Wildcats Shine in Win over UTEP
Under clear blue Kansas skies, the No. 25 K-State Wildcats defeated the UTEP Miners, 58-28, before a passionate crowd of 52,899 - Bill Snyder Family Stadium's 16th-consecutive sellout.
From an outstanding effort on the defensive end of the ball to chart-climbing performances from senior wide receiver Tyler Lockett, it was a morning to remember in the Little Apple.
Defensively, the Wildcats opened the ballgame nearly perfect.
"In the first half, we had five consecutive three-and-outs, I mean, you can't get much better than that," explained K-State head coach Bill Snyder after the game. "As I told them on the sixth and last possession on the first half, when (UTEP) got its first first down, I told our players 'I'm kind of glad that happened' because it gave me something to complain about in the locker room at halftime. Otherwise, I would have been speechless."
At the half, K-State led 31-0. The defensive effort was, as Snyder said, nearly perfect, and K-State held the Miners to just 30 total offensive yards.
"I'd give us an A," said junior defensive back Dante Barnett, who led the team with 12 tackles (three for loss). "An A-plus. The first drives, three-and-outs, I'd say that was really big for our defense."
Making the victory on the defensive end of the ball even sweeter is the fact that UTEP entered the game averaging 314 rushing yards per game this season. Miner running back Aaron Jones entered yesterday's matchup averaging 183 yards alone this season. However, the K-State offense knew what it would take to stop him, and Jones finished the day with just 47 of UTEP's total 59 rushing yards.
"We're really confident in our coaching staff and believe that they're going to put us in the right position," said senior defensive end Ryan Mueller. "They're coaching us up during the week and showing us what to look for, what to prepare for, and then, collectively, on the front four it's all about placement, having good footwork and knocking those guys back."
The defense saw players like redshirt freshman Will Geary and junior transfer Danzel McDaniel step up and make big-time tackles while junior veteran Travis Britz dove in for a sack and senior linebacker Jonathan Truman finished the game with 12 tackles (one for loss).
Defensive back Travis Green, who recorded a career-high eight tackles, said when everything is clicking on the defense, and everyone is playing as hard as they can, it's even more enjoyable to be on the field.
"It's fun," Green began. "When you think about it, you've got this team coming in that's a very good running team, so for us to go out and do what we did it's exciting. To be able to just defend them like that, it feels great."
While the defense is continuing to make an impact for the Wildcats this season, so is Lockett. Yesterday afternoon, Lockett climbed K-State's all-time career receiving charts, beating out former wide receivers Aaron Lockett (1998-01) - Tyler's uncle - and Michael Smith (1988-91) to become the No. 3 receiver all-time in K-State history.
Lockett's 84 receiving yards in yesterday's game boosted him to 2,469 total career yards - 353 yards behind No. 2 Jordy Nelson (2005-07) and 563 behind No. 1, his dad, Kevin Lockett (1993-96).
"It's a great achievement, a great accomplishment," said Lockett to the swarm of reporters surrounding him after the game, "but I look at it as an individual thing, and I can look back at that at the end of the season, but as far as right now, I just want to win as many games as possible and get my team into the playoffs.
"I just wanted to come out here and win. We had a loss last week, so I was just trying to bounce back."
Along with his feat as a receiver, Lockett also recorded his first career touchdown off of a punt return.
"I think it was a great feeling because it was my first time at punt return," said Lockett, "but you have to give credit to the other 10 out there - they held up their guys. I caught the ball and there wasn't even anybody close to me. They did their part and I just had to do my part."
In the game's second quarter, Lockett caught the ball deep and used his speed to rush past the UTEP defenders for a 58-yard touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 24-0 lead. Overall, Lockett recorded 143 punt-return yards, the second most in school history.
While the K-State offense may have started the game slow, it didn't finish that way. K-State senior quarterback Jake Waters led his team by throwing for 209 yards and one touchdown on 10-of-15 aim and rushing four times for 29 yards and one touchdown. Waters' made way for sophomore quarterback Joe Hubener to get on the field, and, after subbing in for Waters in the fourth quarter, Hubener completed 3-of-4 passes for 54 yards and rushed four times for nine yards and one touchdown.
Lockett said he believes the recent struggles of this year's team in the red zone have only helped it become stronger and more prepared for the future.
"I think we're starting to get the hang of things," said Lockett. "We had trouble in the red zone last week, and we struggled a little bit on our first drives, but you might need that stuff down the road. We struggled a little bit at first against UTEP, but we responded coming back at halftime. Coach Snyder always says third and fourth quarter are very important, so (correcting) a lot of the things that we're going through early on, I think that'll really help us out and prepare us for what's to come."
K-State returns to Bill Snyder Family Stadium next Saturday, Oct. 4, with a matchup against the Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-2, 0-1 Big 12), who are coming off of a 45-35 loss to Oklahoma State on Thursday night. The game is set to kick off at 6 p.m., and will be aired nationally on ESPNU.
For quotes, stats and more on yesterday afternoon's Wildcat victory, click here.
K-State's Tyler Lockett runs back a punt against UTEP at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on September 27, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
(Center right photo caption: K-State's Travis Green upends UTEP's Aaron Jones at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on September 27, 2014. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
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