The Kansas State football team stayed undefeated in Big 12 play with a 37-28 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
K-State (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) won thanks to 171 rushing yards and three rushing touchdown from quarterback Adrian Martinez and six sacks from its defense. Texas Tech (3-2, 1-1) made things interesting after falling behind 13-0 in the first quarter, but the Wildcats were able to hold off the Red Raiders at home.
Next up for K-State is a road game against Iowa State next weekend.
Here are some initial takeaways from Saturday’s action:
K-State won this game on defense
Martinez accounted for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
Deuce Vaughn rushed for 170 yards on 23 carries.
Phillip Brooks had a fabulous touchdown catch.
Those were three big reasons why the Wildcats defeated the Red Raiders and moved to the top of the Big 12 standings with a double-digit victory. But make no mistake, they won this game on defense.
K-State made life miserable for Texas Tech’s offensive line and quarterback Donovan Smith all afternoon on its way to 10 tackles for loss, two fumbles and two interceptions. Did we already mention the Wildcats also had six sacks?
Felix Anudike-Uzomah and Khalid Duke both created havoc in the Texas Tech backfield by sacking Smith three times a piece. They became the first duo in school history to accomplish that feat.
Kobe Savage and Anudike-Uzomah both forced fumbles. Austin Moore came up with a pick. So did Julius Brents. It was a clinic in opportunisitc plays.
Texas Tech still managed to score 28 points and gained 473 yards, but they had too many negative plays to keep pace with K-State.
The Wildcats also stuffed the Red Raiders on fourth down on two different occasions. Texas Tech is one of the most aggressive teams in the nation and thrives when it converts in those situations. It rarely happened on Saturday.
Credit K-State’s defense for coming up with enough stops and turnovers to swing the game in favor of the Wildcats.
Adrian Martinez is most effective as a runner
If it wasn’t abundantly clear, Adrian Martinez is one of the nation’s best running quarterbacks.
The Nebraska transfer showed off his mobility from the get go against Texas Tech by rushing for 75 yards and a touchdown ... on K-State’s first drive of the afternoon.
Martinez put on a show last week against Oklahoma when he rushed for 148 yards and four touchdowns. Even after watching that performance, the Red Raiders were not prepared to stop him. Martinez gashed Texas Tech for 57 yards on the first play from scrimmage and for another 18 on the second.
For some reason, offensive coordinator Collin Klein didn’t ask Martinez to run the ball on many other designed QB keepers. The Wildcats struggled to pick up delayed blitzes in the second quarter and seemed to pivot to a different strategy. But Martinez continued to make good things happen when his number was called.
Martinez also broke free for a 69-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarterback on a designed run.
That was probably his most impressive play of the afternoon. Not only did it take skill to slip through a small hole at the line of scrimmage, but he then kicked things into high gear and outran everyone to the end zone.
He finished with 171 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries, for an average of 14.3 yards per attempt.
K-State could have put this game away early
When the Wildcats stuffed the Red Raiders on a gutsy fourth-down conversion attempt midway through the first quarter, it certainly looked like they were on their way to a blowout victory.
K-State was leading 10-0 and had just taken control of the ball at the Texas Tech 33. Taking advantage of excellent field position with a touchdown would have been demoralizing for the Red Raiders and made it very difficult for them to come back. But the Wildcats settled for a field goal from Chris Tennant.
That was a sign of things to come. K-State had another opportunity to deliver a knockout punch on its next drive, but Deuce Vaughn lost a fumble at midfield. The Wildcats didn’t score again in the first half and punted on their final three drives.
Eventually, Texas Tech took advantage and made things interesting with a touchdown late in the second quarter and a field goal on the final play before halftime.
The Wildcats weren’t far away from leading 28-0. Instead, they were up 13-10 at halftime. That made it a close game until the fourth quarter.
Chris Klieman wasn’t happy about that and shared some harsh words with his team at halftime.
“We played really poor in the second quarter,” Klieman said. “I thought we let them off the hook.”
Khalid Duke is back at full strength
It’s safe to say Khalid Duke is no longer hampered by the knee injury that forced him to miss the majority of last season.
The junior linebacker was a big-time playmaker on Saturday. Not only did he look quick for K-State’s defense, he got in the backfield and sacked Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith three times.
“It’s been a long time,” Duke said. “When I got out there and finally started make these plays again it just felt good.”
If he continues to play that way, he could provide a major boost to the Wildcats. He was one of their best players last year before he suffered his injury.
It took longer than expected for Duke to recover from his injury last season. He suffered a torn ACL in K-State’s third game of 2021 and was deemed healthy enough to return to practice until the fall semester began last month.
But he seems back now.
Duke formed an impressive duo with Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who also had three sacks against the Red Raiders.
K-State and Texas Tech both gave us highlight catches
There were two highlight catches in Saturday’s game that could easily end up featured on as a top 10 play on “Sports Center.”
The first came from Texas Tech receiver Trey Cleveland, who reeled in a catch up the left sideline from Smith with just his left hand and then rumbled down field for a gain of 58 yards. What truly made that play impressive was the fact that K-State defensive back Ekow Boye-Doe held his right arm the entire way and was flagged for pass interference. Not even that was enough to stop Cleveland from making a big play.
Klieman called it “a big-time play” afterward.
Not to be outdone, K-State receiver Phillip Brooks wowed the crowd when he dove into the end zone for a short touchdown in the third quarter. Adrian Martinez hit him with a bullet pass at about the 5, and Brooks bobbled the initial touch, sending the ball high into the air. But Brooks stayed focused and corralled his own tip. Then he broke a tackle with a spin move and found pay dirt.
Martinez celebrated by flexing his muscles and pumping up the crowd.