The third quarter has been good to Kansas State all season.
That certainly was the case Saturday, as the Wildcats erased a shaky first half with a dominating third quarter led by quarterback Collin Klein.
The Heisman hopeful was nearly flawless after the halftime break, leading K-State to three third-quarter touchdowns to give the fourth-ranked Wildcats all they needed for another blowout victory — 55-24 over No. 15 Texas Tech at a sold-out Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
K-State, ranked No. 3 in the BCS, led just 13-10 at halftime, but all that changed in the second half when Klein orchestrated three touchdown drives — one capped by a 21-yard pass to Tramaine Thompson and two others finished off by Klein on the ground.
“There’s always a danger when things aren’t going exactly how you want it to make yourself even more out of rhythm by pushing too hard and being frustrated,” said Klein, who passed for 233 yards and rushed for another 83 yards with four total touchdowns. “We just hung together and waited out the storm and we were able to get it done.”
In the third quarter alone, Klein completed 7-of-8 passes for 96 yards, while rushing seven times for another 76 yards.
The touchdown pass to Thompson put the Wildcats up 20-10 and capped a 75-yard drive. Klein then made it 27-10 with 10:32 to play in the quarter when he rushed up the middle from 16 yards out — taking advantage of a costly Tech turnover at its own 20 when Randall Evans forced and recovered a fumble by Eric Ward.
After a touchdown by the Red Raiders (6-2, 3-2) to make it 27-17 with 6:18 remaining, Klein went back to work and sliced through the Tech defense again for a 22-yard touchdown run to make it 34-17.
Klein did in the second half what K-State struggled to do in the first half — run the ball. The Wildcats had just 40 yards rushing on 15 carries in the first half, but finished with 193 yards in the game.
“We didn’t do a good job adjusting,” Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “Klein started running the ball inside — he’s a good player and they do a good job controlling the ball and don’t make a lot of mistakes. They don’t turn the ball over and they only had one penalty. We would have had to play perfect to have won today with the way they played.”
K-State (8-0, 5-0) struggled to do much of anything right offensively in the first half, though — punting on its first two possessions and having to settle for a pair of field goals on two others.
“We needed to run the ball and when we’re having success running the ball, it’s when we’re coming off the ball and knocking people off the ball,” K-State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair said. “That’s what we did in the second half.”
K-State, which had 426 total yards, never punted in the second half, as the Wildcats scored on six straight possessions to reach the 50-point mark for the fifth time this season.
While the offense did its job, the K-State defense was equally as big, pressuring Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege enough to disrupt the Red Raiders’ high-octane passing attack. Doege finished 35-of-50 for 331 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw an interception to Arthur Brown that was returned for a TD and fumbled the ball to set up another Cats’ score.
“He’s a quality quarterback — there’s no doubt about it,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said of Doege, who has received some Heisman consideration. “It was the same feeling we had against all the very talented quarterbacks we have in the conference, and that’s that we need to do what we do and be what we’re about and try to do it as well as we possibly can and get really good at it. I think with the quality quarterbacks we have, pressure becomes vital. You just have to find the ways that best suits the young people you have so you can apply the kind of pressure to force quarterbacks to get out of rhythm.
“I think our guys did a decent job of that — only got two sacks today — but we had some rushes that caused some errant throws and gave us an opportunity. We had two dropped interceptions in the first half — clean interceptions — that you would like to have back.”
The Red Raiders, who had 442 yards of total offense, scored on the opening possession of the game for a 7-0 lead and didn’t find the end zone again until midway through the third quarter. They added a late score with five minutes to go when it was already 55-17.
“There’s some acclimation that takes place, initially,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said of the Wildcats’ slow start defensively. “We didn’t get adjusted to what was taking place as quickly as you would like sometimes, but that’s an awfully good offensive football team. We did get a feel for where we were and what was going on and I think after that — they moved the ball — but you didn’t see a lot of points going in the end zone.”
Klein, who is the perceived Heisman front-runner right now, relied on receivers Tyler Lockett and Chris Harper for the second straight week, hooking up with Lockett seven times for 62 yards and Harper five times for 99 yards.
“Collin kept us together and said, ‘when we get the chance out there, lets just make the most of every opportunity,” Lockett said. “We did that today.”
The Wildcats will try to keep their perfect season intact next Saturday when they host Oklahoma State. The game time will be announced today. It will be the last game at home until the regular season finale against Texas, as K-State will then hit the road for two straight against TCU and Baylor.