FORT WORTH, Texas — On a night when offense came at a premium, it was the Kansas State defense that turned in one of its best performances of the season.
The Wildcats needed it, too, because very little went right offensively, even with quarterback Collin Klein back on the field after leaving last week’s game with an injury.
K-State — ranked No. 2 in the BCS — had TCU’s number most of the night, holding the Horned Frogs to more than 150 yards below their season average and to just one touchdown in a 23-10 victory Saturday at Amon Carter Stadium.
The win, coupled with Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M earlier in the day, should propel the Wildcats to No. 1 in the BCS standings set to be released tonight. It’s the second straight 10-win season for K-State and the ninth in school history.
K-State (10-0, 7-0) totaled just 260 yards of total offense — 145 passing and 115 on the ground — against a tough and physical TCU defense. One of the few scoring opportunities for the Wildcats was a direct result of a turnover created by the stingy K-State defense. The Wildcats took advantage of another opportunity late when the defense forced a fumble and set the offense up with good field position.
Sacked three times, Klein returned to the field, but not to perfect form, as the senior misfired on several open receivers and threw his first interception since Sept. 15. The Heisman hopeful completed 12-of-21 passes and rushed 15 times for 50 yards and a pair of scores — a 7-yard run in the first quarter and a dazzling 34-yard touchdown in the third.
“He played reasonably well,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “He made the plays he had to make in the ballgame, but we were probably a little conservative with him. We could have given him more chances than what we did, but he played reasonably well. He managed the ballgame, as he always does.
“TCU is a very fine defensive football team, and consequently, we weren’t able to do some of the things we wanted to do.”
K-State got on the board first with Klein’s first TD with 8:14 left in the first, set up by a 62-yard completion to Chris Harper down the middle of the field. Klein, who is now second in Big 12 history with 52 rushing TDs, also picked up a key third down on the drive when he rushed 13 yards to get the Cats to the TCU 7.
The Wildcats, who had a shutout until the fourth quarter, made it 10-0 on a 41-yard field goal from Anthony Cantele, who finished with three field goals on the night.
Despite its lead, K-State was probably pretty fortunate to add to its lead before halftime. Four of the Wildcats’ last six offensive plays went for negative yardage — a 2-yard sack of Klein, followed a 12-yard sack, a 2-yard loss by John Hubert and then 4-yard stuff of Hubert.
K-State was forced to punt away after the long sack, but TCU’s Deante Gray muffed the return and K-State recovered the ball at the Horned Frogs’ 5 with 2:33 to play before half. Yet after four plays — two backwards carries by Hubert — the Wildcats again had to settle for a 20-yard field goal.
“It was a struggle,” said receiver Tramaine Thompson said, who had four receptions for 35 yards. “They came out strong up front and schemed us well… It felt like we weren’t clicking and doing what we normally do. We couldn’t get rolling for a good portion of the whole night.”
Klein pushed K-State in front 20-0 when he made his best run of the night, rolling to his left and then cutting back to the middle, only to bounce it out to the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown at the pylon. Klein’s long run came on the heels of what was maybe his best pass of the night too — a 15-yard strike to Tyler Lockett near the sideline on third-and-14.
Things got a little crazy on the ensuing possession, when TCU started on its own 25 and TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin completed a 17-yard pass. After a 5-yard rush, Boykin was sacked for an 18-yard loss. That was followed by another sack of Boykin — this time for 9 yards — and he fumbled the ball with TCU keeping possession at its own 10. It only got worse, though, as the punt sailed wide right and went just 8 yards — setting K-State up at the TCU 18.
But as was the case all night, the Wildcats weren’t able to turn prosperity into a touchdown and had to settle for another field goal from Cantele -a 27-yarder with 4:24 left in the third quarter to make it 23-0.
“I knew that TCU’s defense was very good,” Cantele said. “Any time that’s the case, I feel a little bit more pressure to make field goals. I have to be prepared for that every game.”
Though struggling, the Wildcats still did enough against a Horned Frogs team that found even more ways to struggle on offense than K-State.
For more than three quarters Saturday, TCU did virtually nothing, totaling just 136 yards before scoring 10 points in the final frame. Boykin was 17-of-30 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked five times, finishing with minus-13 yards rushing on 12 carries.
As a team, K-State held TCU (6-4, 3-4) to just 96 yards on the ground and an average of just 2.9 yards per carry.
Defensively, Meshak Williams led the charge. The senior defensive end had seven stops, three for a loss, and two sacks. Javonta Boyd, Alauna Finau, Jarell Childs and Adam Davis also added sacks in the stout defensive effort.
“We played a good football team, especially on defense,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “We wanted to run the football and move the ball downfield, but they were too good up front with our group and we didn’t handle them very well in passing situations.”
TCU finally got on the board with 6:59 to play in the game when Jaden Oberkrom converted on a 35-yard field goal, capping a 13-play, 59-yard possession that chewed more than six minutes off the clock. The Horned Frogs, who have lost three games at home this season, then made it 23-10 with 27 seconds left on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Boykin to Brandon Carter.
“We come out here with the same plan each and every week, and just have to execute,” K-State safety Jarard Milo said. “Today, we had a great presence from our defensive line, and the secondary was able to contain the pass and run.
“But we still have a lot of work to do.”
K-State won’t have much time, as usual, because the Wildcats will head back to Texas this Saturday to play the Baylor Bears in a 7 p.m. kickoff on ESPN, perhaps as the No. 1 team in the country.