Texas was dominant for most of three quarters against Kansas State, building a comfortable 20-point lead behind a suffocating defense.
Then the No. 7 Longhorns found themselves in overtime, clinging to a three-point lead with just six yards between the No. 25 Wildcats, the end zone and a loss.
“These are the moments you live for. Everybody wants to be the person to make that play,” Texas defensive back Jahdae Barron said. “Trust one another. And that’s what we did.”
With a chance to win and all the momentum, Kansas State gained just two yards in three plays before Texas’ Barryn Sorrell pressured Will Howard into a desperate, off-balance pass that fell incomplete. And the Longhorns made Bert Auburn’s 42-yard field goal stand up for a 33-30 win that keeps them atop the Big 12.
Texas (8-1, 5-1 Big 12, No. 7 CFP) matched last season’s win total and stayed on track for a possible berth in the Big 12 championship game. Texas hasn’t won the league since 2009, and this is the last chance before the program leaves for the Southeastern Conference next season.
“Versatility, resilience, perseverance … those are all qualities championship teams have,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “They can make plays at critical moments.”
That was Kansas State (6-3, 402, No. 23 CFP) when the Wildcats came storming back from a 27-7 deficit late in the third quarter. Kansas State rallied behind three touchdown passes from Howard in less than three minutes.
Kansas State forced overtime on Chris Tennant’s 45-yard field goal with one second left. Tennant had earlier missed a short chance to tie with just under two minutes left.
Texas went nowhere on its first possession of overtime before Auburn’s go-ahead kick, his fourth field goal of the game. Kansas State was then quickly inside the Texas 10.
Facing fourth down, the Wildcats went for the win instead of another field goal to tie and more overtime. Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said he didn’t hesitate to make the call and would do it again if given another chance.
“Our kids always believe we have a shot,” Klieman said. “I’m upset that we lost, but watching what our guys were able to do in the second half was pretty special.”
Jonathon Brooks ran for 112 yards and a touchdown for Texas, which also got a 54-yard scoring run early from C.J. Baxter. Howard passed for 327 yards and four touchdowns for the Wildcats, two of them to Phillip Brooks.
Kansas State’s rally was helped by consecutive Texas turnovers — an interception and fumble — that set up two quick Howard touchdown passes. A blocked punt set up Kansas State’s only touchdown in the first half.
“It tested us. It tested our resilience,” Sarkisian said. “It tested our culture to stick together.”
STUFFING THE RUN
Texas has been dominant on run defense all season and allowed just 33 yards on the ground Saturday.
“I think we’re proving the physicality that Texas can play with on defense that probably hasn’t been there in the past decade,” said Texas edge rusher Ethan Burker, who had two sacks. “We’re really showing the country how physical and strong we are.
Kansas State: The Wildcats stubbornly stuck to a running game that was going nowhere in the first half. Even when they rotated in speedy freshman quarterback Avery Johnson, his first full series produced three consecutive handoffs instead of letting him probe for an opening. The Wildcats moved the ball through the air on a short scoring drive in the second quarter before opening up the offense on Howard’s passing in the second half.
Texas: Maalik Murphy has managed the last two games at quarterback for Texas but has been erratic and struggled with accuracy and turnovers Saturday. After a quick start Saturday, he threw one interception and two more passes that were dropped by Wildcats defenders. Ewers has been deemed “week-to-week” by Sarkisian with a sprained right throwing shoulder.
“Quinn is moving in the right direction” to return, Sarkisian said. “How quickly I don’t know yet.”
Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell, a transfer from Georgia, caught eight passes for 149 yards and a touchdown, his third scoring connection with Murphy in two games.
Kansas State hosts Baylor next Saturday.
Texas plays at TCU next Saturday.