SE: K-State Bounces Back to Top Texas Tech

D.J. Reed started it, and eventually the rest of the team followed suit. 

After getting beat early in K-State’s 44-38 victory over Texas Tech Saturday night in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Reed regrouped and made a game-changing play. Late in the first quarter, the sophomore corner jumped a short route, snagged his second interception of the season and took it 35 yards to the house to give K-State a 14-7 lead. 

“It just felt good. Coming off the loss to West Virginia, I was disappointed in losing and I didn’t play well,” said Reed, the first K-State player since 2014 to score off an interception. “Making a play to help my team, it felt great and getting the win felt even better.”

Much like Reed, who later had an interception negated by a pass interference call, K-State’s first Big 12 win was about bouncing back in so many ways. 

K-State’s offense rebounded from a rough outing against West Virginia, compiling 231 yards on the ground against the Red Raiders. The Wildcat defense responded to a 363-yard, 28-point first half from Texas Tech with a more stifling effort in the final two quarters. 

“Offensively we got a little bit better,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said. “That’s what it’s all about. Victories are team victories and that’s just the nature of the game.”

Texas Tech converted its first six third-down chances of the game, but after K-State sophomore Byron Pringle took a kickoff return 99 yards for a touchdown late in the first half, the Wildcats’ defense began to settle in. 

On a third down near midfield, Jordan Willis swarmed Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes for a sack — one of three for the Wildcats — to force the game’s first punt less than a minute before halftime.

“In the second half, we definitely got some pressure,” K-State cornerback Duke Shelley said. “We saw that right before halftime. When we could get pressure on the quarterback, he got a little shaky. That’s one of the things we decided to do was get some pressure on the quarterback.”

The Red Raiders went 3 of 9 on third downs in the second half, also being stopped twice on fourth down in K-State territory. 

“It was a team effort,” Shelley, who led K-State with eight tackles, said. “We came out after halftime, we came together as a defensive unit and we said, ‘We have to eliminate the big plays and we have to get stops.’ It was a group effort.”

K-State’s first fourth down stop came on its own 2-yard line, keeping the Wildcats’ lead intact and the momentum from swinging to their opponent.  

“The second half we just had the mindset that they can’t do what they did to us in the first half,” K-State linebacker Elijah Lee said. “We knew we had to buckle down and be ready to get this win.”

Freshman defensive end Reggie Walker picked up a sack on fourth down late in the third quarter, giving K-State’s offense the ball at Texas Tech’s 47. The Wildcats took advantage, riding Charles Jones for 36 of his career-high 128 yards that was capped by a 2-yard touchdown to take the lead for good. 

“There’s so many plays throughout the ball game that really add to it and were instrumental in the ball game,” Snyder said in reference to Walker’s sack. “You can’t say one individual loses a ballgame, and there’s not one individual play that wins a ballgame, but it was significant. Everybody had their moments.”

To help polish up the victory, Dante Barnett stuffed a third-down run for a loss of nine yards to set up a fourth-and-long the Red Raiders would not convert. 

“We just wanted to get stops,” Barnett said. “Our offense played well in the first half and we hadn’t held up on our end of the bargain, so we just wanted to come back in the second half and get some stops for our offense.”