Big 12 Champions!!!

No one predicted that Texas Christian University and Kansas State University would be competing in the Big 12 Championship game this year.  TCU was picked to win only five games and KSU was predicted to win eight.  Texas and Oklahoma were the pre-season favorites to be in this year’s Big 12 Championship game.  This year, TCU beat the Sooners and Longhorns while KSU took down the Sooners and lost a close contest to the Longhorns.  Early on in the season Wildcat fans were worried about what this season would hold when the Wildcats suffered their first loss to Tulane.  Who knew that Tulane, currently ranked 18th in the nation, would be competing in the American Athletic Conference Championship today.  Still, that game posed many questions.  Was Adrian Martinez up to the test?  Could he lead this Wildcat squad?  Was Coach Collin Klein the right man for the offensive coordinator position?


The Season

Martinez led the Wildcats to three victories until suffering a significant injury against TCU.  And thus, the rise of Will Howard began.  Though Howard went down for a few possessions in that game, he showed a flash of what was to come and how he would lead the Wildcats to the Big 12 Championship this year.  He led the Wildcats to victory against 9th ranked Oklahoma State and then Adrian Martinez was back on the field against Texas.  Early in the Baylor game, Martinez went down and did not return the rest of the season.  Still, Howard and Coach Chris Kleiman give Martinez a lot of credit for getting Howard ready to play.  It is after all a team sport.  The glue to this team is the coaching staff as well as the veteran players willing to share their knowledge to ensure victory.  That glue has carried the Wildcats thru significant adversity this year.  It carried them to a Big 12 Championship and a Sugar Bowl berth.


First Blood

Kansas State received the ball first, but TCU drew first blood.  After forcing a punt, TCU drove the ball 92 yards in seven minutes to take the seven-point lead in the game.  The touchdown was set up by a 53-yard pass from Max Duggan to Quentin Johnston.  Julius Brents was running hip to hip with Johnston, however Johnston won the battle for the ball.  The Brents versus Johnston battle would go on thru out the whole game.

It looked like it was going to be a long day for the Wildcats when they went three and out.   But, the Kansas State defense adjusted and forced a 55 yard field goal that TCU missed.   With excellent field position, the Wildcats started the drive off with Malik Knowles.  First, he executed an 8 yard rush, then he caught a 40 yard pass down the field near the right sideline.  On 4th and 1 on the TCU six-yard line, Howard takes the snap.  Ben Sinnott runs from the right, heading left, parallel to the line of scrimmage.  Sinnott turns his head back as the ball is passed directly into his waiting hands and he runs it in for tying touchdown reception.  Thus endth the first quarter; seven to seven.

TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston (1) is tackled by Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents (23) in the first half of the Big 12 Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Second Quarter Edge

The Wildcat defense began to assert itself and forced another three and out.  The KSU offense managed only one first down the next possession and once again the KSU defense forced TCU’s third three and out in the game.  Kansas State’s start to their next possession was as explosive as it was costly.  Malik Knowles took off 40 yards down the field on a jet sweep.  Unfortunately, he was tackled awkwardly, injuring him, and forcing him to sit out the rest of the game.  Earlier in the game, the Wildcats had lost corner back Ekow Boye-Doe to a shoulder injury.  Injuries were starting to pile up.  Will Howard found Deuce Vaughn down the middle of the field for 18 yards and the next play Howard walked into the end-zone for the go-ahead touchdown.  Once again, the Wildcat defense forced another three and out.  This time Brents blew up a pulling guard on a running play stuffing the run.  Then Brents knocked way a pass to Johnston on the 3rd down quick slant.

The Wildcats started another promising drive.  Hoping to slow things down to give the defense some rest after their quick scoring previous drive, Coach Klein started running the ball and running the clock.  During the drive, left tackle KT Levinson went down to injury, forcing Big 12 offensive lineman of the year Cooper Beebe out to the left tackle position.  Six minutes later the Wildcats were sitting at fourth and one.  Vaughn was stuffed on a run up the gut.  TCU had great field position and Duggan unleased a 31-yard strike to Johnston.  Johnston was fighting for yards when Brents stripped the ball from him and KSU defensive back Austin Moore recovered it.  Unfortunately, the Wildcats didn’t capitalize on the turnover and were forced to punt the ball back to TCU.  The Horned Frogs managed a 42-yard field goal before half time.


Third Quarter

TCU received the ball but went three and out.  Their three and out was controversial.  It was third and four and TCU was on their own 15-yard line.   Duggan takes the snap and scrambles to his right.  Just as he was about to pass, a KSU defender knocked the ball out of his throwing hand where it was recovered in the endzone.  The referees noted that because his hand appeared to be in a throwing motion that the pass was incomplete.  Given that Duggan is known for running, I have trouble with this part of the rule.  I think it should have been a safety and that this rule should be relooked in the offseason.  Quarterbacks who have the ball knocked out of their hands should not be given the benefit of the doubt if the throwing hand is going forward.  Many quarterbacks including Duggan are known to run, so a throwing motion could be a fake.  Instead of a safety being awarded the to the Wildcats, TCU punted the ball.

The Wildcats executed a four-play explosive touchdown drive culminating in a 25-yard touchdown catch by redshirt freshman RJ Garcia.  It was an awesome throw by Howard with defenders bearing down him and an even better catch by Garcia as he jumped up over defenders to snag the ball out of the air to secure the touchdown.  Then, the Wildcats forced their sixth three and out.  On third down Felix Anudike-Uzomah sacked Duggan for a 9-yard loss.  However, on the punt, a KSU teammate was blocked into Phillip Brooks as he was catching the ball.  Brooks fumbled it and TCU recovered the ball on the Wildcat 30-yard line.  A few short plays later and TCU scored.

