Last season, the Kansas State Wildcats got caught flat-footed in a home game against a Group of 5 opponent, suffering a loss to Tulane. This year’s team vowed not to let that happen again, and backed up their talk by handling the defending Sun Belt Conference champion Troy Trojans 42-13 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“Great win over a really good team,” said K-State head coach Chris Klieman. “We needed that game.”
K-State set the tone early, taking a 14-0 first-half lead. The fifteenth-ranked Wildcats elected to receive after winning the coin toss and marched 71 yards in eight plays, capped off by a Will Howard pass to Jadon Jackson for a nine-yard touchdown. It was the second straight week the Howard-to-Jackson connection opened the account for the Wildcats, and it gave them a 7-0 lead. The Wildcats doubled their advantage early in the second quarter when Phillip Brooks took an end-around to the end zone from two yards out.
The Trojans fought back to close within 14-10 after a 24-yard field goal by Scott Taylor Renfroe and a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch by Chris Lewis on a 21-yard pass from Gunnar Watson with 0:52 remaining in the half. But the Wildcats covered 66 yards in just 39 ticks of the clock on their ensuing drive, with Brooks tip-toeing the sideline on a 39-yard catch and run to paydirt with just ten seconds left in the half to push the lead to 21-10.
“The momentum flipped a little bit,” Klieman said. “Great job by Coach (Collin) Klein and our offense to get that touchdown. That was critical for us to get that score.”
Neither team could get on track in the third quarter before K-State took advantage of a short field and scored on a Howard two-yard run with 3:47 left in the quarter, extending their lead to 28-10. A 37-yard field goal by Renfroe early in the fourth quarter drew Troy back within 15 before the Wildcats put the game away on a nine-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in a Howard shovel pass to Treshaun Ward for a one-yard touchdown with 8:48 left. A one-yard Howard TD run with 2:50 left put icing on the Wildcat cake.
Howard stuffed the stat sheet again, throwing for 250 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 33 yards and two TDs on his eight carries.
“I thought he really settled in after the interception,” Klieman said of his quarterback. “I thought he made some really good plays in the second half.”
Brooks tied a career high with seven receptions, gaining 94 yards to lead all K-State receivers. Ward was the leading Wildcat on the ground, rushing 16 times for 58 yards.
K-State (2-0) travels to Missouri for their final non-conference game next Saturday.