SE: K-State Defense Steps Up Late in Win over Texas

The game seemed well in hands, and then it didn’t. Enter K-State’s defense, which saved the Wildcats’ 24-21 victory over Texas on Saturday in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. 

“We like putting the game on us. That’s what we live for,” K-State sophomore defensive back D.J. Reed said. “We like the game in our hands.”

Up 24-14, K-State held the ball and the keys to a fifth-straight home victory over the Longhorns. That was until an interception opened the doors back up for a potential Texas comeback with 9:50 to play, but the Wildcats’ defense slammed it back shut. 

“We have a great defense,” K-State receiver Dominique Heath said. “As long as the offense comes out striking like we did in the first two quarters, we have a chance with anybody because we know our defense is going to stop teams, especially when they have to. I love our defense for that.”

After the turnover, which gave Texas the ball at the Wildcats’ 36-yard line, K-State stuffed consecutive inside runs to put the Longhorns in a third-and-6. It’s the type of scenario senior defensive end Jordan Willis dreams about. 

Without the concern of a run, Willis speed-rushed around the right side and, while still being blocked, stripped Texas quarterback Shane Buechele. While the Longhorns recovered it, it pushed them into a fourth-and-16 situation. 

“He was super. He just plays so hard and he prepares exactly that way,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said of Willis, whose two sacks against Texas moved him to fourth on the Wildcats’ all-time sack list with 22.5. “There is not one-tenth of a second of any snap that he takes that is not the best effort he has in his body and his mind. I admire him and appreciate him so very much. He’s a great player.”

Reed polished off the defensive stand by making up ground late and breaking up a perfect pass from Buechele in the end zone, handing the Wildcats the ball back with 8:04 left. 

“He actually caught it and I was able to make a play on it,” Reed said. “He had me by a step or two, so I was fortunate enough just to get the ball out. It was a good play on fourth down.” 

Three plays later, Texas was celebrating another K-State turnover. This time, the Wildcats’ miscue was a fumble on a quarterback sneak near midfield with 7:07 to play. 

Again, K-State’s defense limited the damage. 

“We stepped up whenever the moment came to us,” said junior linebacker Elijah Lee, who matched Willis for the team-high in tackles with seven. “Our offense had turnovers and we have their back in those situations.” 

Texas moved the chains twice after the Wildcat fumble, but K-State kept the Longhorns out of the end zone and off the scoreboard. 

To start, Willis blew up a read-option play for a loss of 2 yards on first-and-goal. Another inside run attempt went for a minimal gain before Reggie Walker secured a tackle 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage to force Texas to kick a field goal, which it missed. 

“A lot of anxious moments,” said sophomore offensive tackle Dalton Risner, “but our defense came through.”

K-State limited Texas to 344 yards of total offense for the game, more than 150 below its season average coming into it. The Wildcats dominated third downs, allowing only three conversions on 11 attempts while also denying both of the Longhorns’ fourth down tries. 

“We just told our guys we have to dominate,” senior linebacker Charmeachealle Moore said. “That was the word of the day: dominate.”