It only took 38 minutes for Kansas State to find the end zone against Missouri State.
Three field goals from Anthony Cantele kept the Wildcats in the game in the first half before K-State opened the floodgates in the second and cruised to a 51-9 victory Saturday night over the Bears at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Quarterback Collin Klein finally got things going for the 21st-ranked Wildcats when he found Tramaine Thompson for the game’s first touchdown midway through the third quarter to break a 9-9 tie.
It was all K-State after that, as the Wildcats piled on the Bears and erased what was a first half all too reminiscent of last season’s Week 1 dud with 42 unanswered points in the second half.
“‘We talked about starting fast and we started real slow,’’ wide receiver Chris Harper said. ‘‘A lot of guys were anxious. That’s what it was.’‘
K-State scored on five of six possessions to open the second half — jumpstarted by Klein’s 18-yard touchdown pass Thompson with 7:06 to play in the third and capped by an 89-yard punt return from Thompson inside the final two minutes of the game.
The Wildcats, who had 493 yards of total offense, made it 23-9 on a 4-yard rush from fullback Braden Wilson with 14:19 remaining in the game — the first of five fourth-quarter scores.
Junior running back John Hubert then got into the action with the longest run of his career — a 95-yarder through the defense and down the sideline to make it 30-9 with 11:46 left. Hubert, who didn’t start the game, finished with 12 carries for 152 yards, while starter Angelo Pease had eight carries for 38 yards.
Klein then threw his second touchdown pass of the game — a 1-yarder to Chris Harper with 10:03 remaining to put the Cats ahead 37-9. Harper’s touchdown was set up by an interception from Nigel Malone.
Then with the game clearly in hand, Klein exited and gave way to Daniel Sams. The redshirt-freshman quarterback needed only three plays to get into the end zone for his first-career touchdown when he split the defense and scampered 46 yards for the score to put K-State ahead 44-9 with 3:43 to play.
Klein’s first touchdown pass of the night ended what had been a so-so performance marred by numerous stalled drives in the first half. The senior finished 19-of-28 for 169 yards, while rushing 13 times for another 54 yards.
‘‘We were able to get things correct,’’ Klein said. ‘‘We were better at the end of the game than we were at the start, and that’s what matters.’‘
K-State did move the ball in the first half - other than a pair three-and-outs — but couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. The first of Cantele’s field goals came after K-State got to the Missouri State 6-yard line and couldn’t get any further, leaving the Cats to kick on fourth down and settle for the 23-yarder with 9:26 left in the first quarter.
“There was just a plethora of issues,’’ head coach Bill Snyder said. ‘‘We played poorly the first half; we played better the second half. It was that simple.’‘
Missouri State had similar problems as K-State — able to move the ball, but unable to capitalize with touchdowns. The Bears outgained K-State 145-90 in the first quarter, but like the Wildcats, only had a field goal to show for it — a 24-yard field goal from Austin Witmer.
K-State then punted on three straight possessions before having to kick another field goal after an 11-play drive stalled out at the 2-yard line and set Cantele up for a 19-yard try.
Missouri State, led offensively by quarterback Ashton Glaser’s 257 passing yards, tied the game 6-6 with a 35-yard field goal with 2:05 to play in the first half.
Cantele then added his third field goal of the game — a 25-yarder — with 18 seconds to go in the second quarter that gave the Wildcats a 9-6 lead at halftime.
‘‘It’s kind of disappointing the final score didn’t show how we really played in the game,’’ Glaser said. ‘‘We missed some opportunities, and we’ve got to take advantage of them next time.’‘
The Bears, who had 411 yards of total offense, tied the game 9-all on their third field goal of the game with 10:43 to play in the third quarter. It was downhill after that, though, as Missouri State punted four times, turned the ball over on downs and threw an interception on its next six possessions to end the game.