MANHATTAN — COVID-19 had nothing on the Texas Longhorns and the damage they inflicted on Kansas State.
Texas took out the frustration of its own disappointing season and then some, jumping on the Wildcats and pulling away late for a 69-31 blowout victory Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
The loss was the fifth straight for K-State, which finished its regular season 4-6 overall and 4-5 in the Big 12. It also spoiled the day for 21 Wildcat seniors honored before kickoff.
"I thought they had a good game plan, and their kids were really ready to battle and play and they took it to us," K-State coach Chris Klieman said of Texas. "Disappointed in the loss, disappointed in the outcome, (But) not disappointed in the resolve and effort of our players.
"There are some things that we have to get a lot better at. We talked about that in the locker room. All that being said, we were probably three points away prior to this game from making this game a really big factor against Texas to go on to bigger and better things. (But) hose are ifs and buts, and we didn’t close out those couple of games we had an opportunity to."
During their five-game skid, the Wildcats suffered a two-point loss to Oklahoma State and fell by one on a last-second field goal last week at Baylor. But they also lost 37-10 at West Virginia, 45-0 at Iowa State, and then were blown out by Texas.
The Wildcats got all 10 of their games in this season, but were severely limited by COVID-19, especially in the past month.
Texas (6-3, 5-3), which amassed 608 yards total offense, scored on 11 of 14 possessions — nine touchdowns and two field goals. The Longhorns put up 334 yards rushing, with Bijan Robinson picking up 172 on nine carries and Roschon Johnson 139 on 14 attempts, and each scoring three touchdowns.
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger completed 20 of 27 passes for 274 yards and two scores.
"One of the most frustrating parts was that they had key offensive lineman that weren’t in the game, and the defensive line was excited to take advantage of the opportunity with how disruptive we’ve been playing," said K-State junior defensive end Wyatt Hubert, who had K-State's only sack to give him 8.5 for the season and tie him for eighth on the school career chart with 19. "But they definitely schemed our defensive line super well.
"They kept us out of the game for sure, especially with all of the quick throws, quick passes, all that kind of stuff. They came out hot. We just couldn’t get off the field and they made a lot of big plays."
The Wildcats were especially vulnerable in the secondary, where safeties Jahron McPherson and Elijah Sullivan both suffered injuries in the first half. Sullivan, a senior who spent his entire career at linebacker, made his first start at safety after missing the past two week because of COVID-19.
"We couldn’t stop them … (and) we ran out of players," Klieman said. "All of that being said, give Texas credit. That running back (Robinson) is a great player. That quarterback, in my mind, is the best quarterback in the league.
"They’re really big up front, and we didn’t do a good enough job of stopping them. We have to get bigger. We have to get stronger. We have to get heavier. We have to do all those things, because we were mismatched today."
While K-State's defense never got its bearings — Texas scored on its first five possessions on the way to a 31-17 halftime lead — the Wildcats did show some life by scoring a pair of first-half touchdowns and two more in the third quarter.
The 14 third-quarter points were the first in that period since they had 21 against Kansas on Oct. 24. However, Texas had 35 in the third to blow the game wide open.
"I was really pleased with our offense," Klieman said of his offense, which finished with 448 yards, including 274 on the ground. "We turned the ball over (three times), which we can't do, but when we didn't turn the ball over, we moved the ball at will."
Running back Deuce Vaughn rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, breaking the school freshman rushing record with 696 yards for the season. His 221 all-purpose yards — he added 45 on four catches and returned a pair of kickoffs for 51 — put him just two short of Robinson's 223.
"But at the end of the day, winning the ballgame is the biggest thing when you step out on the field on Saturdays and we couldn't get it done today," Vaughn said. "So (a) good game, but it wasn’t enough to get the win today."
Fellow true freshman Will Howard had his ups and downs at quarterback, completing 16 of 27 passes for 174 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses to Malik Knowles, but he also was intercepted twice and lost a fumble.
"Any game that’s not a win, I’m not happy with, obviously," Howard said. "I wanted to go out on a win with these seniors.
"I thought we fought hard, but some little things came and kind of bit us. First off I’ve got to say no excuses. I’ve got to take care of the ball better."
K-State trailed 31-17 at halftime and twice more closed to within two touchdowns in the third quarter before Texas pulled away.
Just when the Wildcats took some momentum to the locker room at halftime, Texas struck quickly at the start of the third quarter with a 75-yard run by Robinson, his third touchdown of the game.