually have a great day. Howard, who broke off a highlight reel-ready 80-yard run, didn’t really find a rhythm (or—and credit to TCU’s secondary here—receivers who were open as he went through his progressions. But given his lack of experience, I think we can cut him some slack mostly for not blinking in the face of the Big 12’s best defense. Importantly, this game proved that Howard doesn’t need to be great for the team to win, or at least not yet.
To sum up, I think Justin Gardner put it best:
We’re hungrier and way more disciplined for sure. We just have a team full of guys who really want to win.
I’ll leave you with this thought as you gear up for the Sunflower Showdown: Will Howard has more Big 12 road wins than Kansas has in the last decade.