Coming into K-State’s tilt against Texas Tech, there were five important things The Jug thought were worth keeping an eye one Saturday. And sure enough, each had its own storyline by the end of Kansas State’s 49-26 drubbing of the Red Raiders.
Jace Amaro: I have to hand it to Amaro – this kid played his heart out this weekend. Texas Tech’s junior tight end is among the nation’s best, largely speculated to be entering the draft this spring where he will be among the top three players at his position. Amaro has caught at least eight passes in every game since Tech’s opener, and he had nine receptions for 67 yards despite missing a large chunk of the game due to injury. He came in and out throughout the day, often seen on the sidelines begging to come back in despite being injuried and the game already well out of hand. The key was limiting any big plays. Amaro is typically good for a couple Jimmy Graham-esque, huge pick ups in every game. His longest reception went for 15 yards as the Wildcats did an excellent job of keeping him in front of his defenders.
The Turnover Battle: K-State and Texas Tech both ranked lower than 100th in the nation in turnover margin. K-State made a dent in its ranking Saturday, while Tech continued to struggle with ball security. Ty Zimmerman recorded an interception returned for a touchdown, Ryan Mueller had another of his signature sack-strips, and K-State managed to finally play 60 minutes without turning the ball over. When the clock struck zero, K-State had forced three turnovers while not committing any. That was sweet.
The Return Game: Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson once again struggled to find many opportunities to turn return opportunities into big gains. Lockett managed just one kick return (although it was for a nice 27 yard pick up) while Thompson had two punt returns for 11 total yards. However, K-State won the field position battle all day as Tech gave up yardage to avoid kicking the ball their way.
The Road Effect: I was worried playing on the road might rattle the Wildcats early in the game, as K-State was without a road victory this season. And the defense allowed a long opening drive that resulted in a field goal for Texas Tech. However, the offense answered with a 63-yard John Hubert touchdown run on its second play of the game en route to scoring four touchdowns on four first half possessions. Texas Tech did outscore K-State 10-0 in the third quarter as the crowd found renewed energy and became very loud whenever the Wildcats had the ball. Yet at the end of the day, K-State demonstrated it can win on someone else’s turf (although the only remaining road game is in Lawrence, so, meh).
A Great Football Game And A Win: I had no doubt that K-State would win this game and, if I hypothetically bet on football, I would have put a decent amount on the Wildcats not only covering the spread but also winning outright. However, I wasn’t entirely sure if it would be a blowout or a close match. For the purpose of excitement, I was almost hoping for a closer game just to provide some intrigue; there wasn’t much intrigue embedded in a 35-10 halftime lead. So fans got their win and an enjoyable game, but I’m assuming Texas Tech players would fall short of calling it a great football game. I will. Great football game. Three more wins, and K-State is in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl as the fourth-best team in the Big 12. With games against a disappointing TCU squad and an Oklahoma team that just got destroyed by Baylor – both at home – followed up by the visit to KU, this is looking very, very doable.