Kansas State quarterback Will Howard (18) hands off to running back Deuce Vaughn, right, in the first half of the Big 12 Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Fourth Quarter Drama

Julius Brents started the fourth quarter off with a bang!  After committing a pass interference penalty earlier in the drive, Brents was about to make his best play in the game.  The score was 20 to 17.  TCU had driven to the KSU eight-yard line.  Duggan takes the snap, and just as he was about to be sacked, he unleashed a throw to Johnston, however the pass was flat and Brents had position and thus intercepted the ball.  Kansas State started their next march towards the endzone.  A 15-yard pass to Brooks, a seven-yard run by Vaughn, an eight yard quarterback keeper, then a five yard run by DJ Giddens.  The next play was actually set up by Will Howard’s quarterback keeper where he has the option to give the ball or keep it.  He kept it and ran to the left for eight yards.  Now, it’s the sixth play of the drive.  Its 2nd and five on the TCU 44-yard line.  Howard takes the snap and delays his hand off to Vaughn.  Deuce got loose for 44 yards and a touchdown.  Before he took off, he read the field carefully, juked a defender out of his shoes and took off down the field juking a few more hapless defenders along the way.  Before this play, Vaughn had rushed the ball 18 times for 67 yards averaging only 3.7 yards a carry.  His hard work paid off and the score was now 28 to 17.

Undeterred, TCU drove the Wildcat 24-yard line and kicked a 42-yard field goal.  Kansas State managed one first down on the next possession, but they had to punt the ball back to TCU with only an eight-point lead.


Max Duggan Heisman Moment

Max Duggan put picked the TCU offense up and put them on his back the next drive.  The KSU pass rush was withering all afternoon.  Though Duggan was only sacked once, he was knocked around in the pocket all game long.  The sideline reporter for ESPN stated that she counted over 20 points on his body where he was bleeding.  And yet, Duggan took the game over at this point.  On first and ten he took off for 15 yards.  His next play was a 5-yard pass that was tackled for a loss.  The next pass play was an incomplete and it was 3rd and 15.  KSU defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman failed to put a spy on Max Duggan and suffered the following consequences.  Duggan rushed up the middle for 13 yards.  Then he rushed down the left side of the field for 19 years.  After suffering an offensive pass interference call, he handed the ball off to Emari Demercado for five yards.  Then, on 2nd and 20, Duggan was flushed out of the pocket, and he ran it up the sideline for 40 yards.  On first and goal, a visibly exhausted Max Duggan ran the ball in for an 8-yard touchdown and followed that up with a two-point conversion pass to Jared Wiley.  As teammates attempted to congratulate Duggan, he swatted them away trying to catch his breath as he stumbled towards his sideline.  The game was now tied and there was no doubt in my mind who should get the Heisman after that herculean effort.

TCU quarterback Max Duggan (15) kneels in the end zone after rushing for a touchdown in the second half of the Big 12 Conference championship NCAA college football game against Kansas State, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Overtime Stand

Kansas State won the toss and opted to play defense first.  In one play TCU was on the Wildcat ten-yard line.  Two plays later TCU was on the Wildcat one-yard line, and it was 3rd and goal.  Though Kendre Miller rushed the ball fifteen yards and four yards respectively, Duggan rushed for five yards to get TCU to the one-yard line.  Mysteriously, TCU went away from Duggan on 3rd and 4th and goal.  The Wildcat defense stood tall, penetrated the line of scrimmage and stuffed Miller for no gain on both 3rd and 4th down.  It was an epic goal line stand.  The Wildcats put the ball in position for a chip shot field goal and walked away champions.


The Contributions

Will Howard’s fearless precision throwing the ball netted him 199 yards and two touchdowns on 18 completions.  Deuce Vaughn rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown while collecting two receptions for 30 yards.  Ben Sinnott, RJ Garcia and Kade Warner were significant role players in the pass game after Malik Knowles went down.  The whole defensive line beat and banged on Max Duggan all afternoon.  As noted earlier, Anudike collected the Wildcats only sack of the game.  Lastly, I want to highlight Jacob Parrish’s play.  Parrish was tasked to play corner as a true freshman, replacing Ekow Boye-Doe who went down in the first quarter.  Parrish played with sticky coverage the whole game.  He defensed several passes and wasn’t afraid to come up and tackle the running back.  Parrish has a bright future as a Wildcat.

Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman holds the trophy after Kansas State defeated TCU in the Big 12 Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

The Accomplishment

Today’s victory marks the Wildcat’s third victory against a top ten team this year.  The Wildcats took down sixth ranked Sooners, ninth ranked Cowboys and the third ranked Horned Frogs.  This is Kansas State’s third Big 12 Championship.  The last time they won the championship title is when current offensive coordinator Collin Klein was the Wildcat quarterback, and there wasn’t a championship game.  Before that Darren Sproles led the Wildcats to victory against Oklahoma in the 2003 championship game.  Finally, this is Kansas State’s fourth appearance in the Big 12 Championship game.  Coach Klieman has taken his first step towards a possible national championship run in the future.  This year’s championship is important for KSU.  It’s important for recruiting as well as relevancy.  It is a steppingstone to even greater heights for this mid-American program.  While the future is bright, right now, it looks like KSU is headed to the Sugar Bowl.  Go Wildcats!



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