MANHATTAN, KS — It was almost purple misery.
After the No. 18 Texas Longhorns shut out the Kansas State Wildcats in the first half, KSU head coach Bill Snyder made the decision to switch from single-wing runner Alex Delton to passer Skyler Thompson at quarterback. The decision almost paid off, as Thompson helped organize drives leading to 14 unanswered points in the second half. However, he needed one more score he never got, and Texas won in Manhattan, 19-14, for the first time since 2002.
Texas controlled the game in the opening 30 minutes, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats managed just 64 yards of total offense, while Texas put up 191. That defensive effort paid off on special teams, as freshman D’Shawn Jamison returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown to give Texas an early lead.
Sophomore Sam Ehlinger found junior Collin Johnson for a second quarter score to make it 14-0, and junior Charles Omenihu sacked Delton in the end zone on the ensuing series to make it 16-0.
“They were rolling out, and I recognized it pretty quickly,” Omenihu said. “On those kind of plays just try to get upfield as fast as you can. I saw the lane between the guard and the tackle and shot it. The quarterback was right there.”
Freshman Cameron Dicker hit a 28-yard field goal to make it 19-0, and after Kansas State failed to convert a goal-line opportunity at the end of the half, everything looked in Texas’ favor.
Thompson trotted out with the Wildcat offense under center to begin the second half, and when the stadium public address relayed that he was under center to the crowd, most of the 49,916 let out a loud cheer.
Snyder’s decision immediately paid dividends, Thompson led a 10 play, 82-yard drive to the end zone, running it in from seven yards out for the score. That drive was 18 more yards than the Wildcats amassed in the entire first half.
“The kid was playing really good,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said of Thompson’s performance. “We had guys in position. I remember one out route that PJ (Locke) had. He was right on the guy’s hip and he put it on the perfect shoulder. He eluded pressure well. I don’t think it was any slowness to adjustment. I think their quarterback played really, really well.”
After a good first half, the Longhorn offense struggled mightily in the second half. It went four and out on its first drive, and it could have been worse. Freshman Ryan Bujcevski had to jump to field a deep snap, and was forced to quickly get off a punt in the face of pressure that only went 17 yards. Texas’ next drive ended with a missed Dicker field goal.
After that kick sailed right, Texas had at that point undertaken two of its four second-half drives.
Kansas State scored on its drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters. A heavy dose of running back Alex Barnes and efficient passing from Thompson put the Wildcats within one touchdown of taking the lead.
It was a lead they would not get. They had an opportunity to drive for the go-ahead score following a Texas punt, but senior Breckyn Hager made sure that didn’t happen. On a 3rd-and-6 from K-State’s own 20, Hager knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage forcing the Wildcats to punt.
The Wildcat crowd was into the game at this point after remaining silent for much of the second quarter. If Texas didn’t succeed on its final drive beginning with 6:20 remaining in the game, a strong possibility existed that Texas’ woes in Bill Snyder Family Stadium would continue. If the Wildcats got the ball back, they had momentum and an offense under Thompson the Longhorns struggled to contain all afternoon.
They would not get the ball back. Texas bled clock over the last 6:20 to end the game in possession of the football, and end K-State’s win streak over the Longhorns at home.
“To end the game the way that we did when things were looking fairly bleak there for most of the second half, for the defense to get the offense the ball back up by five, and then I believe for the fourth straight week, our offense getting a few first downs and ended it taking a knee against the defense,” Herman said. “That’s pretty tough to do.”
With that, Texas achieved it’s first victory in Manhattan since 2002 under Mack Brown. Coincidentally, a piece of advice that Brown told Herman prior to the game in Manhattan was one of the main pointshe gave to his team prior to the trip to Kansas.
“He said make sure you tell your team that the Kansas State team that you see on video is not going to be the same Kansas State team you see in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday afternoon,” Herman said. “You’re going to get a more aggressive, a more cohesive, a more physical outfit. He was exactly right.”
The offense had it’s bright spots this game, including Ingram. The freshman had 68 yards on 10 carries, and touched the ball four times on the game-ending drive.
“When you’re in those situations and everybody in the stadium knows you’re running the football, there’s going to be extra guys,” Herman said. “We felt like he was our best opportunity to make that guy miss.”
It also had its struggles. Ehlinger completed 29 of his 36 passes, but missed several open receivers and only accumulated 207 yards. Texas didn’t play it’s best game, but still won.
“It probably does,” Herman said when asked if it was a sign of improvement that his team could win with a ‘C+ performance.’ “That’s to take nothing away from coach Snyder and the job that his team did. We won ugly I guess is a better way to put it, but the key word in there is ‘won.’”
In the end, it still resulted in a Longhorn victory. Texas now enters the Red River Shootout 4-1 against an undefeated Oklahoma.
There doesn’t need to be any additional motivation for that game, and the players know it.
“We’ll definitely enjoy this win and then focus on that team on Sunday,” Omenihu said. “Everybody knows what this game means. Ain’t too much talking about it.”