Horns Hang On, Finally Banish Ghosts of Manhattan
By Steve Habel, Senior Contributing Writer
MANHATTAN, Kan. — The history of football games between Texas and Kansas State has usually been decided by sticktoitiveness, grit and determination more than flash and big plays.
Saturday’s 19-14 win by the 20th-ranked Longhorns on a gray and cool afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan., was no different ... except for the fact that this time it was Texas which produced the needed final punch to put away the dogged Wildcats and lift a huge monkey off its collective back.
Texas thwarts comeback attempt
The victory was the first on the road for the Longhorns (4-1 overall, 2-0 in Big 12 play) against Kansas State since 2002. Texas is now 2-7 all-time in Manhattan, a place of constant nightmares and bitter losses for the Longhorns.
“One of the biggest, if not the biggest, differences in this team this year is its ability to finish off games,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said. “These guys have the belief in themselves that they’ve worked hard and done the right things to get them into those end-of-game situations, and the validation that they received from winning in the fashion we have these past few games helps.”
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger passed for 207 yards and a score, engineering a drive that ran out the final 6:20 of the clock. On that final drive, the Longhorns mixed it up when they had to, with Ehlinger fitting in a pass to Collin Johnson for a third-down conversion to buy them another set of downs.
UT then put the ball in Ehlinger’s hands (and feet) three times in the final series before ending the game with two snaps in the victory formation.
“We knew the Kansas State team we saw on tape was not going to be the one we saw here today," Herman said. "We understand that they would be improved and better prepared and tough ... and that’s exactly what we were up against.
“This is another important step forward. Winning, and doing it the way we did in such a hostile environment is something we can continue to grow from.”
It was a story of two halves. The first was dominated by Texas and the second was controlled by the Wildcats (2-3 overall, 0-2 in Big 12), until the final drive by the Longhorns. Kansas State’s charge from behind was helped by 11 penalties called on the Longhorns; Kansas State had no penalties assessed in the game.
“We won ugly, yes, but the key word there is ‘won,’” Herman said. “We did not play our best, but we found a way to do so in critical times.”
D’Shawn Jamison got the Longhorns off on the right foot when he went untouched down the left sideline for a 90-yard punt return touchdown at the 5:25 mark of the first quarter.
Jamison, UT's mercurial freshman, retreated to the 10-yard line to haul in a 55-yard kick from Andrew Hick, made a stop-and-go studderstep to avoid the Kansas State defender, got a great block on the corner from Anthony Cook and sprinted to the end zone.
The Longhorns added to their lead on an 11-play, 89-yard drive on which they used a throwback pass from Tre Watson to Ehlinger to set the table for Ehlinger’s four-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.
The Longhorns’ defense got in on the action as well, as defensive end Charles Omenihu tackled Kansas State quarterback Alex Delton for a safety two snaps after tackling him in the shadow of the Wildcats’ goal line.
Freshman kicker Cameron Dicker nailed a 28-yard field goal at the end of a 13-play, 58-yard drive to move the Longhorns advantage to 19-0 with 7:15 to play before halftime.
Kansas State had a chance to cut into the lead at the end of the half, moving to the Texas 2-yard-line after a poor Longhorns drive, a short punt and a dubious defensive holding penalty on UT’s Anthony Wheeler.
The Wildcats’ final series started at the Texas 6-yard line, but only advanced to the 2 after three plays, setting up an all-or-nothing call on fourth down with 2 seconds remaining,
Instead of taking the almost certain shorter-than-an-extra-point field goal, Kansas State rolled the dice on a pass from Delton to Adam Harter that has a bit high and eluded the Wildcats’ fullback, allowing Texas to keep the shutout intact at intermission.
Texas outgained the Wildcats 191-64 in the first half, including 136-14 through the air. As dominant as the Longhorns were in the first 30 minutes, they hurt themselves with seven penalties for 80 yards, a statistic and impact that allowed Kansas State to stay within shouting distance.
The Longhorns’ defense produced its first first-half shutout of K-State in Manhattan. UT's 19 points are the most it ever has scored in the first half at Kansas State, topping the 14 points that Texas registered in 2006.
The Wildcats switched quarterbacks to Skylar Thompson to begin the third quarter and forged an 82-yard drive that ended with a touchdown run by Thompson from seven yards out that cut the Texas lead to 19-7 with 11:13 to play in the period.
The Longhorns drove to the KSU 30 through the middle of the third quarter before stalling and settling for a Dicker field-goal attempt from 47 yards that was wide-right.
Kansas State continued its total reversal from the first half with a 16-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by running back Alex Barnes on the direct snap on fourth down, bringing the Wildcats to within 19-14 with 9:55 to play.
But that’s as close as Kansas State would get, thanks to the Longhorns’ determination to draw a line in the sand and do what had to be done to finish off the game with power and stamina.
Texas returns to the field Oct. 6 when it heads to Dallas for a visit to the venerable Cotton Bowl for an AT&T Red River Showdown battle with No. 4 Oklahoma. Buckle your chin straps for that one, folks.