Howard, Johnson Share Spotlight as K-State Routs TCU

Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman and offensive coordinator Collin Klein had a creative answer to their dilemma as to whether to start Will Howard or Avery Johnson against TCU: why not both?

After Johnson, lined up at wide receiver, took a jet sweep hand-off from Howard on the game’s first play, the two quarterbacks commenced to trade places each drive, and took turns ravaging the Horned Frogs defense.

The Wildcats racked up 406 yards in the first half alone and never looked back in a 41-3 victory over TCU on Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Howard led touchdown drives on his first two series of the game, while Johnson guided the Wildcats to a touchdown on his first series and a pair of field goals after that as the hosts built a commanding 27-3 halftime advantage.

“Collin and I had a good plan all along,” Klieman said. “It’s really hard (for a defense) when you don’t know who’s coming in the game. Is it what we want to do all season? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But like last week, it worked. And this week, it really worked.”

DJ Giddens opened the scoring with a two-yard touchdown run on the game’s first possession. Johnson threw his first career touchdown pass to Treshaun Ward, a three-yard swing pass, to double K-State’s advantage with 6:18 left in the first quarter. After a TCU field goal, Howard and Giddens hooked up for a 61-yard catch-and-run on a wheel route to move the Wildcats lead to 21-3 before the end of the first quarter.

The K-State offense picked up where it left off in the second half. After TCU turned the ball over on downs on the opening drive of the third quarter, Howard led the Wildcats on a 13-play, 81 yard drive that took over seven minutes off the clock and culminated with Howard finding freshman Jayce Brown in the back of the end zone from 11 yards out for Brown’s first career touchdown.

The Wildcats would add an exclamation point with a three-yard touchdown pass from Howard to Will Swanson with 3:59 to play to provide K-State’s final score. It was Swanson’s first career touchdown reception.

All told, Howard accounted for 154 yards and three TDs on 10 of 16 passing and rushed four times for 62 yards. Johnson was 5 of 10 through the air for 90 yards and a touchdown, and carried 16 times for 73 yards. The two rotated at quarterback every series, with Howard getting five drives to Johnson’s four.

“Avery played really well. But Will Howard’s our unquestioned leader on this team,” Klieman said. “It was hard on Will. But he’s still a captain, and still a guy who hoisted a Big 12 Championship trophy, and a dang good football player.

“We’re going to need both of those guys as we still have a lot of football left.”

K-State tallied 587 yards of total offense, with nine different ballcarriers rushing 52 times for 343 yards on the night. Ward was the leading rusher with 89 yards on his 17 attempts. Brown’s four catches for 88 yards paced the receivers.

As impressive as the offense was, the K-State defense kept TCU out of the end zone, stopped the Horned Frogs on 11 of 13 third downs, and tallied a pair of sacks and an interception (by Desmond Purnell).

“We executed at a really high level all game because we executed at a really high level all week (in practice),” Klieman said. “I’m super excited for our players, coaches and fans.”

The Wildcats improved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12 with the win. They’re back at home next Saturday, hosting Houston. That game will kick off at 11 a.m.

Listen to Chris Klieman’s postgame press conference.