Deuce Vaughn called his shot just before Kansas State lined up for first-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in Saturday’s second quarter. Vaughn, the Wildcats’ all-purpose, all-world tailback, told teammates in the huddle that he planned to jump over the pile and into the end zone.
He did just that.
Taking the handoff from quarterback Skylar Thompson, Vaughn leaped into the air at the 2-yard line and flipped into the end zone to extend K-State’s lead to 21-5 just before halftime.
“I told him it would have been a lot more impressive,” Thompson said, “if he had landed on his feet.”
Vaughn’s inability to stick the landing was one of the few missteps K-State had Saturday, as it otherwise romped to a 31-12 win over TCU at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
After a three-game losing streak immediately followed a 3-0 start to the year, the Wildcats (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) have posted back-to-back victories.
“I really feel like we are getting better after going through a little bit of a rut,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said. “Appreciate the way the guys come to practice every day. Our preparation Monday through Thursday gives us an opportunity to be successful on Saturday.
Not that K-State was error free Saturday: Thompson tossed an interception in the first quarter; the Horned Frogs dropped Vaughn in the end zone for a safety in the second; wide receiver Tyrone Howell was one of three players ejected for throwing punches during a sideline scuffle the third.
None of those miscues came close to altering the result, though.
“I thought our guys played with a lot of confidence, a lot of belief, that they knew what TCU was going to do,” Klieman said, “and we just had to go out and play with great technique and execute. We had some really good performances.”
None better than sophomore defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah.
One week after a standout showing in the team’s road win over Texas Tech, he was even better Saturday, tying K-State’s single-game record for sacks (4.0). Initially, he had tied the NCAA Division I single-game mark for sacks (6.0) — it also would have been a school and Big 12 record — before the NCAA reviewed two of Anudike-Uzomah’s takedowns and took both off the board.
Records and numbers aside, Anudike-Uzomah showed off his humility afterward.
“Blessed to be playing Division I football, at the end of the day,” he said. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity and blessed for my family to give their heart out to let me play this game. That’s all i want to say. I’m just blessed.”
The same couldn’t be said for the Horned Frogs (3-5, 1-4), who lost for the fifth time in their last six outings.
The nature of Saturday’s loss only added fuel to the fire surrounding the job security of longtime head coach Gary Patterson, who has led the program for 21 years.
He didn’t think his team gave up Saturday despite the one-sided nature of the game.
“I think our kids fought hard today,” he said.
Just too hard — literally — in the third quarter, when two Horned Frogs who weren’t even in the game (safeties Da’Veawn Armstead and D’Arco Perkins-McAllister) threw punches during a skirmish on the TCU sideline following a hit on Thompson. Officials ejected Armstead, Perkins-McAllister and K-State wide receiver Tyrone Howell for their roles in the fracas.
It only was a momentary lapse for the Wildcats, who led 21-5 at the time.
Neither team scored in the third period, but the Wildcats added 10 more points in the final quarter to seal the decisive victory.
It was a victory unlike any in Klieman’s three-year tenure, as it marked the first time K-State beat a non-Kansas Big 12 team by 14 or more points. The last time it happened prior to Saturday versus a Big 12 squad that wasn’t the Jayhawks: 21-6 over Texas Tech in 2018 — Bill Snyder’s final win as a head coach.
For Thompson, who also started that victory against the Red Raiders nearly three years ago, finally notching a no-frills conference win under Klieman’s guidance is another building block as the Wildcats try to lay the foundation for bigger successes down the road.
“It’s huge,” said Thompson, who threw for 242 yards and a touchdown on 61.9% (13-for-21) passing Saturday. “With everything that we’ve experienced to start Big 12 play (this season), to kind of get our feet back underneath us and get two big-time wins — and especially play a game like that against a really good TCU team and get a win — it’s big for us. We’ve just got to continue to build off of it. We have a lot of confidence right now.”