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November 7, 2010

Wildcats run away from Longhorns

After a William Powell touchdown with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter of Saturday night's game between Kansas State and Texas, the Longhorns blocked the ensuing extra point attempt. Nevertheless, kicker Josh Cherry picked up the loose football, sprinted for the pylon, and converted the two-point conversion. The play seemed to provide firm evidence of one theory emanating through Bill Snyder Family Stadium: on this day, little could go wrong for the Wildcats. Kansas State scored early and often on its way to a 39-14 victory over Texas.

"It just seemed like everything was going our way," Daniel Thomas said. "This was going to be our night."

The Wildcats scored first and led 10-0 after one quarter of play. At the half, Kansas State led 24-0, despite the fact that they had yet to complete a pass. At the end of three quarters, K-State led 39-0 and had forced five Texas turnovers. "Everything went our way today," Cherry said.

For much of the season, K-State (6-3, 3-3) Coach Bill Snyder has stressed a desire to achieve a balance on offense; a symbiotic relationship between the rushing and passing attacks. Saturday night, the Wildcats did not complete a pass until the 7:29 mark of the third quarter and threw for just nine yards in four quarters. No matter. K-State ignored the pass in favor of a rushing attack that combined for 261 yards and five scores against the nation's No. 5 total defense.

"If it gets you in the end zone, I'd be a little upset if we changed course," Snyder said. "It's not that that was necessarily the direction that we chose to go. We didn't go into the ballgame saying that we would run it all day and throw for nine yards. We were having some success."

Texas (4-5, 2-4) received a large helping of Thomas, who -- along with 21 other seniors -- played in his final game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Thomas entered as the nation's eighth-leading rusher and carried 18 times for 106 yards, chalking up milestones along the way. Thomas, with 2,367 career rushing yards, now ranks fourth all-time at Kansas State. With two touchdowns on the day, Thomas now ranks sixth all-time with 23.

"Daniel is a great player," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "He will be a great pro player. He makes plays every week. Our goal was to keep him under 100 yards, which we knew would be really tough. The quarterback hurt us and opened some things up for Daniel."

Collin Klein, who started at quarterback in place of Carson Coffman for the first time this season, may not have infused the passing attack, but the athleticism of the former wide receiver was utilized in the ground game. Klein rushed for 127 yards and scored on carries of 12 and 10 yards.

"He ran the ball very well," Thomas said of the quarterback who did not find out he would start until 30 minutes prior to kickoff. "He opened it up for the running backs, he made some good reads on the option. He played great."

While the Wildcat offense focused on its ground attack, the Wildcat defense proved stout against that of the Longhorns. Kansas State, which entered Saturday ranked 120th in the nation in rushing defense and allowed at least 213 rushing yards in three of its last four games, limited Texas to just 140 yards rushing.

"I feel like we did a good job against the run and kind of made Texas one-dimensional," linebacker Blake Slaughter said.

Via the other dimension of the Longhorn offense, quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw for 272 yards and one second-half touchdown, but also tossed five interceptions. Gilbert's third interception of the day proved the most costly, as Ty Zimmerman stepped in front of a potential touchdown pass with just seconds remaining in the first half. Zimmerman and fellow safety Tysyn Hartman each grabbed a pair of interceptions.

"We were executing and having fun," Hartman said. "Making plays is what guys in the secondary want to do all the time. Coach told us that this was going to be a battle in the secondary and that we were going to have to make plays in order for us to win."

"Five turnovers were big, obviously," Snyder said of the defense. "I thought we played well, but we were not without our problems from time to time."

The Longhorns, despite digging deep enough into the playbook to unveil a fake field goal and a fake punt, did not score until the fourth quarter.

The Thomas-Klein dual threat combined with big plays on defense and special teams helped provide the Wildcats with one thing they have seemed to lack all season: a quick-strike scoring attack. Powell, the nation's leading kick returner, opened the game with a 62-yard return. Two plays later, Thomas followed with a 34-yard touchdown carry, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with just 53 seconds off the clock.

"Our hats are off to our defense and our special teams for giving us really short fields," Klein said.

The Wildcats opened the second half in similar fashion, this time scoring after just 49 seconds had ticked away. Hartman's second interception of the day led to a Wildcat drive beginning at the Longhorn 15-yard line. Two carries later, Thomas scored from nine yards out and the Wildcat rout was on.

K-State, now bowl-eligible for the first time since 2006, will look to improve its resume next Saturday in Columbia, Mo. The Wildcats and the Tigers will kick off at 11:30 a.m.


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