MANHATTAN — Daniel Sams and Tramaine Thompson may never be able to fully explain the wild and wacky 16-yard gain they connected for during a 41-7 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.
When trying to describe the outlandishness of Kansas State’s must-see play of the year, that is a good place to start.
It featured Sams, a sophomore quarterback, sprinting all across the field without gaining a yard. It included a pass sailing over its intended receiver. And it ended with Thompson, a senior wide out, making a circus catch while Sams rested on his back out of bounds.
"I was really just trying to make a play," Sams said. "I am guilty of always worrying about the consequences later. In a game, I am just trying to make plays. That is what is on my mind. It worked on that play."
It worked so well that it gave K-State a first down late in the second quarter and helped the Wildcats score a touchdown a few plays later.
But it could have easily led to an interception.
When asked for his reaction to the play, K-State coach Bill Snyder said, "You don’t want to hear."
"Daniel is a playmaker," Snyder said. "… He can make plays. He just has to make sure they are the right ones."
This one turned out to be a success.
It came with the Wildcats facing a third-and-seven and it started like all passing plays do. Sams, who had seen little action up to that point, dropped back to pass but he faced immediate pressure on both sides. Some quarterbacks might have thrown the ball away or taken a sack, but not Sams. He eluded Iowa State defenders by running 10 yards toward his own end zone and then rolling to his right.
He kept the play alive, but as he inched toward the sideline a big play seemed unlikely. He had scrambled all across the field and still wasn’t back to the line of scrimmage. He wasn’t going to pick up a first down on the ground. His top two receiving options were also well covered. A first down through the air seemed far-fetched.
The smart play would have been to run out of bounds. Sams didn’t see it that way, though, and he floated a pass to Lockett, who was just past the first-down marker to his left.
The pass flew over Lockett’s head, and from there it was a jump ball. An Iowa State defender was in position to intercept the pass, but Thompson, who was a few yards behind Lockett, muscled past his defender and made an eye-popping catch.
Replays closely resembled the acrobatic, much-publicized play Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel made against Alabama earlier this season. So much so that teammates told Sams he had just experienced his "Johnny Manziel moment."
"I don’t know how Johnny felt about his," Sams said, "but mine was all Tramaine. I was trying to get it to Lockett. Somehow Tramaine came over and he made a heck of a catch. I felt good about it, because otherwise I would have been afraid to walk to the sideline and face Coach Snyder after throwing the ball across my body. He took the heat off my back. As soon as I saw the highlight I walked up to him in the huddle and said, ‘Thank you.’"
As it turned out, Thompson saw more of the play than Sams, who didn’t realize Thompson caught the pass until the sellout crowd at Snyder Family Stadium roared in approval.
"I saw Daniel scramble, so I broke my route off to get in his vision," Thompson said. "He threw the ball, but the ball looked like it was going to Tyler. I could see him jump, but I could tell he wasn’t going to get high enough. I could feel my dude coming over the top of me and I was trying to box him out and make my play on the ball. I tipped it around and ended up catching it.
"Reaction totally took over. I was trying to catch it and not let the defender catch it all at the same time. It worked."
Some will say it was fluke, and that Sams made an unnecessarily risky decision.
Others will see the highlight and laud Sams and Thompson for their playmaking skills.
Bottom line: K-State converted a key third down that helped it take a 17-0 halftime lead. No matter how it happened, it was a pivotal play in an important game.
"It helped us out because we scored on that drive," Lockett said. "Maybe we had a little luck on our side, but at the end of the day that was a big play. It was a huge catch and momentum started swinging our way.
"It’s one of those plays where if it works, hey, it’s great. If it doesn’t work, you don’t do it again. It ended up working out for us so you can’t really say anything negative about it."