LUBBOCK, Texas – Kansas State didn’t change much at halftime despite trailing Texas Tech by two touchdowns.
The outcome wasn't much different from recent seasons either — a sixth straight victory in the series for the Wildcats, who ended their longest Big 12 skid since joining the league in 1996.
Skylar Thompson passed for 296 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and Kansas State came up with sacks on the final two plays by the Red Raiders in a 25-24 victory Saturday.
“We didn’t change that many calls; we just played them better,” said Kansas State's Chris Klieman, who is 3-0 against Matt Wells of Texas Tech in a matchup of coaches who joined the conference together in 2019.
“It was a very simple game plan. We told the guys we were going to keep the game plan really simple so they could play fast. In the first half we played fast and made mistakes ... and in the second half we kept it pretty simple, played faster and made plays.”
Thompson’s 22-yard TD pass to Deuce Vaughn with just over six minutes left helped the Wildcats (4-3, 1-3 Big 12) rally from a 24-10 halftime deficit with a second-half shutout that stopped an eight-game conference losing streak going back to last year.
The Red Raiders (5-3, 2-3) reached K-State’s 46-yard line with three minutes to go. But the Wildcats responded when Felix Anudike-Uzomah sacked Henry Colombi for a 6-yard loss and Nate Matlack dropped the Texas Tech quarterback from behind on fourth-and-16.
The decisive drive for Kansas State was kepth alive when Texas Tech’s Devin Drew was flagged for a hands-to-the-face penalty that gave the Wildcats an automatic first down on third-and-34. Thompson responded with four consecutive completions, the last to Vaughn with 6:09 remaining.
“The thing that hurt us was late in the game when we got the untimely penalties,” Wells said. “The hands-to-the face — that’s the one that really hurt.”
The Red Raiders were also flagged for holding infractions on each of their final two series.
Kansas State climbed back into the game with a third-quarter safety and touchdown following the free kick.
Anudike-Uzomah stuffed SaRodorick Thompson for a 4-yard loss in the end zone to close a two-touchdown halftime deficit to 24-12. Malik Knowles had a 31-yard return on the free kick and the Wildcats drove 69 yards to pull within 24-19 on Vaughn’s second rushing TD, a 2-yard burst on fourth-and-1.
Tech Tech stunned the Wildcats early, scoring after just two offensive snaps — both running plays by receivers — and recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
Erik Ezukanma put the Red Raiders up when he took a jet sweep handoff and dashed 45 yards. Tyrique Matthews smothered Malik Knowles’ fumble on the kickoff and Texas Tech took possession at the 23-yard-line.
Sticking mostly to the ground, the Red Raiders drove the short distance and made it 14-0 when Thompson ducked into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard-line.
“We did what we wanted: Got right out of the gate and started fast,” Wells said. “We played good ball the rest of the half.”
Kansas State: Vaughn fell short of 100 yards rushing for the fourth consecutive game after hitting triple digits in each of the first three games. But his impact was significant. He had 120 scrimmage yards (52 rushing, 68 receiving) and three TDs.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders led by 14 points three different times while trying to win consecutive Big 12 games for the first time under Wells. Now they're still a win shy of bowl eligibility, and there's a good chance at least three of their remaining four opponents will be ranked.
The Wildcats outgained Texas Tech 220-102 after halftime and didn't allow the Red Raiders to convert a third down. K-State’s last three complete possessions covered 69 yards (TD), 71 yards (lost fumble) and 66 yards (TD).
“We sort of just settled in on defense, and that was important because you can’t play defense frantically,” Klieman said. “We settled in and played good team defense, and that’s what you have to do.”
Kansas State: TCU at home next Saturday.
Texas Tech: at No. 3 Oklahoma next Saturday. The Red Raiders have lost four in a row in Norman, the past three by an average score of 55-24.
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