MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Deuce Vaughn had a rushing touchdown and another receiving, Will Howard threw for 173 yards and a score and Kansas State held off Texas Tech for a 31-21 win Saturday.
Up 24-21 with two minutes left, Howard found Vaughn across the middle on third down for a 70-yard touchdown pass to seal the win.
“We knew they wanted to blitz and put a linebacker on me,” Vaughn said. “When I saw that, Will and I looked at each other and thought we had a good matchup.”
Vaughn finished with 113 yards rushing, the most by a true freshman at Kansas State since 2008, and had three receptions for 81 yards.
“He is a special talent and I can’t say enough about our offensive line,” Kansas State coach Chris Kleiman said. “They opened up some holes and Deuce played really well.”
Henry Colombi threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns, Xavier White added 113 yards rushing and a score on 12 carries for Texas Tech, which lost its ninth game in 10 tries against the Wildcats.
“I think early in the game was maybe a little rushed in terms of his timing, but I thought he really slowed down, the game slowed down for him,” Texas Tech coach Matt Wells said of Colombi. “I thought he came in and played well.”
He had one big mistake despite an efficient performance, throwing into double coverage on a drive deep in Wildcat territory which was intercepted by Jahron McPherson late in the fourth quarter.
In his previous 69 college pass attempts, he’d only thrown one interception after being a backup at Utah State for Jordan Love, now with the Green Bay Packers.
“I just think we need to keep trusting our coaching, keep trusting our ability,” Colombi said. “There’s tons of playmakers on this team and we all play as a team. Everyone had each other’s back so just continue to trust each other and continue to get better every day.”
Both starting quarterbacks spent more time in the locker room than the field after suffering injuries in the first half.
Red Raiders QB Alan Bowman left the game after he took a hit to his right leg midway through the first quarter and didn’t return.
Halfway through the second quarter, Kansas State’s Skylar Thompson was hit and injured his right arm. He watched the second half from the sideline in a sling after going 5 of 10 for 33 yards and a passing touchdown.
Highly-touted freshman Will Howard, who took over for Thompson, completed 7 of 12 passes and looked poised in his first game as a Wildcat.
“I prepare every week like I’m the starter,” Howard said. “Skylar has helped me watching film and has been a great mentor for me so I felt ready.”
Vaughn and Howard are just two of many freshman that stepped on the field, because of injuries and that Klieman believes they can make a difference for the team this season.
“I think this is a special class,” Howard said. “The more we come together, the more we gel, and the seniors are teaching us very well.”
Kansas State (2-1, 2-0 Big 12) blocked a punt for the third straight game and took advantage two plays later with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Briley Moore which opened up the scoring. The Wildcats are the first team to block a punt in the first three games since Memphis did it in 2008.
“I’ve never been a part of that,” Kleiman said. “The players lock into the coaches design and it shows.”
It was Moore again in the fourth quarter who eluded two defenders for a 66-yard catch and the Wildcats scored on the next play on a 4-yard TD run by Harry Trotter to regain the lead 24-21.
“I’ve seen his speed before,” Kleiman said. “I’m happy he’s on our team because I’ve coached against him.”
Texas Tech (1-2, 0-2) kicker Trey Wolff missed 33- and 35-yard field-goal attempts in the first half.
“We’re looking for those answers to win those close games because we know we’re certainly going to be in them,” Wells said.
Early in the second quarter, the Wildcats went on a 97-yard drive that took seven minutes which was capped by a Vaughn 18-yard touchdown scamper to lead 14-0.
“I was just reading the end,” Vaughn said about the run. “I used my speed to get around the edge and tiptoed up the sideline.”
Colombi drove the Red Raiders down in two minutes early in the fourth quarter to take the lead 21-17 but couldn’t score again in their next three possessions.
Colombi looked capable of carrying the offense for Texas Tech, but they’ll welcome Bowman back as soon as he is ready.
Kansas State suffered many injuries, but still battled for their first 2-0 start in Big 12 play since 2014.
The Red Raiders travel to Iowa State next Saturday. Kansas State heads to TCU.
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