As a menacing storm approached the Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday, little did the Wildcat faithful know that a second storm was about to hit as well. The Golden Knights of Central Florida brought that storm to Manhattan, Kansas in the form of speed and intensity on both sides of the ball, forcing the Kansas State Wildcats to rally with two 4th quarter touchdowns for a come-from-behind 17-13 victory. After a 90-minute delay due to lightning, the game resumed with just over 12 minutes left in the first quarter. The Wildcats looked completely out of sync, amassing 2 yards of offense after the first 15 minutes and only 43 total yards by halftime. Nothing worked as an undersized Central Florida defense bottled up RB Daniel Thomas and successfully put pressure on QB Carson Coffman throughout that first half and well into the third quarter.
Meanwhile, UCF had much offensive success, especially on the ground, taking a 7-0 lead into halftime. Led by redshirt freshman QB Jeff Godfrey and running back Ronnie Weaver, the Knights moved the ball well in the middle of the field, but ran into trouble putting points on the board once they got in the red zone. They were unsuccessful on two field goal attempts and had a sure touchdown nullified when receiver A.J. Guyton went down along the sideline with an apparent ankle injury as he was on his way to an easy score. Guyton was left wide open thanks to a busted coverage by the Wildcat secondary, a sequence which has started to look all too familiar when it comes to this under-achieving defense.
But when plays had to be made, Coffman and the offense came to life in the final period. The senior QB hit receiver Aubrey Quarles on a beautifully thrown 58-yard touchdown strike to tie the game at 10-10. After a Central Florida field goal, Coffman led Kansas State on their final touchdown drive, completing a key third down pass to TE Andre McDonald that kept the Cats alive. Later in the drive, Coffman connected with WR Broderick Smith on another pivotal third down completion and eventually put the Wildcats ahead for good on a 7-yard touchdown run with only 24 seconds remaining on the clock. It was certainly an up-and-down day for Coffman, who at times was completely ineffective at the helm, yet took control and looked in total command when his team needed him most late in the game.
Kansas State leaves the month of September with a 4-0 record, but getting there certainly wasn’t easy. Several glaring problems still exist for this young squad, including inconsistent quarterback play, as well as an inability to wrap up defenders and tackle on defense. The offensive line continues it’s difficulties with pass protection, and on this day, found themselves up against a smaller yet much faster Central Florida front seven that bottled up the Wildcat running game as well. Clearly, Kansas State wasn’t the better team today, and quite frankly, didn’t deserve this victory based on their play for three quarters. But this team continues to find ways to win and, unlike last year, has started to develop a knack for “finishing” games strong.
Yet much like the storm that loomed in the sky over Manhattan, Kansas on this day, a highly-ranked Nebraska team looms next for Kansas State on October 7th. The Wildcats will need considerably more than just a “strong finish” to compete with the Cornhuskers.
About the Author
Written by Chad Craghead
A 1988 graduate from Wichita State University, Chad has followed WSU as well as Kansas State athletics for over 30 years, along with being a lifelong Boston Red Sox and L.A./St. Louis Rams fan.