MANHATTAN, Kan. — Elijah Lee and the rest of the Kansas State defense trudged to the locker room at halftime against Texas Tech on Saturday night fortunate to be ahead.
Then, the Wildcats made a solemn vow.
“Second half,” the veteran linebacker said, with sternness to his voice, “we had the mindset that they can’t do to us what they did to us in the first half.”
They proceeded to shut down Patrick Mahomes and the Red Raiders over the final 30 minutes, holding on for a 44-38 victory highlighted by touchdowns in all three phases of the game.
Texas Tech only scored 10 points in the second half, seven coming in the game’s final minute.
“We came together as a defensive unit and we were like, ‘We have to eliminate all the big plays,'” Kansas State cornerback Duke Shelley said. “This game was on us.”
Mahomes, despite an ailing shoulder, still threw for 504 yards and two touchdowns while running for three more scores. But the Red Raiders’ junior quarterback also threw a pick that was returned for seven and failed to convert three fourth downs in the second half.
He also failed to get off a throw to the end zone from midfield on the final play of the games.
“He’s a tough kid,” said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who acknowledged Mahomes did not practice fully this week. “We wouldn’t put him out there if he couldn’t handle it.”
Still, the result was the 196th win for Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, and it came in his 300th game leading the Wildcats. It also came day after the Hall of Fame coach’s 77th birthday.
Not that he was in much of a mood to enjoy it.
Snyder was terse in his postgame comments, particularly when asked about burning through his three timeouts in the second half. But he was proud of the way his defense performed in the second half.
“They got a ton of yardage,” Snyder said. “We put them in some fourth down situations, which was good, because they didn’t convert any.”
Indeed, the teams waged a back-and-forth offensive showdown in the first half with Pringle’s TD return giving the Wildcats a 31-28 advantage with 1:31 left before the break. But it wasn’t until the Red Raiders chose to go for it on fourth down — twice — in the third quarter that the game pivoted.
The first came inside the Kansas State 5 on the first possession of the second half, when a field goal would have tied the game. The second came later in the third quarter, when a sack gave the Wildcats the ball at the Texas Tech 47 — and set them up for a touchdown that made it 38-31.
“Trying to be aggressive,” Kinsbury said. “We felt like we had a chance there with the play calls that we liked. They made a good play on the ball, just didn’t go our way.”
The Red Raiders finally did punt on fourth-and-1 at their own 34 early in the fourth quarter, but their defense allowed Kansas State to go 71 yards for a field goal that made it a two-possession game.
Texas Tech failed to convert another fourth down a few minutes later, the Wildcats added one more field goal, and not even a late touchdown by the Red Raiders was enough to change the outcome.
Pringle was playfully — maybe? — punched in the gut by teammate Dominique Heath while celebrating his kickoff return touchdown. He crumpled to the ground and lay there for a moment, and said afterward that the uppercut knocked the wind out of him. “I’m feeling good now,” he said.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders can score with anybody, but they also can allow anybody to score with them. Kansas State barely sniffed the end zone in a 17-16 loss to West Virginia last week.
Kansas State: The Wildcats, tops in the Big 12 defensively entering the game, allowed Texas Tech to go 6-of-7 on third downs in the first half. They went 3-of-9 in the second half.
Texas Tech: West Virginia visits Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday.
Kansas State: No. 20 Oklahoma awaits the Wildcats on Saturday.