When Kansas State’s 52-13 victory over Miami was complete Saturday afternoon, Bill Snyder walked past a student section chanting his name. The coach stopped, blew a kiss in their direction and walked away without displaying any major emotion.
The No. 21 Wildcats followed the same way.
This wasn’t the euphoric reaction the Wildcats had when won at Miami a year ago – for good reason. K-State players expected to beat Miami — though maybe not by an enormous margin.
“Last year was definitely intense,” said senior linebacker Arthur Brown, a Miami transfer who led K-State on Saturday with 10 tackles. “It was great to be a part of and great to watch, but this year tops it. Just being able to be out there and see our offense and defense really play together, we know that is going to carry on throughout the season.”
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If it does, K-State might win a few more games comfortably. But nothing will put opponents on notice the way this victory did.
It was arguably K-State’s most convincing performance against a well-known opponent since defeating Texas A&M 62-14 in 2009.
“This was nice,” said receiver Curry Sexton, who caught a 27-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. “Coming off last week, where we struggled for the first few quarters and really struggled in the red zone, it was nice to punch a few in there. Anytime you go out and put 52 points up on a team like Miami, that’s huge.”
K-State got the blowout going right away with an impressive 65-yard touchdown drive that lasted nearly seven minutes and ended with senior quarterback Collin Klein diving into the end zone.
Klein hit Tramaine Thompson for a lengthy pass up the left side, John Hubert had nice runs and Klein rumbled downfield on a scramble that featured three broken tackles.
The physical play seemed to put Klein at ease, and was a sign of things to come. He completed 9 of 11 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 71 yards and three touchdowns.
“We were just trying like heck to score,” Klein said. “If the ball is in my hands, I’m going to do everything I can to get in the end zone just like anyone else. We’re just scratching and clawing and trying to get better. We made some improvements.”
The early score was the nicest. K-State scored 35 points in the fourth quarter to blow past Missouri State last week, and finished strong to win several close games a year ago. But building early leads has never been its forte.
Snyder grew so frustrated with the problem that he sarcastically told his players to try and start slow.
“We finally did it,” Klein said. “We converted touchdowns on the first couple drives and then came out in the third quarter and on the first drive cashed one in. It’s very important for momentum and gives support to our defense.”
As it turned out, K-State didn’t need much of that. It held Miami to 262 yards and shut down its running game. Five Miami ballcarriers combined for 40 rushing yards, and when quarterback Stephen Morris dropped back to pass he was often hurried by K-State’s pass rush. Though the Hurricanes managed 222 passing yards, Morris was sacked five times and Miami had three turnovers.
Brown had two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery while making it difficult for Miami to accomplish anything in the middle of the field. Defensive end Adam Davis forced two fumbles and made two sacks.
That was a welcome change from last week, when K-State’s defensive line rarely hurried Missouri State’s quarterback.
“We played great,” safety Jarard Milo said. “Week, 1 a lot of people didn’t give us much credit. They said they got a lot of passing yards against us. Second week, we wanted to come out and make a statement. That’s pretty much what we did.”
Added Snyder: “I was very pleased with the progress we made.”
The Wildcats led 14-0 before the end of the first quarter, 24-6 at halftime and 38-6 when Klein left the game in the fourth quarter.
Miami fought back from a 14-0 deficit to beat Boston College on the road last week, but couldn’t mount the same comeback against the Wildcats.
“K-State is a good team up front and all the way around,” Miami offensive lineman Jonathan Feliciano said. “They did not do anything that really surprised us, they just executed what they wanted to do.”
Like Klein, running back John Hubert also watched the end of the game after rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown, his second straight 100-yard game.
But the absence of K-State’s top two playmakers didn’t prevent it from adding to its lead. Backup quarterback Daniel Sams scored a touchdown with a 15-yard run on his first play and added another rushing touchdown on his next drive.
Before you knew it, third-string quarterback Sam Johnson was in the game.
“We had (498) yards of total offense,” receiver Chris Harper said. “I do not remember us ever doing that while I have been here.”
The only negative moment of the day came late in the first half, when the Wildcats faced a third-and-goal from the 1. Snyder called a timeout to call a trick play, and it went horribly wrong. Klein faked a jump pass and flipped the ball behind him toward Harper, who was running from left to right. The ball went 19 yards in the wrong direction before K-State recovered. Kicker Anthony Cantele missed a 38-yard attempt.
The mishap helped Miami close to within 24-6 on a field goal on the final play of the half.
“We got too fancy,” Snyder said. “That was our fault, not the players.… It wasn’t supposed to look that way.”
It didn’t matter.
K-State didn’t allow a touchdown until the final moments, and will now try to duplicate that success when it faces North Texas and then No. 5 Oklahoma. That game has always looked like a biggie, but it might take on added importance after this decisive victory.
“We made a statement,” linebacker Tre Walker said. “But I think it’s up to us to not get confused by our statement and to not get sidetracked. Miami is a good football team. We have to take that and take the momentum from today and push it toward Monday.”