With his Wildcats trailing by three points with the football at the University of Central Floridaâ€™s 7-yard-line, Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman waded through the trenches of the Knight defense and pushed his way into the end zone. The touchdown pushed the Wildcats to a 17-13 victory on Saturday afternoon. And the sun shone.
â€œ(Seeing Coffman score) was a big relief,â€ running back Daniel Thomas said. â€œWe didnâ€™t want to go into overtime. That was big for him to get in their for us and finish the game.â€
For much of Saturdayâ€™s contest at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, sunlight - both literal and figurative - seemed miles away from Manhattan, Kan. Consider:
- Thomas, who entered the game as the nationâ€™s leader rusher from the running back position, gained just 76 yards on the ground and coughed up a fourth-quarter fumble.
- Coffman completed just 50 percent of his passes, threw one interception, and was sacked twice.
- K-State did not pick up an offensive first down until early in the second quarter and did not score until late in the third.
- The Wildcat defense surrendered 344 total yards, including 252 on the ground.
- The game met a delay after just three minutes of action. The delay lasted 86 minutes.
Coach Bill Snyder said that the Wildcatsâ€™ struggles were no mystery. â€œThey played better than we did,â€ Snyder said. â€œThey whipped us up front. They were more aggressive. They ran the ball better.â€
Despite all the gameâ€™s misgivings for those in purple, it ended as each game on the Kansas State schedule has so far this seasonl, with a victory.
â€œOur team knew that if we just kept pounding and pounding,â€ linebacker Blake Slaughter, who finished with a game-high 13 tackles, said, â€œthat eventually the tide was going to turn our way.â€
The final Wildcat drive began on their own 33-yard-line with 5:44 left on the game clock. The Wildcats had to put points on the board, as Knight kicker Nick Cattoi had just put a 27-yard field goal through the uprights to give UCF a 13-10 edge. Though Kansas Stateâ€™s offense had been sporadic, at best, throughout the contest, those involved said their was an air of confidence when the purple took the field. â€œThe whole fourth quarter, I was saying, â€˜We own the fourth quarter,â€™â€ Coffman said.
Kansas State worked dangerously from the start, missing on two passes before Coffman connected with red shirt-freshman tight end Andre McDonald for an 18-yard gain. â€œThe pass to Andre McDonald was a big play to get us a first down,â€ Snyder said, â€œand first downs were hard for us to come by.â€
The Wildcats met two more third downs on the 13-play drive, but Coffman converted both - the first by land with a two-yard carry, and the second by air, connecting with Brodrick Smith after rolling out of the pocket. â€œCarson made a couple of throws in their that made a difference in the drive,â€ Snyder said.
â€œI know going into that drive [Coffman] had a lot of heart,â€ Smith said of the senior quarterback. â€œA lot of guys relied on him and he got the job done today.â€
Though the offense put little together through the first three quarters, the Wildcat defense rose to the occasion after the initial UCF scoring drive. One drive after taking a 7-0 lead on an 8-yard Ronnie Weaver carry, the Knights again threatened in Wildcat territory the next time they had the ball. The drive met a quick death when K-State safety Emmanuel Lamur picked off a Jeff Godfrey pass. Later in the half, UCF had a prime opportunity to increase their lead with a first-and-10 on the Kansas State 25-yard-line. Three plays and two penalties later, the Cattoi pushed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Weaver led the Knights with a game-high 130 yards on the ground. Godfrey added 99 rushing yards and 92 passing, but also tossed two interceptions. Wildcat defenders mentioned that facing that sort of speed would be a benefit in preparing for the rest of the season. â€œGetting ready for the Big 12, there are going to be a bunch of fast teams out there,â€ Slaughter said. â€œThis was probably one of the fastest teams weâ€™ve seen yet.
Despite being out-gained by the Knights 170-43 in the first half, the Wildcats trailed by just seven points at the (non-weather related) break.
Though little seemed to go in K-Stateâ€™s favor for much of the game, the same could be argued for UCF. The Knights failed to take advantage of several opportunities that could have gone far in clinching a victory, or at least pushing their lead to two scores. The Knights missed a pair of field goals; from 42-yards out late in the second quarter and from 23-yards in the third. They also missed out on an almost-sure touchdown when receiver A.J. Guyton hauled in a 32-yard reception with nothing but open field in front of him, but stumbled steps later and fell to the ground clutching his ankle.