Football

Second-half defense, run game leads Texas past K-State, 27-24

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Kansas State kicker Blake Lynch’s 45-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with 6:45 remaining. His boot tied the game at 24 just minutes after his teammate Joshua Youngblood’s 98-yard kickoff return made it 24-21 Texas. When Texas got the ball back, it had no plans to let Kansas State get another chance. Texas held onto the ball for 6:42, driving 67 yards on 12 plays.

With three seconds left, Cameron Dicker trotted onto the field needing to hit a 26-yarder to give Texas another last-second win over a Big 12 member from Kansas. Longhorn head coach Tom Herman called his final timeout, guaranteeing there would be no icing of Dicker from either side. Justin Mader’s snap found Chris Naggar’s hands, and Dicker’s foot sent the ball through the uprights for a 27-24 Texas win.

Malcolm Roach anticipated having to play defense one more time after Lynch’s original field goal. His side of the ball limited KSU to just 58 second half yards. He thought KSU would have an opportunity at more until Texas was putting the final touches on its game-winning drive with kneel downs from Sam Ehlinger.

“I thought we were going to go back out there,” Roach said. “At the beginning of the drive, I thought the offense was going to go down there and get points and we would have to go out there and stop them again. Offense did a great job of imposing their will. O-line, great job.”

That offensive line, and the offense in general, controlled a significant portion of the game on the ground against the Wildcats. Texas won the time of possession battle 31:19 to 28:41 against a team that was previously No. 3 nationally in the statistic. That control, especially the last 6:45 of it, boosted Texas to a win over the No. 16 team in the College Football Playoff rankings.

The rushing attack, led by sophomore Keaontay Ingram’s 141 yards and two scores and including a 34-yard third quarter score, was pivotal toward Texas gaining bowl eligibility. It was part of a 228-yard day on the ground for Texas.

“I think he’s playing with a ton of confidence right now,” Herman said of Ingram. “He’s 230 pounds, guys. I don’t know what he played at last year, but he’s a lot more confident in his body. He’s a lot more confident in his strength and his power, and the last few week’s he’s been playing at a really good level.”

Texas’ final drive was composed of several hallmarks of the Longhorns season; an almost-debilitating holding penalty, big Ingram runs, a third-and-long conversion from Ehlinger to Devin Duvernay, a RPO to Duvernay, and intriguing play calling near the goal line. Through it all, Texas was able to finish the 13-play drive in order to secure win No. 6.

The Longhorns fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter both times due to trouble with 3rd down defense. The Wildcats first score was a 70-yard touchdown pass from Skylar Thompson to Malik Knowles on the fifth play of the game. Their second score capped an eight-play drive with two different double-digit gains on third down.

Though Kansas State continued to have success on offense, none of their ensuing first-half drives resulted in points. The first drive after the second Wildcat touchdown ended in a punt, followed by a fumble recovered by Texas, then another punt. Thompson tallied 217 yards through the air in the first half, one yard shy of his career-best 218. Though he finished with a new high mark of 253, he only was able to throw for 36 yards in the second half.

Thompson and the KSU passing attack was the only part of the Wildcat offense that benefitted from a fast start. Kansas State rushed for 29 yards in the first half followed by 22 in the second half. The hot start helped KSU convert on five of its first seven third down attempts. After that, Texas’ defense limited KSU to zero third down conversions.

“We played better on 1st and 2nd down to make those 3rd downs a lot longer,” Herman said of the improvement on money downs. “We executed at a much higher level. We did our jobs.”

On offense, Ehlinger was able to add another touchdown pass to his name when he found Collin Johnson for a 21-yard score in the second quarter. Ehlinger became the third Texas QB to pass for 60 touchdowns in his career, and the third player in school history to total over 9,000 yards of offense in his career.

The other two touchdowns came via Ingram, one the 34-yarder in the third quarter, the other a 12-yard run early in the fourth.

After the game, Herman praised his team’s ability to navigate through any outside noise and play for each other in order to win. He mentioned there was “misinformation” said and written about the team, but his team showed togetherness and love of each other in order to overcome it and earn the victory.

It was despite a 14-0 deficit. It was despite an average day from Ehlinger. It was despite 5-4 staring them in the face.

Instead, Texas is 6-3 and still has a chance to get to Arlington to play for the Big 12 Championship.