No. 25 K-State Cruises Past UTEP, 58-28

Postgame Notes

MANHATTAN, Kan. – K-State Football (3-1, 1-0) closed out its non-conference slate with a bang, romping the UTEP Miners (2-2, 0-0), 58-28, in front of 52,899 faithful at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The No. 25-ranked Wildcats dominated play, scoring 42 unanswered points on six-consecutive drives at one point en route to their third win of the season.


For K-State, it was a complete effort that saw the offense, defense and special teams all excel in their respective areas.

On the offensive side, the scoring was backed by an exceptional performance from the Wildcat rushing attack, which combined for 188 yards and six scores on 37 attempts. Halfbacks Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson, who each averaged over six yards per carry, accounted for 132 of those yards with the former crossing the plane on three occasions and the latter once.

The Wildcat defense was just as dominant, allowing only one first Miner first down in the entire first half that saw K-State take a commanding 31-0 lead into the break. The Miners, who entered the game averaging a gaudy 314 yards per game on the ground, were held to 59 yards total on 31 attempts with almost all their scoring coming in the late stages of the game.

And lastly, on special teams, wideout Tyler Lockett led a special teams unit that, along with a punt block on defense, totaled 150 yards on five punt returns with 143 of those yards coming from Lockett himself, including two returns of 50-plus yards that was highlighted by a 58-yard return for a score.

HOW IT HAPPENED | First Half
• The Wildcat defense got off to a fast start, forcing a three-and-out on UTEP’s first drive that concluded with Deante Burton blocking Mike Ruggles’ punt to give K-State the ball on the Miners’ 25-yard line. The block was converted into three points on the following drive and a 3-0 lead via a 25-yard field goal by Matthew McCrane.
• Trading three-and-outs, the Wildcats and Miners underwent a bizarre sequence during UTEP’s third drive that initially saw the Wildcats collect their second blocked punt of the game. The ruling on the field though would be overturned by the officials due to an inadvertent whistle, forcing fourth down to be replayed. Despite the ruling, K-State would go on to open the drive on its 49-yard line and respond later by extending its lead to 10-0 thanks to a one-yard plunge by Jake Waters.
• Officiating soon after played a major role again, as following the fourth-straight three-and-out by UTEP, K-State took advantage of the Miners’ special teams with what appeared to be a Tyler Lockett punt return only to have the touchdown called back for holding – the subsequent Wildcat drive ended with a three-and-out of their own.
• Buoyed by a continued relentless defensive effort though, the Wildcats’ offense closed out the second quarter with three-straight scoring drives. Charles Jones, first, pushed the lead to 17-0 as he took it to the house from three yards out in the Wildcat formation – his first of three rushing touchdowns on the day. Not even three minutes later, the Wildcats went up 24-0, as this time there was no doubt about a Lockett punt return, with the senior wideout scampering down the field for a 58-yard score.
• After UTEP picked up its first and only first down of the half, the Wildcats forced another punt that nearly was returned by Lockett again – this one returned 54 yards. Starting the drive on the UTEP 20-yard line, Jones scored from nine yards out, which included being carried the last three yards by left tackle Cody Whitehair, on K-State’s fifth play of the drive to make the score 31-0.

HOW IT HAPPENED | Second Half
• The Wildcat offense continued its scoring rampage, opening the half with another set of three-straight scoring drives. First, Jones capped off a strong performance with his third rushing scoring of the day, this one a four-yard plunge to make the score 38-0. The five-play drive that covered 75 yards in only two minutes was highlighted by completions by Waters to Lockett of 39 yards and 29 yards to Curry Sexton.
• Waters would get a score of his own on the next Wildcat drive, connecting with Zach Trujillo for a 44-yard touchdown to push the score to 45-0 with a little under 10 minutes to play in the third quarter.
• Eclipsing the 50-point mark following UTEP’s first touchdown of the afternoon, K-State’s response came on the ground via DeMarcus Robinson, who exploded from 40 yards out to give the Wildcats a 52-7 lead.
• The fourth quarter saw the Wildcat starters give way to the reserves and tack on another seven points. Following UTEP’s second touchdown of the afternoon, quarterback Joe Hubener, in his second appearance of the season, led K-State 74 yards down the field in eight plays, concluding the drive himself with a 2-yard score on the ground and a 58-14 Wildcat advantage.   
• UTEP would record the final two touchdowns of the afternoon, a 69 yard connection from Jameill Showers to Ian Hamilton and then an Eric Tomlinson four-yard reception that resulted from a muffed punt attempt by Mitch Lochbihler, for the final result of 58-28.

GAME-CHANGING STATS
• K-State dominated the offensive side of the ball, not only on the scoreboard, but in efficiency as well. After going 2-for-5 last week against Auburn in the red zone, the Wildcats responded with a perfect 6-for-6 showing inside the 20 on Saturday. Their 451 total yards marked the third time the Wildcats have eclipsed 450 yards this season – the first time K-State has eclipsed that mark on three or more occasions since 2012. For the Miners, their 1-for-8 showing on third down in the first half put them in an early hole they ultimately could not overcome.
• The Wildcat defense continued their strong play. After stopping Auburn’s FBS-best streak of 13-straight 200-plus rushing yard games last week, K-State held the Miners to their lowest yards per carry of the season at 1.90 YPC. The latest effort lowered K-State defense’s rushing yards allowed per game to 90 yards on the season heading into its showdown with Texas Tech next weekend.
• Special teams set the tone early for the Wildcats, which, along with the blocked punt, got 143 yards from Lockett on punt returns – the second-best single game total in K-State history. Both of those stats nearly ballooned further, as K-State had a blocked punt as well as a Lockett punt return for a score called back on officiating. UTEP, meanwhile, was held completely in check by the special team defense, opening drives on or within its 20-yard line a total of four times on kicks returned to go along with two touchbacks. 

With its non-conference schedule in the books, K-State hosts Texas Tech (2-2, 0-1) next Saturday. The game, scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff, can be seen on ESPNU. For more information, visit www.k-statesports.com.