Kansas State beat Texas Tech 31-21 yesterday to move to 2-0 and to the top of the conference standings, along with Iowa State and Oklahoma State. The game was closer than the scoreline suggests, and owed much to late-game heroics from a trio of players new to Kansas State football.
As Jon Morse notes in the BotC recap, two freshmen, Deuce Vaughn and Will Howard teamed up to win the game for the Wildcats. For his part, Vaughn racked up 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and has performed well beyond expectation.
Among other things, this gritty victory is a sign that recruiting has been upgraded in the Chris Klieman era. Vaughn, Howard, and senior transfer Briley Moore have had almost immediate impact despite not even being on the team a year ago. Add on the efforts of Keyon Mozee and TJ Smith, and you have a freshman class that really stepped up.
The coaching staff graded out well too. Although the defense and the offense both spluttered down the stretch, Klieman and his assistants have clearly bought into the idea that points matter more than yards. In the waning minutes of the game, the defense came up strong, while the offense spotted a clear mismatch on Vaughn and made Texas Tech pay. It’s these moments that coaches prepare their teams for, and boy were the Wildcats prepared.
If there was one sour note struck yesterday, it was Skylar Thompson going down to injury. Before his departure, Thompson had the offense moving the sticks in Kansas State’s usual methodical way, and without him, the Wildcats quickly lost any rhythm and barely recovered in time to seal the victory. After the game, Klieman was not forthcoming about Thompson’s injury or how long it will be before the senior is available. Fingers crossed for a quick recovery for Thompson. I can’t think of a player on the current roster who deserves to end his collegiate career with pomp and circumstance.
As I was watching the game, and later, as I tried to write this Slate, I could not escape the sense that we’ve seen this all before. Guess what? We have. A similar situation played out in 2017 against Texas Tech, and this is what I wrote back then. It feels like a good fit four season later too.
It’s premature to assume too much about the next few games based on the outcome of this one, of course. But there’s no denying that we saw something from Kansas State today that we haven’t seen in a while. Call it fight, self-belief, family, whatever. It was different, and it was fantastic.
The defense left a lot to be desired, but stood up strong when the game was on the line. The offense was mostly good, whether because of better play-calling or a change in personnel.
The future comes at you fast, and at Kansas State, the future is now.
On the second day of play at the Kansas Invitational, the Wildcats made a few changes to the doubles’ lineup and netted four doubles wins because of it. Combined with their singles victories on Saturday, Kansas State won a total of 11 matches at the event. Play continues today in Lawrence.
At the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, the Kansas State cross country team managed back-to-back third place finishes. The men’s team, competing without their best runner, scored 104 points in the 8K event, while the women’s team got Top 10 performances from Jaybee Shufelberger and Kassidy Johnson to finish with 90 points and also in third place.
The team is back in action on October 17th at the OSU Invite, and then will compete in the Big 12 Championships.