LUBBOCK, Texas — John Hubert’s slow start to the season is clearly in his rearview mirror. On Saturday, everyone was in his rearview mirror, as the senior ran Kansas State to a decisive 49-26 rout of No. 25 Texas Tech at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Hubert rushed for a season-high 157 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown on the Wildcats’ second play of the game. But he didn’t stop there, finishing with 132 first-half yards and leading a K-State rushing attack determined to punish the Red Raiders on the ground.
“Every time I come to Texas, I have a lot of guys I played against or played with on the other team, so it just feels good to come back to Texas where I’m from and get a great win on the road,” said Hubert, who has 438 yards in his last four games.
K-State, now just needing one more win to become bowl eligible, ran the ball 45 times for 291 yards, including 218 in the first half alone for a 35-10 lead at the break. The Wildcats only attempted 11 passes in the game — completing seven of them — and the first attempt didn’t even come until the 11:23 mark of the second quarter when K-State was up 14-10.
“That’s what we like to do,” K-State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair said. “We like to pound the ball down the opponent’s throat and I felt like that’s what we did today.”
Junior center B.J. Finney said the Wildcats’ rushing prowess goes back to preparation and what they saw from the Red Raiders on film.
“The coaches had a really good gameplan,” he said. “We were prepped for all the looks they were giving us… We knew what was going to happen when it happened.”
Texas Tech racked up 459 yards of total offense — 263 in the second half — and ran 40 more plays than K-State. But only one of the Red Raiders’ 96 plays went for more than 20 yards — a 25-yard pass in the third quarter.
“We hit them in the mouth,” K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller said. “Our offense did a tremendous job of driving the ball down their throat and we made the stops before they got hot, because they’re a team that’s capable of doing that.”
The Red Raiders scored on their first two possessions of the game — and not again until the 9:34 mark of the third quarter. The Wildcats clamped down defensively, forcing consecutive three-and-outs, recovering a fumble and then stopping the Red Raiders on downs on Tech’s final four possessions of the first half.
Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) didn’t have as much luck stopping K-State (5-4, 3-3). The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their first five possessions, averaged more than 8.5 yards per play and converted all four third-down attempts.
Quarterback Jake Waters gave the Wildcats the lead for good when he scored on a 1-yard sneak with 1:26 to play in the first quarter to make it 14-10.
After forcing the first three-and-out, the Wildcats’ other quarterback, Daniel Sams, got into the action and pushed K-State ahead 21-10 with the first of his two rushing scores Saturday. Sams finished with 81 rushing yards on 11 carries. Waters helped set up the score with a 16-yard run on third down and then hit Tyler Lockett with the Wildcats’ first pass attempt of the game, a 13-yard pass on second-and-17.
The two quarterbacks teamed up on the next K-State drive as well. This time it was Sams who did the dirty work, completing his only pass of the day — an 11-yarder to Curry Sexton — and then breaking off a 19-yard rush to get the Wildcats to the Tech 43. Waters capped the seven-play, 73-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to make it 28-10.
It only got worse for the Red Raiders after that, despite making a switch at QB from Davis Webb to Baker Mayfield. The ensuing possession got off to a promising start with back-to-back completions, but ended in disaster for Tech when Mayfield scrambled free for a 13-yard gain, only to fumble on a hit by linebacker Blake Slaughter. K-State recovered the ball at Red Raiders’ 32.
Five plays later, K-State was in the end zone again, this time via the pass when Waters bobbled a bad snap, scrambled free to his left and then found Tramaine Thompson for a 20-yard touchdown pass just inside the goal line.
The rout was on.
“We got outcoached and we got outplayed,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “They did a great job, outcoached us all the way around. We didn’t execute at a high level, and they did.
“That’s what they’re known for — Coach (Bill) Snyder is known as one of the best coaches in the game, and has been for a long time.”
Like the first half, the Red Raiders came out hot, scoring on their first two possessions to start the third quarter —a 4-yard run by Mayfield and a 31-yard field goal to cut into the Wildcats’ lead at 35-19. But then Tech got a little greedy with a failed onside-kick that cost the Red Raiders field position — setting K-State up at the Tech 46 — and provided the Wildcats with the boost they needed at the time.
“We did hold them to a field goal, but they were moving the ball and we weren’t moving the ball,” Snyder said. “Very much so it was a stabilizer. More than anything else, maybe it’s not as much what did for us, but rather what it didn’t do for them.”
K-State took advantage of the good field position, as Sams put the Wildcats on his back for another charge to the end zone. The sophomore ran the ball six straight times, including a long run of 27 yards, before punching the ball in for a 1-yard score to open the fourth quarter.
But when it rains, it pours — or at least on the Red Raiders Saturday. Mayfield completed a 10-yard pass on first down to start the ensuing possession, but was sacked for a 6-yard loss on the next play by Mueller and then threw an interception to Ty Zimmerman, who returned it 43 yards for the score and make it 49-19. K-State added another interception late — this one going to Randall Evans to seal the win.
With three straight wins, the Wildcats’ rough start to the season seems like a distant memory now, as the Wildcats inch closer to bowl eligibility. A win over TCU this next Saturday in Manhattan would do it.
“I think we’ve improved a good deal,” Snyder said. “We are getting better week-in and week-out. I think we’re better this week than we were a week ago… Offense, defense, kicking game, we were better today.”