Kansas State fullback Adam Harter slipped behind the Texas defense and turned to catch a potential touchdown pass on the final play of the first half. Alex Delton lofted a pass that hit him square in the palms of his hands. For a brief moment, the Wildcats appeared to have something to cheer about in an otherwise disappointing season.
And then the ball slipped between his fingers.
Just like that, K-State squandered its best (and only) scoring opportunity of the opening half and went on to lose 19-14 against the No. 18 Longhorns on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
In many ways, that played felt like a microcosm of the Wildcats’ struggles this season. They have rarely flirted with the end zone against quality opponents, and when they have a breakdown of some sort has prevented them from finding pay dirt.
K-State has uncharacteristically dropped four passes in the end zone this season.
Then again, K-State receiver Isaiah Harris later celebrated a catch on third-and-long by motioning for a first down when he mistook the team’s original line of scrimmage for the first-down marker. He was eight yards short of moving the chains. Maybe that moment better summed up the season.
Whatever the case, a quarterback shakeup from coach Bill Snyder did little to help the Wildcats (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) in this one. In all actuality, it hurt them against the Longhorns (4-1, 2-0).
Delton started in place of Skylar Thompson and throughout the entire first half was ineffective, guiding the Wildcats to 64 yards and no points. He also took a safety. Their longest gain went for nine yards. Texas gifted them more yardage (80) on penalties.
But their fortunes changed dramatically in the second half when K-State went back to Thompson and he got the offense moving, throwing for 96 yards and leading the Wildcats on a pair of touchdown drives.
He couldn’t quite lead the Wildcats back from a 19-0 halftime deficit, but it’s fair to wonder what might have happened if Thompson played the entire way.
K-State’s offense looked clueless in the first half and then erupted for an 82-yard touchdown drive on the opening drive of the third quarter, which Thompson capped with a touchdown run of seven yards to the right pylon.
Two drives later, the Wildcats marched 70 yards for another touchdown with Alex Barnes leaping across the goal line after taking a direct snap.
It looked like Thompson might add to his collection of second-half comebacks when K-State forced Texas to punt midway through the fourth quarter. The Longhorns led 19-14, and the Wildcats had the ball and a chance to take the lead.
But the Wildcats went three-and-out, then punted. Texas took over and picked up enough first downs to kill the clock and celebrate its first road win over K-State since 2002.
Texas scored all of its points in the first half. It got on the scoreboard first with a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown from D’Sahwn Jamison and went up 14-0 on a touchdown pass from Ehlinger to Collin Johnson. Then came a safety and a field goal.
K-State appeared lost on both sides of the ball in the first half, and looked significantly improved in all areas in the second half.
That’s not enough to qualify for a moral victory. But it could help the Wildcats as they prepare for their next game at Baylor.