MANHATTAN, Kansas — Texas won the opening coin toss in front of 52,328 Wildcat fans Saturday morning at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The successful flip of the coin marked the sixth time in the Longhorns’ first seven games that they’ve won the toss.
All six times, head coach Charlie Strong elected to put his defense on the field to start the game. And yet again, for the third time this season, that decision resulted in his opponent starting the game off with a touchdown.
Texas went on to lose to Kansas State, 24-21, with their overall record falling to 3–4.
“Coach [Charlie] Strong likes to go play the defense first so we get a stop and get that momentum going for our offense,” senior safety Dylan Haines said. “For some reason we’re just not able to get it done … We just got to find a way to go out there [in the] first series, first quarter of the game and get a stop.”
The Texas offense sputtered on its first three drives of the game, all ending in punts. Kansas State sandwiched another Jesse Ertz rushing touchdown in between Texas’ unsuccessful possessions, and the Longhorns then faced a tough two-touchdown deficit late in the first quarter.
However, freshman quarterback Shane Buechele helped Texas dig into the margin in the second quarter. He flung an 80-yard pass to freshman receiver Devin Duvernay, who cruised all the way to the house to cut the gap in half, 14-7.
“With this offense, we’re never out of the game,” Duvernay said. “We can score in one play, one minute.”
But the Wildcats thwarted any momentum gained through Duvernay’s long score, punching in another touchdown with nine seconds remaining in the half. The score extended their advantage to 21-7 through 30 minutes of play.
Kansas State looked poised to grab its biggest lead of the game on its first possession of the second half. Senior running back Charles Jones ripped off a 26-yard run followed by an 11-yarder on the next play to set his team up first and goal at the 6-yard line.
Jones got the nod for a third time in a row, shooting through a huge hole in the Texas defense on his way to the end zone. But inches before he crossed the plane, sophomore linebacker Anthony Wheeler punched the ball out of his hands. Haines fell on it in the end zone, stealing six points from the Wildcats.
But Texas still faced a two-touchdown deficit, and its offense showed no ability to move the ball on its first drive of the second half. Texas went three-and-out, failing to capitalize on the crucial takeaway.
And it wouldn’t be the only time Texas wasted a critical turnover.
Still lingering within a few possessions, Texas generated two more turnovers in the fourth quarter. But the problem that plagued the Longhorns two weeks ago against Oklahoma stung them again against Kansas State: Strong’s team scored zero points on its three forced turnovers.
“The frustrating thing about the turnovers is that we had our opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of [them],” Strong said.
Buechele fired another touchdown pass to junior receiver Dorian Leonard with less than a minute left in the game, but it was too little, too late. Texas had its chances but simply couldn’t make the most of them.
“It’s always tough when you lose a game and you had opportunities to go win it,” Strong said. “So many missed opportunities.”