KSU Defeats Troy

Troy is no slouch.  They won the Sunbelt Conference Championship and turned around and beat a highflying UTSA squad in the Cure Bowl.  Kansas State made the mistake of overlooking Tulane last year.  The Wildcats did not repeat that mistake this year.

The offense was up and out of the gate fast today.  Will Howard led his squad down the field in eight plays to put the first touchdown on the board.  Phillip Brooks highlighted the drive with three catches for 32 yards.  The defense did their job and forced a three and out.  Then the game started to slow down.  The KSU offense punted their next drive followed up by the defense bending but ultimately winning the possession by stuffing a 4th and 1 rush.  KSU closed out the first quarter with a promising drive.

Troy’s defense made Kansas State earn their yards.  Nothing was easy.  Howard showed that he still needs a bit of polish as he overthrew receivers in the first half.  One of his overthrows was costly as it landed in a Troy defender’s hands who happened to be in the end-zone.  Coach Klein showed his belief in Howard in spite of his mistakes.  He continued to dial up pass plays.  Yet the offensive coordinator’s play calling was measured.  He mixed in a healthy amount of run plays for both of his talented backs.  Howard also carried the ball eight times for 33 yards and two touchdowns.

Though Ben Sinnott was curiously missing from offensive production today, Phillip Brooks showed his veteran presence at key moments.  The Wildcats had the ball on their own 34 with 49 seconds left in the half.  Most of us thought they might drive to field goal range, especially after Howard took a 8 yard loss on a sack two plays into the drive.  Coach Klein had other ideas.  First, he dialed up a quarter back draw for Howard who ran for 15 yards. 24 seconds are left on the clock.  Treshaun Ward, the running back, catches the ball in the flat and tip toes along the sideline for 10 yards.  18 seconds are left on the clock.  Howard takes the snap, drops back, scans the field and sees Brooks flying across the field on a deep end-cut and guns the ball downfield.  Brooks catches the ball in stride and turns it up the sideline and dashes into the endzone.  The Howard to Brooks play was a 39-yard masterpiece with mere seconds on the clock.  Suddenly, the Wildcats are up 21 to 10 going into the half.

Kansas State quarterback Will Howard (18) throws against Troy during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann

The Kansas State defense came out of half time with their hair on fire forcing four three and outs in the third quarter.  They only allowed 3 yards in 13 plays.  Khalid Duke collected two sacks for a total of 16 yards lost by the offense.  While the defense allowed ten points in the first half, they held Troy to a mere field goal in the second half.  The emergence of Desmond Purnell at linebacker is a revelation.  He consistently wreaks havoc.  This defense is fast physical and daring.

Overall, the team played well.  They converted 10 of 15 third downs, rushed for 147 yards and passed for 397 yards.  They have some penalties to clean up.  Five penalties for 45 yards against a Sunbelt team is unacceptable and could mean the difference between winning and losing in the Big 12.

Despite making a potentially costly mistake in the first half, Will Howard played his game.  He remained resilient.  He trusted his coach and his veteran teammates while leading the team to victory.  Will Howard’s best drive occurred as the first half was ending.  It was a “gotta-have-it” moment and Howard executed when it mattered.  Some consider Howard inexperienced.  I disagree.  Howard played well under tough circumstances last year.  He is responsible for significant victories last season.  He will continue to build on last year’s success.  On to Missouri!


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