Kansas State tightens grips on Texas Tech in second half to key rally

Don Williams
Topeka Capital-Journal

LUBBOCK, Texas — Kansas State made that interesting. 

Trailing by a two-touchdown deficit in the first four minutes, and still down by 14 at halftime, Kansas State rallied to beat the Red Raiders 25-24 on Saturday afternoon at Jones AT&T Stadium.

Kansas State (4-3, 1-3 in the Big 12) snapped an eight-game losing streak in Big 12 games — and in an unlikely fashion. The Wildcats overcame a third-and-34 on their game-winning drive. 

Meanwhile, Red Raiders (5-3, 2-3) blew the lead and a chance to become bowl eligible after eight games. They're likely to be underdogs in each of their last four games.

Kansas State never led until Skylar Thompson threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Deuce Vaughn with 6:09 left in the game. The go-ahead score made it 25-24, and Thompson's two-point conversion pass for Vaughn failed.

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The score capped an improbable drive kept alive by a Tech penalty. Backed up by two penalties and two sacks by Tyree Wilson, K-State faced third-and-34. Thompson hit Landry Weber for 18 yards, and officials called Tech defensive lineman Devin Drew for a hands-to-the face penalty on a Kansas State offensive linemen.

The automatic first down gave Kansas State new life at the Tech 45-yard line with 8:47 left. Four plays later, Thompson lofted a touch pass to Vaughn over a Tech linebacker, and the Wildcats' sparkplug had an easy route to the end zone.

Tech quarterback Henry Colombi bolted for a 28-yard gain on Tech's ensuing series, and a fourth-down conversion gave the Red Raiders a first down at the K-State 46. The Red Raiders had plenty of time left to get into position for a field goal from Jonathan Garibay, who's kicked two career game-winners.

The Red Raiders went backward from there, however, a sack on fourth down from the Tech 48 sending the Wildcats home victorious.

The Thompson-to-Vaughn TD capped a second half in which K-State outscored Tech 15-0. Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah blew threw Tech tackle T.J. Storment and tackled SaRodorick Thompson for a safety that cut Tech's lead to 24-12.

After the ensuing free kick, Kansas State put together a drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown by Vaughn on fourth-and-1.

Tech led 14-0 after only eight plays from scrimmage. The Red Raiders took the ball after winning the coin toss and needed two plays — a 30-yard run by Myles Price and a 45-yard touchdown by Erik Ezukanma on a jet sweep — to reach the end zone.

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Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson (7) passes in the first half against Texas Tech at Jones AT&T Stadium.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tyrique Matthews ripped the ball out from return man Malik Knowles and McLane Mannix recovered at the K-State 23-yard line. Six plays later, on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Thompson went in for a 14-0 lead.

Kansas State got back within 14-7 via a 14-play drive that took 10 minutes and 4 seconds off the clock. The Wildcats converted a fourth-and-4 and a third-and-7, and on third-and-goal Vaughn dove over from the 1.

Tech answered that with Thompson's 4-yard touchdown at the end of a 10-play, 75-yard march, highlighted by Colombi firing a 40-yard pass tight traffic to Price.

Kansas State got a golden opportunity with a little more than six minutes to go before halftime. Believing he had drawn K-State offside and had a free play, Colombi threw over the middle into a crowd. Safety Russ Yeast intercepted, returned the ball to the Tech 35 and officials didn't call the Wildcats offside.

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K-State advanced to first-and-goal at the 8, but the defense held. Tech defensive backs were johnny on the spot to tackle Vaughn after two short passes, and on third-and-goal from the 6, Jaylon Hutchings pressured Skylar Thompson into a long, cross-field pass that cornerback DaMarcus Fields batted down.

Taiten's Winkel 24-yard field goal narrowed Tech's lead to 21-10, but the half ended with Garibay's 27-yard field goal, making the Tech kicker 10 for 10 this season.

Tech had 2:40 left in the half after Winkel's field goal. The key play on the subsequent 10-play drive was a 48-yard pass from Colombi to tight end Travis Koontz.