Jack Cantele will probably never forget Saturday night, and neither will his teammates.
(Kansas State sophomore Jack Cantele kicks a game-winning 41-yard field goal on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Cantele made four field goals on the day.)
Kansas State’s sophomore kicker sent the Wildcats to bowl eligibility on a 41-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to defeat TCU 33-31 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Cantele was mobbed on the field after his go-ahead kick that capped a two-minute drive sailed through the uprights.
“I really didn’t know how to react,” said Cantele, who had never made a game-winner before. “I was just so pumped. I started running — I didn’t know where I was running — and someone hit me from behind and I fell down and started beating the crap out of the ground. I didn’t know what else to do.”
Cantele’s fourth field goal of the night came on the heels of an impressive 56-yard field goal by TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom that put the Horned Frogs ahead 31-30 with 2:13 remaining.
“Where I made a mistake is not taking a timeout before they hit that 200-yard field goal,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “(TCU) has tried from 62 yards, so there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that he could do it. We were bantering back and forth, wondering if they were actually going to kick a field goal. I should have taken a timeout.”
With quarterback Jake Waters under center for K-State’s game-winning drive, the Wildcats wasted little time moving down the field — connecting with Curry Sexton for a 28-yard pass to get K-State to the TCU 40.
But as quickly as the Wildcats crossed the 50-yard line, they found themselves in trouble after back-to-back incomplete passes forced the Wildcats into a key third-and-10. Then deep into the pass protection, seemingly holding onto the ball for an eternity, Waters found Tyler Lockett, who came back to the middle of the field for a 12-yard gain and first down to keep K-State alive.
Running back John Hubert then rushed for a short 3-yard gain, which was followed by a 2-yard loss on a keeper by Waters. TCU called a timeout and then K-State was flagged for a false start on third down that made it third-and-14 from the TCU 32.
Again, it was the Waters-to-Lockett combination that kept the Wildcats’ hopes alive, this time finding the receiver for an 8-yard gain to the 24-yard yard line.
“You didn’t have much time to think — we had to go make plays,” Waters said. “You just had to go out and do what we do in the two-minute drill everyday in practice. We just had to make plays and that’s what we did.”
After Waters’ got the Wildcats into position, it was up to Cantele to win it.
“There was no doubt it was going in,” Cantele said, surrounded by reporters and cameras following the game. “It was one of the best kicks I’ve ever kicked. I knew the whole way.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson liked his chances with Cantele lining up for a kick beyond 40 yards, even though K-State’s young kicker had already been true from 42 and 44 yards out this season.
“I thought if we could make him kick one over 40 than we had a chance,” he said. “He had not been good, I think, outside of 42.”
Cantele’s kick capped a back-and-fourth second half after K-State had led 17-7 at halftime. TCU scored on its first third-quarter possession, needing just four plays to get into the end zone and cut the deficit to three.
K-State (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) squandered its chance to answer when Daniel Sams fumbled on the second play of the ensuing possession, after he picked up the first down on a dazzling run. It was the only flaw on Sams’ day as he finished with 109 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
TCU (4-7, 2-6) had the answer the Wildcats didn’t, capitalizing on the turnover and great field position at the KSU 41 with a 7-yard touchdown run by Trevone Boykin to give the Horned Frogs their first lead of the game with 7:44 to play in the third quarter.
The Wildcats surged back in front, 24-21, when Waters found Tramaine Thompson wide open down the far sideline for a 79-yard touchdown pass on third-and-14. Waters almost didn’t see Thompson standing by himself downfield.
“I was looking at Curry because I thought I saw that safety come over the top and then he jumped off and (Tramaine) was wide open,” said Waters, who finished 10-of-24 passing for 234 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. “I just didn’t want to mess it up.”
It was Waters’ second long TD pass of the day after hooking up with Lockett for a 74-yard score in the first quarter that put K-State ahead 14-0. Lockett made a move on TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, who tripped over his own feet and left K-State’s speedster wide open for the deep pass.
“To get a guy like that off balance and blow by him, what more can you say about Tyler right there?” Waters said of Lockett, who finished with eight catches for 123 yards.
TCU took a 28-24 lead with 5:43 to play in third quarter on its longest pass play of the day — a 51-yard touchdown to David Porter — going over the top of the Wildcats’ Dylan Schellenberg, who was in the game for safety Ty Zimmerman, who left in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.
K-State, which outgained TCU 411-350 in total offense, cut into the lead with Cantele’s second field goal of the day — this one from 34 yards to make it 28-27 with 2:50 left in the third quarter. Cantele’s third field goal — from 23 yards — put the Wildcats in front 30-28 with 8:47 to go in the fourth and capped a 14-play, 38-yard drive that was highlighted by a rare penalty being called on TCU.
TCU had stopped the Wildcats on three downs, forcing a punt on fourth-and-6. But after the punt was downed at the Horned Frogs’ 2, TCU was called for an equipment foul because it had two players both wearing No. 2 on the field at the same time. The 5-yard penalty voided the punt and gave K-State new life with a fourth-and-1 that Sams converted with a 6-yard rush.
Now bowl eligible, the Wildcats will turn their focus to the 22nd-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, who come to town next Saturday on senior day for an 11 a.m. kickoff on Fox Sports 1.
“That’s big and to do it the way we did is pretty special,” Waters said. “We wanted to get that sixth win to get bowl eligibility, and right now we have great momentum. We just want to keep it going — no steps back.”