MANHATTAN, Kan. – Behind touchdowns from every unit and a series of second-half defensive stops, Kansas State outscored Texas Tech, 44-38, Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in front of 51,540 fans.
The win was K-State’s 100th Big 12 win all-time, joining the ranks of Texas and Oklahoma as the only schools to earn that accomplishment.
With a defensive touchdown and a 99-yard kickoff return, the Wildcats have now collected 104 non-offensive touchdowns since 1990, which leads the nation.
In a game of halves, K-State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) was able to narrowly win both. Despite allowing 330 passing yards in the first half, the Wildcats used a defensive touchdown and a special teams score to lead at the intermission, 31-28. A defensive battle broke out after the break as K-State held the Red Raiders to just 229 total yards in the second half. The Wildcats scored 13 of the game’s final 20 points in the fourth quarter to claim the victory.
Junior quarterback Jesse Ertz led the way out of the huddle, completing 10-of-20 passes for 104 yards and one touchdown. Ertz was also K-State’s second leading rusher, gaining 83 yards on 10 carries, including one of the Wildcats’ two touchdown runs.
Senior running back Charles Jones had the other rushing touchdown en route to a career night. Jones carried it 19 times for 128 yards, a career-high, with highlighted runs of 26 and 31 yards, respectively. Sophomore Dalvin Warmack also contributed out of the backfield, rushing eight times for 21 yards. The Wildcats mustered up 231 yards on the ground on 39 attempts – an average of 5.9-yards per rush.
Five different receivers helped K-State through the air. Freshman Isaiah Zuber paced all Wildcats, securing three passes for 35 yards and K-State’s lone receiving score. Sophomore Byron Pringle hauled in two passes for 26 yards, while sophomore Dominique Heath and senior Deante Burton also caught two balls for 26 yards and 21 yards, respectively.
K-State finished with 335 yards of total offense with 231 of those yards coming on the ground. K-State ran just 59 plays compared to the Red Raiders’ 91 from the line of scrimmage and lost the time of possession battle to Tech by just under three minutes.
Defensively, K-State did all it could to contain Red Raider quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes completed 46-of-63 passes for 504 yards and two touchdowns, surpassing the 500-yard mark for the third time in his career. He also ran for three scores, all in the first half. The Wildcats surrendered 592 yards of total offense on the night, but allowed just 63 rushing yards on 28 attempts from the Red Raiders.
Sophomore cornerback Duke Shelley led the way in tackles for K-State, setting a career-high with nine solo tackles, while junior linebacker Elijah Lee was next up, recording eight tackles. Four different Wildcats racked up seven tackles, including sophomore cornerback D.J. Reed, who jumped a Tech route in the first quarter for his first career interception return for a touchdown. Senior defensive end Jordan Willis recorded two sacks, moving him up to a tie for fifth place on K-State’s all-time sack list with 20.5.
The special teams’ units, again, played a major role for K-State. Junior placekicker Matthew McCrane converted all three of his attempts from 20, 25 and 42-yards. The Wildcats only called upon junior punter Nick Walsh on three occasions, as he averaged 50.3 yards per punt. The special teams’ moment of the game came through Pringle, who returned a Red Raider kickoff 99-yards for a touchdown just before the end of the first half. Pringle’s return marked the 12th straight season K-State has returned a kickoff for a touchdown, while the Wildcats now have a nation-leading 42 combined kickoff- and punt return touchdowns since 2005.
The Red Raiders opted to receive the opening kickoff and it didn’t take long for the high-powered offense to get rolling. Mahomes found Devin Lauderdale for a 41-yard completion to the K-State 6-yard line. Mahomes scored plays later from one yard out to give Tech the 7-0 advantage and cap off the game’s opening 14 play, 85-yard drive.
K-State responded in just over three minutes. On the last of his five opening drive carries, Jones set up the Wildcats in the red zone with a 12-yard run. Ertz found Zuber for a 12-yard touchdown pass on the next play to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:28 left in the first quarter.
K-State’s defense would get the next score when Reed jumped a short out-route for his second career interception. Reed returned the pick 35 yards for the touchdown, putting the Wildcats up 14-7 with 4:19 to play in the first quarter.
But, the first quarter scoring wasn’t done quite yet. Mahomes and the Red Raiders took only 1:41 to even the game at 14-all, when he completed a third down pass to wide out Keke Coutee for a 61-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing possession, Ertz scampered for a gain of 27 yards followed by a Jones’ 26-yard run, but the Wildcats were unable to score from inside the 5-yard line. McCrane knocked through a 20-yard attempt to make it 17-14 K-State.
The Red Raiders answered with a seven-play, 68-yard drive, just 2:42 later. Mahomes eluded a collection of K-State defenders on his way to a 16-yard touchdown. Tech regained the lead, 21-17, with 11:19 to play in the first half.
Ertz completed passes of 12-yards and 16-yards to Burton and Pringle, respectively, on K-State’s next drive to put the Wildcats in scoring position again. Ertz survived a trench battle on fourth down from the 1-yard line, squeezing in for the score and 24-21 lead with 5:38 left in the half.
Texas Tech then mounted an 11 play, 80-yard drive that featured a 39-yard completion down the seam to Coutee. Once inside the red zone, Mahomes ran for his third score of the game from 3 yards out, giving the Red Raiders the lead again, 28-24.
Tech’s advantage didn’t survive the ensuing kickoff, though. Pringle returned the Red Raider kickoff 99 yards for the first half’s last touchdown score. K-State’s defense forced the game’s first punt on Texas Tech’s final possession of the half before the teams entered the locker rooms with the Wildcats up, 31-28.
Each team earned a stop to begin the second half, with K-State holding the Red Raiders scoreless on a fourth and goal opportunity from inside the Wildcat five-yard line.
Tech, on its second possession, would get on the scoreboard for the first points after the break. Placekicker Clayton Hatfield converted a 34-yard field goal attempt to knot the game at 31 apiece with 5:17 to play in the third quarter.
That score would remain until the fourth quarter, when K-State jumped ahead, yet again. After sacking Mahomes for a 12-yard loss on Tech’s fourth down attempt, the Wildcats made use of a short field, going 47 yards in eight plays. Jones carried it six times for 36 yards on the possession, eventually running it in form the 2-yard line to hand K-State a 38-31 lead with 14:07 to play.
After forcing a Tech three-and-out, K-State moved back into Red Raider territory behind a 31-yard burst from Jones. Unable to find the end zone, McCrane converted from 25-yards to make it 41-31 midway through the fourth.
The defense came up with another stop, turning Tech over on downs on the next possession in Red Raider territory. Three straight run plays for K-State didn’t produce a yard, however, as McCrane instead made his third field goal attempt of the game, putting the home team up 44-31.
Mahomes would complete another touchdown pass with five seconds left on the clock to make it 44-38. The Red Raiders recovered the onside kick, but Mahomes was unable to get off a throw on the final play of the game and the Wildcats survived.
K-State continues its Big 12 slate on the road against Oklahoma (3-2, 2-0 Big 12) next Saturday, October 15, with kickoff against the Sooners set for 11 a.m. on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2.