MANHATTAN, Kansas — Texas Tech’s game against Kansas State Saturday was a war of attrition.
Key players, including both starting quarterbacks, went down on both sides, and Texas Tech could not finish off second half comeback, losing 31-21 to the Wildcats.
Texas Tech dropped to 1-2 overall and 0-2 in Big 12 play with the loss.
Alan Bowman left the game in the first quarter after Kansas State’s Khalid Duke came off the edge and delivered a late, low hit. He was replaced by Utah State transfer Henry Colombi.
A quarter later, Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson had to leave the game after taking a shot from Riko Jeffers. Jeffers was flagged for targeting and ejected.
The Red Raiders did not look good in the first half after Colombi came in, going into halftime trailing 14-0. But in the second half, the Utah State transfer found a spark. He engineered three straight touchdown drives out of halftime, giving Texas Tech a 21-17 lead at one point.
“He threw some balls in some tight windows, made some good decisions, he made some really good checks, scrambled,” Matt Wells said. “I thought he played really well.”
But with the Red Raiders down by three points in the fourth quarter, Colombi threw a deep ball that was picked off in the end zone.
Kansas State went three-and-out after the interception, but Texas Tech could not put up points on its ensuing drive either. On fourth and three, Colombi scrambled for a first down, but the play was called back because of an Ethan Carde hold. Texas Tech was forced to punt.
From there, Wildcat running back Deuce Vaughn sealed the game, catching a pass, shedding a tackle and running 70 yards for a touchdown.
In his Texas Tech debut, Colombi completed 30 of 42 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Colombi mostly threw quick passes for moderate gains. While he wasn’t producing chunk plays, he avoided mistakes and took off running when he needed to.
Texas Tech caught a break in the second quarter when Kansas State punt returner Phillip Brooks fair caught a punt at the 3-yard line. Facing a third down and nine backed up against his end zone, Skylar Thompson couldn’t find an open receiver, but scrambled 13 yards for the first down.
Later on the drive, Thompson left after the hit by Jeffers, and was replaced by true freshman Will Howard.
With Thompson out, Kansas State turned to the run game. Vaughn welcomed the workload, picking up three first downs and slipping a tackle for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 14-0 lead. He finished the day with 194 yards from scrimmage.
Texas Tech was shut out in the first half, but Colombi did lead two drives deep into Kansas State territory. However, the Red Raiders came away from both empty-handed, after Trey Wolff missed two field goals.
Texas Tech had an up-and-down day on special teams last week against Texas, making big plays but surrendering some as well.
Saturday, it was all bad.
Wolff’s missed field goals were costly, and Austin McNamara had a punt blocked for the second straight week in the first quarter. Kansas State took advantage of that short field for its first touchdown of the day.
“We’ve got to make field goals and we’ve got to protect for our punter,” Wells said. “We’ve got to go back in and we’ve got to reassess it from personnel to scheme.”
Texas Tech mounted its comeback in the second half by limiting mistakes not only on special teams, but across the board.
Colombi visibly became more comfortable as the game went on. He spread the ball around to Erik Ezukanma, KeSean Carter and Myles Price. Each caught at least three passes.
“This is an offense that I’ve run for years now,” said Colombi, who played under Wells at Utah State. “I’m comfortable with all the calls, all the checks and all the things of that nature.”
Colombi finished off an 18-play, 88-yard touchdown drive with a lob to KeSean Carter for Texas Tech’s first seven points of the game.
After a Kansas State field goal, Texas Tech got seven more points on a 49-yard Xavier White touchdown run.
White, the Monterey product who played wide receiver last year, equally split carries with SaRodorick Thompson, and outplayed the starter. He rushed for 113 yards on 12 totes.
“As soon as I started running the ball I got hot, and then coach (DeAndre) Smith just felt I needed to be on the field because I was making plays,” White said.
The Red Raiders finally took the lead on a strike from Colombi to Price, but Kansas State answered with a touchdown of its own.
Colombi’s magic ran out with the interception, a deep ball to the sideline that hung up far too long, allowing Jahron McPherson to undercut it. After the hold on Carde, Vaughn’s long touchdown sealed the game.
For the second straight week, Texas Tech overcame early adversity and showed fight, but ultimately came up short in a frustrating loss.