DJ Gidden’s 4 Touchdown Night!

Kansas State opens conference play with a victory over new Big 12 member UCF.  It wasn’t easy.  UCF isn’t a bottom feeder.  Situated in Orlando, UCF is right in the middle of some of the best recruiting ground in the nation.  UCF knew it was a primetime game and they were going to put on a show.  Led by Arkansas native Gus Malzahn, UCF put on a crisp and dynamic offensive show despite playing with a second-string quarterback.  Kansas State won, but it was anyone’s game late in the third quarter.

Tonight was the coming out party for DJ Giddens.  He carried the ball 30 times for 207 yards and four touchdowns.  He caught another eight receptions for 86 yards.  In fact, DJ Giddens as the leading receiver for the Wildcats followed closely by Ben Sinnott.  DJ showed a little bit of everything tonight.  He pounded out yards.  He blew through holes for big yards.  He picked his way thru traffic for touchdowns.  He even executed pass protection.  DJ is a complete back and that is a great thing to find out as the Wildcats begin the season.

Kansas State running back DJ Giddens (31) breaks free from Central Florida defensive tackle Lee Hunter, middle, and defensive back Ja’Cari Henderson, right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Travis Heying)

This game was a bit frustrating at times. After scoring a touchdown on the first possession of the game, Will Howard started a promising drive his next possession.  Five plays in, he threw an egregious interception.  In fact, over the course of the game, four of his passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage.  Several of his passes were off target, and a few were on target but were dropped by receivers, including Sinnott.  It took a while to get the passing attack going.  In the first half alone, UCF forced two punts and turned the ball over on downs once.  KSU failed to score on four offensive drives in the first half while UCF was without their best defensive lineman.  Thankfully Howard is unshakable, and he played thru his struggles.  Kansas State scored on every offensive possession in the second half.

UCF started the second half with a bang.  Johnny Richardson had a 51-yard kickoff return.  A few plays later after suffering a loss, UCF was facing a 3rd and 10.  Timmy McClain throws a tear drop ball Kobe Hudson for a 46-yard touchdown.  Bill Snyder Family Stadium fell to a hush.  The Wildcats response was muted.  They drove to field goal range, and the fans sat at the edge of their seats as Chris Tennant kicked the 30-yard field goal to tie the game.  Earlier in the game, Tennent had missed a 26-yard field goal to close out the half.

The Wildcat defense managed to force a punt and the offense went back to work.  Kansas State was able to convert a third down halfway thru the drive due to a roughing the passer penalty.  A few plays later, and UCF gifted the Wildcats another 15 yards.  Howard was able to find the endzone on a quarterback keeper, but he and the rest of his team were grateful for the 30 free yards UCF gave them.

Kansas State woke up at the end of the third quarter.  Their defense came alive.  The score was 31 to 24 and UCF hadn’t shown any signs of slowing down.  This drive turned out to be the most critical drive of the game for the KSU defense.  On the sixth play of the drive, Jacob Parrish interfered with the receiver to keep him from catching the tying touchdown.  It’s better to live to fight another day with a penalty than to let the opposing team score.  On the very next play, McClain was running for his life.  Khalid Duke finally sacked him for a 12-yard loss out of bounds.  The Wildcat defense smelled blood at this point and pinned their ears back and didn’t let the Knights have another first down on this drive.  Though they committed a couple of 15-yard penalties of their own, KSU forced UCF to attempt a 52-yard field goal.  Colton Boomer, the UCF kicker, missed.

Working with a short field, Kansas State knew they had to capitalize.  Ben Sinnott, Phillip Brooks and DJ Gidden led the offense to the endzone to put the Wildcats up by two scores.  Once again, Tennant shanked a kick.  KSU’s defense came out with their hair on fire and sacked McClain, eventually forcing a punt.

Kansas State running back DJ Giddens, right, breaks the tackle of Central Florida defensive tackle Lee Hunter during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Travis Heying)

There was less than three minutes left in the game.  Up 37 to 24, the Wildcats intended to run the clock out.  Unfortunately for UCF, Will Howard took the ball on a quarterback keeper around the right tackle up the hash for 31 yards and a touchdown.

This was a great bounce back game for the Wildcats.  They needed to get this win against a quality opponent.  The defense had to figure out how to play without their starting linebacker Daniel Green.  He tore his pectoral muscle against Missouri.  With his season over, true freshman Austin Romaine stepped in and received a baptism of fire.  Johnny Richardson burned the KSU defense for 48 yards, second defensive play of the game.  Romaine bowed up and helped the defense force a field goal.  Romaine flew all over the field tonight and looks to be an important defensive piece moving forward.

UCF Quarterback Timmy McClain deserves a lot of praise for his efforts against a tough KSU defense.  He anticipated well, and he was quite accurate with his throws.  Johnny Richardson really gashed the Wildcats defense a few times.  He only touched the ball six times, but he gained 76 yards.  If he touched it more, perhaps the score would have been different.  This UCF team will be a problem for the Big 12 this year.  The Wildcats are happy to get the win.

The Wildcats can now rest and heal up as they get read to head to Stillwater.



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