Adrian Martinez and Deuce Vaughn each busted off 69-yard runs and combined for 341 rushing yards, Julius Brents had a huge — if controversial — interception late, and the 25th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats held on to secure a 37-28 victory over Texas Tech Red Raiders on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
K-State took the opening kickoff and Martinez immediately ran for 57 yards, then took the next snap and ran it in from the 18 for a 7-0 lead. Tech got good field position on the kickoff, but a big sack by Khalid Duke pushed the Red Raiders back, and they had to punt.
Martinez led the Cats right back downfield, putting on a master class in avoiding pursuit and hitting checkdowns. But the drive stalled inside the 10 as Tech recorded the first sack on Martinez since the season opener, and K-State had to settle for a 29-yard field goal from Chris Tennant.
Tech went four-and-out, as the Wildcat defense stopped the Red Raiders three times with less than four yards to go, and Martinez hit Kade Warner to get back down to the Tech 10. A false start and a rare Deuce Vaughn 6-yard loss had the Cats moving backward, but Martinez got back inside the 10 with his legs. Tennant had to salvage the drive again, though, this time from 26, and K-State — which could very well have been up 21-0 — led 13-0.
Tech managed a first down, but Duke’s second sack of the day was followed by Austin Moore’s first interception of the year to give K-State the ball at midfield. But two plays later, Vaughn fumbled the ball right back to the Red Raiders.
Tech didn’t accomplish much before Kobe Savage forced a Tahj Brooks fumble which was recovered by Nate Matlack. The officials ruled Brooks down, and replay overturned the call, giving K-State possession. K-State went three-and-out, but so did Tech, effectively just resetting field position.
A sack pushed the Cats back, then a 60-yard run by Martinez was called back on a hold. He was able to get some yards back on a pass to Warner, but not enough, and Ty Zentner had to punt again.
Finally, Tech made K-State pay. A nine-play, 86-yard drive ended with a six-yard pass from Donovan Smith to Nehemiah Martinez to close the gap to 13-7. K-State had to punt before they could run the clock out, and Trey Wolff hit a 51-yarder as time expired to allow Tech to get within 13-10 at the half.
Tech got the ball to start the second half, but the Cats held up and Felix Anudike-Uzomah got his second sack to force a punt, but K-State again went three-and-out. Zentner was hit on the punt, and the flag didn’t come out until very late. K-State declined the penalty, however, because the punt was pretty good.
The defense couldn’t keep Tech from moving the ball, though. They did get a stop finally, but Tech had already driven deep into Wildcat territory; Wolff tied the game at 13 with a 39-yarder.
On the first play after the kickoff, Vaughn finally popped loose for a nice 69-yard scamper into the red zone. After a holding call, Martinez tossed the ball to Phillip Brooks, who bobbled the ball but hauled it in for a 17-yard touchdown to retake the lead.
Tech just strolled right back downfield, Smith hitting Xavier White from 12 to tie it back up again.
The Cats went three-and-out, and Tech got back into the red zone on a 58-yard pass from Smith to Trey Cleveland on which Ekow Boye-Doe got clowned. Duke got his third sack of the day to push the Red Raiders back at the end of the third quarter, but tensions were rising at the Bill.
On the fourth quarter’s second play, Wolff missed from 42, allowing K-State to hold onto the tie. Three plays later, Martinez raced 69 yards on a draw play to give K-State the lead again at 27-20.
This time, it was Tech’s turn to collapse on offense. A holding penalty helped keep their offense from getting started, and a huge pass breakup by Boye-Doe — atoning for his earlier mistake — gave the ball back to the Cats. Martinez used his legs to get K-State into the red zone, but the Wildcats had to settle for three on a 32-yarder from Tennant.
Eli Huggins was injured on the first Tech play, but Anudike-Uzomah sacked him on the next play, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Robert Hentz II. Four plays later, Martinez scored from 12 yards out to put K-State up 37-20 and effectively ice the game.
