KSU Bounces Back in Lubbock

The Kansas State Wildcats have found their next great quarterback.  Those of us that religiously follow the team were aware of the true freshman phenom, Avery Johnson.  He has made a few appearances this year.  Given his second half performance tonight, it’s time to take the training wheels off and let him run the offense full time.  In fact, the coaching staff may have already come to that conclusion.

Kansas State’s first half performance started to look like last week’s abysmal showing.  While Kansas State managed to score a field goal on their first drive, followed by the defense forcing a punt, the offense’s second possession ended with a punt.  After the defense forced a three and out, Coach Kleiman put Avery Johnson in.  Johnson promptly led the offense on a five play 59-yard touchdown drive, showing off both his running and passing skills.

Texas Tech’s offense woke up in the second quarter as they brought the lead to a four-point margin.  After Tech and the Wildcats traded three and outs, Will Howard was once again under center.    His drive ended on an eight-yard sack.  The defense once again forced a punt, and this time the reins were handed back to Avery Johnson…three plays into the drive.  After Howard hit Ben Sinnott for a 42-yard gain, in trotted Avery Johnson who eventually carried the ball into the endzone for his second touchdown of the night.

Texas Tech had 58 seconds left on the clock.  Behren Morton executed a masterful touchdown drive in less than 30 seconds.  He was able to do this based off a 30 yard pass he completed to Coy Eakin and then a 30-yard run by Tahj Brooks.  With Texas Tech starting the second half with the ball, they stole a score from the stunned Wildcats.

The Wildcat defense won the first possession of the second half after they forced an incomplete pass on fourth and two.  Unfortunately, Will Howard couldn’t get the offense going as the Wildcats went three and out.  Still, the Wildcats special teams pinned the Red Raiders on their own one-yard line.

Texas Tech had to start their third string quarterback in the second half; true freshman Jake Strong.  He showed early promise for the Red Raiders.  He started throwing short strikes until he hit a massive 54-yard pass to Colby McCallister to place his team on the Wildcat eight-yard line.  The Kansas State pass defense struggled against the Tech young gun.  A few plays later and Strong threw a touchdown pass.  The Red Raiders had pulled ahead, and the score was now 21 -17.  It was at this point that the KSU coaching staff finally made the right decision.  They turned the game over to Avery Johnson and never looked back.

The team responds to Avery Johnson.  He energizes them.  When he makes a big play, his example challenges everyone else to bring their best, including the defense.  His first second half drive started off fairly pedestrian.  In fact, after failing to convert a 3rd and 1, Tech bailed him out with a facemask.  The Tech defense forced another fourth and short a few plays later, but Treshaun Ward blasted up the middle for a 12-yard gain to keep the drive alive.  On a third and ten, Avery Johnson followed two pulling blockers and sped down the field for a thirty-yard touchdown.  Kansas State was back in the lead.

On the very next play, VJ Payne picked off Jake Strong and ran it back 17 yards.  Avery Johnson took the snap, faked a sweep and then followed a pulling Hadley Panzer thru the hole, threading his way to the endzone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the night.  For all his quickness and speed, Johnson is a patient runner.  He waits for his blocks to set up, and then he commits without hesitation.  He is also shifty.  He rarely takes full force hit.

Jake Strong started ripping throws down the field on the next drive until he was picked off by Kobe Savage.  The Wildcat offense stuttered this possession and was forced to punt; however, Texas Tech was once again backed up against their endzone, starting on their own six-yard line.   Once again Jake Strong started throwing strikes, leading his team to the KSU 30-yard line.  On the next play Strong was savaged again, as Kobe Savage picked him off in the endzone.

During KSU’s next drive, Avery Johnson started to show some different skills other than running.  He hit Phillip Brooks in the flat, then later he hit Chase Brown on a seam route for a 21-yard completion.  The Brown connection was a high-level throw as he was forced to go through his progressions as he navigated within the pocket.  Still, it wouldn’t be a perfect drive without an Avery Johnson touchdown run and that is exactly how it ended.  On first and goal Avery Johnson takes the snap and runs to the outside stretching the defenders, until he darts up towards the endzone taking two defenders with him as he scored his fifth touchdown run of the night.

Johnson showed us that he isn’t just a running back.  He is also a very accurate passer.  He finished the night connecting on eight of his nine throws for 77 yards.  He also had 13 carries for 90 yards and five touchdowns.  Apparently, he is the first quarterback to do that this season.  Ward ran for 118 yards while DJ Giddens ran for 53 yards.  Ben Sinnott led the receiving corps with six receptions for 72 yards.  Overall, once Johnson took over, he energized the whole team, leading them to victory.

The defense struggled in pass defense at times, but they found a way to force three interceptions.  The defense would have had a fourth turnover, but it was erased due to a targeting call.  Late in the second half, Jake Clifton speared Cam’Ron Valdez forcing a fumble and recovering it, but the turnover was wiped away due to the targeting call.

All in all, this was a great bounce back win and gives us all hope for the Wildcat’s remaining season.

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