MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The only thing consistent about Kansas State this season has been Bill Snyder’s postgame message.
One that laments the Wildcats’ inconsistency.
Their yin-and-yang was on display once more on Saturday in a 24-21 victory over Texas. Kansas State was dominant on both sides of the ball in the first half, then committed a series of mistakes in the second half that provided the Longhorns an opportunity to make it a game.
“We played fine in the first half,” Snyder said grimly, “and laid eggs in the second half.”
Indeed, the Wildcats (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) raced to a 21-7 lead at the break, and added a field goal in the third quarter to take control. But three turnovers, including one by Charles Jones at the goal line, allowed the Longhorns (3-4, 1-3) to get within 24-14 later in the quarter.
The Longhorns couldn’t overcome their own multitude of mistakes, though. Among them was a badly missed 35-yard field-goal attempt with just over four minutes remaining that would have made it 24-17.
The Longhorns eventually got the ball back, but then squandered precious time with running plays before Shane Buechele hit Dorian Leonard from 6 yards out with 46 seconds left. Then they knocked the ensuing onside kick out of bounds, preventing them from having a chance to kick a tying field goal.
“It’s tough when you lose a game and we had the opportunity to go win it,” said Texas coach Charlie Strong, whose hot seat only got hotter with his third loss in four games. “We needed big stops in the first half and we didn’t make them. We were able to bounce back there in the second half — it’s just that we’ve got to learn from it, got to move on. … We’ve just got to get ourselves back together.”
Jesse Ertz led the Wildcats with 171 yards passing and a touchdown and 78 yards rushing and two more scores. He also teamed with running backs Charles Jones, Justin Silmon and Alex Barnes to pile up 240 yards on the ground against a Texas defense that began loading up the box to stop them.
The result was the Wildcats’ fifth straight home win over Texas.
“I was kind of upset after last week,” Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee said of a lopsided loss to Oklahoma. “That’s something you have to carry with you: The season isn’t over. You have to take it game by game.”
Buechele finished with 222 yards and two scores passing, but a big chunk of that came on an 80-yard pass to Devin Duvernay in the second quarter. Otherwise, Buechele was sacked twice and corralled most of the day.
D’Onta Foreman, the nation’s second-leading rusher, carried 24 times for 124 yards. But he was repeatedly stuffed in key situations, a big reason why Texas was 3 of 11 on third down and 0 for 2 on fourth.
“Beats the tar out of a loss,” Snyder said in summary, “but it’s not so much the win as how. If we play and prepare well start to finish, we’d be better. That’s why I’m not jumping up and down right now.”
TEXAS: After eclipsing 500 yards total offense for the fourth time this season a week ago against Iowa State, the Longhorns struggled to move the ball. They managed a season-low 344 yards on Saturday.
KANSAS STATE: The fumble by Jones at the goal line summed up the Wildcats’ inconsistency issues. The senior running back otherwise had a solid day but, as Snyder pointed out, “We’re all taught when we’re 5 years old to put two hands on the football.”
Texas was penalized 10 times for 72 yards, drawing four flags on the Wildcats’ scoring march to open the game. Kansas State countered with eight penalties for 75 yards. It made for a busy game for an officiating crew that also spent a whole lot of time reviewing plays.
The Wildcats had scored on 56 straight trips inside the red zone before Jones fumbled in the third quarter. The last time they failed to score was Oct. 17, 2015, in a shutout loss to the Sooners.
TEXAS: Ninth-ranked Baylor visits Austin on Saturday.
KANSAS STATE: A trip to Iowa State awaits Saturday.