Tech wasn’t done, though. It took them three and a half minutes, but the Red Raiders closed to 37-28 on a 4-yard pass to Jordan Brown and a two-point conversion, but they were still facing a two-score game with 2:23 to go.
Kade Warner, who ended the Oklahoma game by recovering an onside kick, bobbled Tech’s attempt. The Red Raiders recovered, putting people who bet on K-State to cover in a tizzy. A 25-yard completion to White was followed by the Brents interception, but there was confusion on the field as to whether the play had been blown dead to review the White catch.
Ultimately, the ball was given to K-State, and an 18-yard scamper by Vaughn on 3rd-and-1 was the final dagger as K-State was able to kneel the clock out from that point.
Martinez was 12 of 19 for 116 yards and a touchdown, and gained 171 yards on 12 carries with three scores. Vaughn had 170 yards on 23 carries. Brooks led K-State with five catches, gaining 36 yards and scoring his first offensive touchdown of the year; Warner led the team in yards with 47 on three catches.
On defense, Anudike-Uzomah amd Duke each had three sacks, while Brents and Moore each had interceptions.
K-State racked up 459 yards of offense despite being completely shut down for 30 minutes; 343 of that was on the ground. Tech had 473, with 359 through the air. Tech actually won the possession battle 32:23-27:37.
What We Learned
1) We’re starting to have questions about decision-making on the offense.
The Wildcats completely stalled during the middle half of the game. K-State consistently tried to send Deuce up the gut when it wasn’t happening, DJ Giddens never got a touch, the plays that were being run didn’t appear to mesh with what the offensive line was doing with their schemes.
The thing that’s concerning me the most here is the lack of touches for Giddens. Let me be clear: I’m not saying Deuce isn’t the guy, or that he’s being centered on too much by defenses. The latter is true, but doesn’t matter; the former isn’t, because Deuce absolutely is the guy.
But Giddens is a pretty good running back himself, and using him is like a pitcher throwing a changeup. Giddens has run for over five yards on virtually every carry this season, and he’s useful. You can see it when he does get the ball; defenses get confused because they’ve spent all week prepping for a little dude. Giddens bowls them over.
He needs to be more involved, not just for scheme purposes but to give Deuce a freakin’ break.
2) Martinez starts to suffer when the rest of the offense is slogged.
Everything was fine with 9AM until after the second field goal, but he was also not particularly effective during the middle-half lull. Visually, he looked a lot like he did for three weeks before the Oklahoma game. But once he ripped off his 69-yard touchdown run, he started looking good again.
This is something to keep an eye on.
3) Oklahoma turns out to be horrible, so what’s that tell us about K-State?
We thought things were great a week ago. But now TCU has totally exposed the Sooners, so was it a mirage? During the middle-half doldrums, K-State’s offensive line looked shaky too. Is Oklahoma’s DL that bad?
Questions without answers... yet.
4) On the other hand: Tech’s red zone defense IS pretty good.
A lot of people were frustrated by K-State having to settle for two field goals early, but we should pause to remember that Tech actually has the best red zone defense in the conference. K-State probably goes up 21-0 against most other teams in the league under the same circumstances. It’s a concern, but one we can reserve judgment on.
5) Kansas State is in first place, and could be there all alone tonight.
Yup. If Iowa State beats Kansas and Oklahoma State beats Baylor, the Wildcats will be the only 2-0 team in the league. Even better, K-State will effectively hold a three-game lead on Oklahoma... on October 1.
How about that?
Players of the Game
On offense, we have to split this between Martinez and Vaughn. They both had 69-yard runs, and they ran for 171 and 170 yards each. That’s just too symmetrical to do anything other than have them share the honors.
Defensively, we’re also splitting the accolades to recognize Anudike-Uzomah and Duke for their three-sack afternoons.
K-State travels to Ames next Saturday night at 6:30 on ESPNU for a game which might very well define the season for both teams. K-State could come out of it 3-0 in conference, while Iowa State could end up 0-3. Alternatively, both teams could end up 2-1 afterward. Much depends on the outcome in Lawrence tonight.