Braden Wilson tried to say the right thing, keeping his answers to a minimum of one word.
But the senior’s unwillingness to elaborate almost said it all.
When asked if he thought Texas Tech’s will on defense had been broken in the second half of last Saturday’s 55-24 win in Manhattan, Wilson said, “No.”
Then when asked if he was telling the truth, the fullback responded with another, “No,” and then smiled.
“Some of that is Coach (Chris) Dawson and what we do with the strength staff,” sophomore receiver Curry Sexton said. “It allows us to wear teams down a little bit. Sometimes teams start to get tired in the third and fourth quarters and with the way the tempo goes in these Big 12 games, we can keep going because of the conditioning we’ve built through the offseason program.”
Despite leading only 13-10 at halftime, the Wildcats came out in the second half and cut the knees out from under Texas Tech, outscoring the Red Raiders 41-14 in the final two quarters for the runaway victory.
But there’s no need to single the Red Raiders out for their second-half defensive collapse. They aren’t alone this season. K-State has been doing this to everyone on its way to an undefeated 8-0 record and No. 2 rank in the BCS.
Winning the second half has proven to be common practice for the Wildcats this season, who host Oklahoma State on Saturday at 7 p.m., televised nationally on ABC.
K-State was leading Missouri State 9-6 at halftime, but outscored the Bears 42-3 in the second half. It was the same against Kansas too, leading 21-14 at halftime, but outscoring the Jayhawks 35-2 in the third and fourth quarters. The Wildcats also outscored Miami 28-7 in the second half and then West Virginia 24-7.
“Our coaching staff has been a huge part of that,” Sexton said. “We come in at halftime and the offense, defense and special teams staffs make so many adjustments that are key to our second-half performances. Coach (Tom) Hayes, Coach (Del) Miller and Coach (Dana) Dimel are some of the best at doing that. I can’t imagine a coach being better at mid-game adjustments as they are.”
The Wildcats, who have won 18 of their last 21 games, have outscored opponents 193-89 in the fourth quarter the past two seasons. This year alone, the Wildcats have owned the final quarter 118-42 and outscored opponents 98-25 in the third quarter.
“The third quarter can determine who wins and loses, most of the time,” sophomore receiver Tyler Lockett said. “Coach (Bill) Snyder emphasizes that in practice everyday.”
Snyder doesn’t have a specific reason for the second-half scoring barrages, but acknowledges his team has been especially efficient in late-game situations.
“Collectively, I think we have been better finishers,” he said. “We have just progressed as games have gone on, whether that’s getting acclimated to the opponent and what they do schematically, or how they play physically - probably a combination of both, as much as anything.”
It’s a turnaround from last season when the Wildcats only outscored opponents 89-82 in the fourth and were beaten in the third quarter, 94-83. It was the first half where K-State excelled last year, winning the first quarter 81-61 and the second quarter 138-107.
Though finishing strong has been good for K-State, getting off to a quicker first-half start remains a problem, as the Wildcats are only outscoring opponents 47-30 in the first quarter. It seems K-State’s second-half momentum could be fueled by a strong second quarter this year, though, closing out the first half with a 92-40 edge on the scoreboard.
“With the slow starts, we obviously want to start faster because in this league, if you go down 10-0 to a good team, you never know hard it might be to come back,” Sexton said. “But what matters is the scoreboard result at the end of the day and the way we finish has been a big part of that.”