Kansas State Wildcats outlast TCU Horned Frogs to win Big 12 Championship 31-28
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — The Kansas State Wildcats withstood every single punch the previously undefeated TCU Horned Frogs could muster in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game.
An individual performance for the ages by the opposing quarterback, a late-game comeback and an overtime session. K-State faced every one of those obstacles and still powered through, handing third-ranked TCU its first loss of the season in a 31-28 overtime thriller.
That seals the fourth conference championship in Wildcats history, joining their 1934, 2003 and 2012 seasons.
“Big 12 champions has a nice ring to it,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said.
K-State held a two-score lead in the fourth quarter following an ankle-breaking 44-yard touchdown run by junior running back Deuce Vaughn, putting the Wildcats ahead by 11 with just 11:27 to play.
That was the start of what may go down as a legendary sequence for TCU senior quarterback Max Duggan, who it seemed almost singlehandedly willed the Horned Frogs back into the contest.
Big runs and pass plays orchestrated by Duggan, including a fourth-and-10 conversion through the air, put TCU in field goal range and subsequently allowed it to cut the K-State lead to eight points.
The Wildcats weren’t able to do anything with the following possession, punting it back to the Horned Frogs with only 4:47 left in the game.
Once again, Duggan kept his team alive with a pair of memorable plays, including a 40-yard scramble and eight-yard rushing touchdown to get the score within two.
A successful two-point conversion followed, and with 1:51 to play Kansas State had one last chance in regulation to steal the win back.
Unfortunately for Klieman’s group, two incompletions off the finger tips of Wildcats receivers in a three-play stretch led to another punt.
TCU coach Sonny Dykes, potentially due to exhaustion for Duggan, elected to kneel the clock out and play for overtime.
The overtime session was a microcosm of the chaotic and, at times, controversial nature of the full game.
TCU started the extra period with the ball and got inside the one-yard line, again thanks to a Duggan run, with two plays to score.
K-State’s defense had other plans, though, stuffing Horned Frogs junior running back Kendre Miller twice at the goal line to keep TCU scoreless on its opening drive.
The controversy arose from the second and third down plays, Duggan’s aforementioned run and the first attempt by Miller. Duggan’s carry was reviewed and it was determined that he was down inches short of the goal line. Miller, meanwhile, appeared to get the ball over the plane on his first dive, but he momentarily lost control and was ruled short. That play wasn’t reviewed.
But Kansas State was on the short end of a controversial call as well, back in the third quarter when what appeared to be an obvious safety after a Duggan fumble was overturned, allowing the Horned Frogs to punt.
After the goal line stand, the finish was easy for the Wildcats. Two short runs and a keeper by junior quarterback Will Howard allowed K-State to send out senior kicker Ty Zentner for a chip-shot field goal.
The Topeka native drilled the 31-yard attempt, giving the Wildcats the hard-fought championship win.
“Over the past five or six weeks, there may not be a more valuable member of this football team than Ty Zentner,” Klieman said.
Vaughn ended up winning the game’s Most Outstanding Player honor, rushing 26 times for 130 yards and the long touchdown. Howard finished the game 18-of-32 for 199 yards with two touchdowns through the air and another on the ground.
“Will Howard is a flat out winner,” Klieman said.
His counterpart from TCU, Duggan, completed just 50% of his passes but threw for 251 yards, one touchdown and an interception, and he also ran for another 115 yards and a score.
TCU outgained K-State 469-404 in the game, gaining more yardage both in the running and passing games. The Wildcats, however, won the turnover battle 2-1, including a crucial red zone interception by senior cornerback Julius Brents late in the third quarter.
“Got to give Kansas State a ton of credit, they did a great job, really played clean football as you would expect Kansas State to do,” Dykes said.
Both programs will now await their postseason fate, with K-State expecting to head to the Sugar Bowl and TCU awaiting a potential bid to the College Football Playoff even after suffering a loss.
Klieman, early in his postgame press conference, advocated for TCU to make it to the playoff.
Bowl selections will be announced on Sunday.
Click below to hear from Chris Klieman, Deuce Vaughn and Daniel Green following Kansas State’s 31-28 Big 12 Championship Game win over TCU