K-State Wildcats Football: Grades, analysis from Tech win

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Kansas State tight end Briley Moore (0) celebrates with Kansas State tight end Konner Fox (81) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas State tight end Briley Moore (0) celebrates with Kansas State tight end Konner Fox (81) after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


The Kansas State Wildcats lost their starting quarterback on Saturday, but that didn’t prevent them from defeating the Texas Tech Red Raiders 31-21 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

With the win, K-State (2-1, 2-0 Big 12) is now improbably two games clear of Oklahoma and one game up on Texas in the conference standings. Iowa State and Oklahoma State are the only other teams with undefeated league records, which means the Wildcats (for now) have as good a chance as anyone to reach the Big 12 championship game in December.

Here are grades from K-State’s latest victory and a look ahead to its next game at TCU.


Before long, we may need to rename this award after Deuce Vaughn.

The freshman Kansas State running back was more electric than ever against Texas Tech. He rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He caught three passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. And he continued his assault on the K-State record books.

After beginning the season third on K-State’s depth chart at running back, he has quickly emerged as the best player on the entire roster by gaining 439 all-purpose yards and scoring four touchdowns in his first three college games.

K-State offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham found creative ways to get him the ball on Saturday, including lining him up at receiver and getting the ball to him on the perimeter. His two biggest plays came on a 22-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and a 70-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats leaned on him hard after Thompson was knocked out of the game in the first half and he still delivered. He may be the best skill player to reside in Manhattan since Tyler Lockett.


Senior tight end Briley Moore edged out Vaughn with a jaw-dropping catch and run in the fourth quarter, because the game appeared to be slipping away from the Wildcats until he caught a pass across the middle and rumbled 66 yards to put K-State in the red zone.

Texas Tech was coming off three consecutive touchdown drives and owned a 21-17 lead after trailing 14-0. K-State was in trouble, especially with freshman quarterback Will Howard in command of the offense instead of Thompson.

But he kept his cool and delivered a strike to Moore as he came open. And Moore somehow wiggled past a pair of defenders and tip-toed his way up the sideline for a monster gain that allowed Harry Trotter to punch in the go-ahead touchdown moments later.

Texas Tech easily could have gone on to win the game had K-State come up empty on that drive.


The Wildcats have blocked a punt on special teams and also intercepted a pass on defense in three straight games to start the season. That is a big reason why they are off to an undefeated start in Big 12 play. Seth Porter had the block on Saturday, while Jahron McPherson came up with the pick.


“I’m so proud of the fact that we were able to come back after being down 21-17. I told the guys in the locker room, that was as great of a win as the Oklahoma game a week before. This was bigger because we had to bounce back from a big road win and we came back and played really well against Texas Tech and found a way to win.” – Chris Klieman.


Offense: B. It took a little while for the Wildcats to move the ball consistently after Skylar Thompson was knocked out of the game, but Deuce Vaughn and Briley Moore helped Will Howard find a groove and create big plays in the fourth quarter and he finished with 173 yards and a touchdown on 7 of 12 attempts. K-State finished with a season-high 198 rushing yards and 202 passing yards. That was by far the most balance it has shown this season. The offensive line continues to show improvement, but the Wildcats need to get more from their receivers, who only caught a combined total of five passes.

Defense: B. Joe Klanderman’s unit is hard to grade this week. The Wildcats pitched a shutout in the first half thanks to a pair of missed field goals from Texas Tech and came up with an interception when they had to have one late. But they also allowed 506 yards and were dominated in the third quarter as the Red Raiders cruised to three straight touchdown drives and took a 21-17 lead. At times, running between the tackles was way too easy. Xavier White finished with 113 rushing yards. Elijah Sullivan and McPherson both played well, and there were some positives here. But there were also some concerns.

Special Teams: B+. Another game, another blocked punt for the Wildcats. That part of special teams has become a real weapon for Chris Klieman’s team. Blake Lynch also connected on his only field goal attempt. This unit’s only downfall on Saturday was a poorly conceived fake in the first quarter.

Coaching: A. Chris Klieman guided the Wildcats to victory on a day when they lost their starting quarterback to injury, as well as a key receiver and a notable offensive lineman because of injuries. He did an excellent job recruiting newcomers that were ready to contribute this season. Afterward, Klieman described the victory as bigger than the one they pulled off last week at Oklahoma. While that is obviously hyperbole, there was much more stress related to this game.


It remains unclear when Thompson will be ready to play his next game for K-State, but it seems like a long shot that he will be healthy in time to take the field against TCU next week after spending the entire second half of the Texas Tech game watching from the sideline with his right arm in a sling.

That will make K-State’s trip to Fort Worth a challenge.

TCU will probably be favored after going on the road and defeating Texas 33-31 on Saturday. The Horned Frogs amassed 528 yards of offense against the Longhorns with Max Duggan back at quarterback, and they will look to build on that at home against K-State.

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and four children.

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