Kansas State’s 27-24 loss to Texas on Saturday at Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium could be used as an inkblot test.
For some, the Wildcats showed considerable grit while building a 14-0 lead and then tying things up in the fourth quarter. They were one play away from winning in Austin for the first time since 2011. Had Dalton Schoen secured a difficult catch for a touchdown on K-State’s final drive, or the defense held strong on a third-and-14 in the final minutes, the final score might have been different.
For others, it seemed obvious that the Longhorns were the more talented team while they amassed 477 yards of offense and made defensive adjustments that limited the Wildcats to 58 yards in the second half. Take away an end-zone interception from Walter Neil and a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown from Joshua Youngblood and Texas probably would have won going away.
Whatever the case, K-State (6-3, 3-3 Big 12) will try to move past this loss against Texas (6-3, 4-2) and bounce back in its next game against West Virginia at home.
Here are the grades from Saturday’s game and a look at next week’s contest against the Mountaineers.
Player of the game
The Longhorns produced several candidates on Saturday, but Texas running back Keaontay Ingram deserves the game ball after rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. K-State had no answers for him on defense.
Early on, it looked like K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson might be the star of the game — he threw for 143 and two touchdowns in the first quarter. But he couldn’t sustain that pace and finished with only 253 yards.
Play of the game
Sam Ehlinger found Devin Duvernay on the right sideline for 18 yards and a key third-down conversion on the Longhorns’ final drive of the day. They were staring at a third-and-14 from midfield, so they needed to move the chains in order to avoid a punt that would give K-State an opportunity to win the game.
But the Wildcats couldn’t get a stop and the Longhorns went on to win on a last-second field goal.
Stat of the game
The Wildcats ran for 51 yards on 26 attempts and failed to score a rushing touchdown. The Longhorns forced K-State to try to beat them through the air and the Cats were unable to do so.
Quote to note
“Our guys just focused on the daily process of trying to find a way to come up with a plan to beat them. I think a big factor was they had an open week and they were able to get some guys healthy and they had a great game plan and they executed it.” — KSU coach Chris Klieman.
Offense: C. The Wildcats knew exactly how to attack the Longhorns in the early going and jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to a 70-yard touchdown pass to Malik Knowles and a 19-yard pass to Wykeen Gill. Courtney Messingham called a beautiful first quarter. But little seemed to go right the rest of the way.
Texas made quality adjustments and loaded the box against the run, forcing K-State to attempt 27 passes while it rushed for just 51 yards. The Wildcats seemed out of ideas at times in the second half and tried a few repeat plays that Texas was prepared for.
It will be interesting to see if other defenses try to follow that blueprint.
Defense: C. K-State limited Texas to seven points and 162 yards in the first half, but the Longhorns erupted for 20 points and 315 yards in the second half. Kevion McGee stepped in admirably for AJ Parker at cornerback and matched Elijah Sullivan with a team-high nine tackles.
Walter Neil came up with a huge interception as Texas was nearing the end zone. But the Wildcats had trouble getting to Ehlinger, and when he was pressured he was often able to scramble away. The Longhorns hurt the Wildcats in the air for 263 yards and on the ground for 214 yards.
Special Teams: A. Freshman receiver Joshua Youngblood gave the Wildcats an opportunity to steal the game by returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Coaching: C. There’s no shame in losing on the final play at Texas, but this feels like a missed opportunity for the Wildcats. They led 14-0 and then crossed midfield twice in the second quarter but were unable to get any points out of those drives. K-State coaches entered the game with a good strategy, but Texas made better adjustments.
K-State will be back in action next week against West Virginia at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN.
On paper, it looks like the Wildcats’ easiest remaining game.
West Virginia is off to a 3-6 start under Neal Brown. The Mountaineers have lost five straight, including a 38-17 setback against Texas Tech Saturday. K-State should be a comfortable home favorite in this game.