The previous two weeks had been a struggle for the Kansas State offense as they got off to an 0-2 start in Big 12 play. With 95 yards in front of him in a tied game in the fourth quarter, Skylar Thompson made sure to put those struggles in the past.
Thompson’s three-yard touchdown run capped off a brilliant drive that put the Wildcats in front with 2:45 to play, and the defense came up with one final stop to deliver Chris Klieman his first Big 12 Conference win as K-State defeated TCU, 24-17, at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
“(Thompson) got hit a lot and he always just kept coming back,” said head coach Chris Klieman. “He continues to impress me and I just love the kid because he’s such a competitor.”
The winning drive was kickstarted by a 61-yard run by Thompson on a quarterback draw in which the middle of the field completely opened up. Thompson would later convert a 4th-and-1 from the TCU 20 on a scramble that earned two yards, and hooked up with Malik Knowles on a third-down completion that gave K-State a first-and-goal from the TCU 7. Two plays later, Thompson kept the ball on an option and rambled around right end for the touchdown.
“When TCU kicked it down to the five, we could have easily run it three times, punt it back to them, and take our chances,” said Klieman. “We said ‘let’s be aggressive’.”
K-State struck first with help from a special teams effort. Jonathan Alexander blocked a TCU punt and recovered the loose ball at the TCU 20 yard line. Two plays later, Skylar Thompson’s 21-yard pass to Nick Lenners gave the Cats a 7-0 lead. Lenners became the first Kansas State tight end to catch a touchdown pass since Zach Trujillo hauled one in back in 2014.
TCU tied the score on an eight-yard run by Sewo Olonilua early in the second quarter, but the Wildcats would respond on another Thompson touchdown pass. He found Wykeen Gill wide open on a slant for a 13-yard score with 5:30 left in the half to put K-State up 14-7. It was Gill’s first career touchdown reception. The Horned Frogs drove into the red zone with time running out in the half, but the Wildcats recorded a third-down sack and TCU settled for a 36-yard field goal from Jonathan Song with 0:33 left in the half to cut their deficit to 14-10.
The Wildcats took the opening drive of the second half inside the TCU 10 but the drive stalled there. Blake Lynch was good from 21 yards to give the Cats a 17-10 lead, but it didn’t last long as the Horned Frogs raced down the field to tie the game on a 46-yard touchdown run by quarterback Max Duggan. The score held that way into the fourth quarter, setting the stage for the 11-play march that provided the go-ahead touchdown for the Cats.
TCU had one final chance to tie the game, but after three straight Jalen Reagor receptions, Wyatt Hubert sacked Duggan on first down and then hit him to force an incomplete pass on fourth down.
TCU outgained K-State 366-266, but they frequently had a long field to work with thanks to an excellent day punting by K-State’s Devin Anctil. The Wildcat defense also excelled on third down, holding TCU to 5-for-14 on that down.
“That was a huge win,” said senior defensive tackle Jordan Mittie. “I’m hoping it can set some things in motion going forward for us.”
The Wildcats face Oklahoma next Saturday at 11 AM in Manhattan.