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Johnson’s 5 TDs Helps K-State Run Past Texas Tech, 38-21


By D. Scott Fritchen,

LUBBOCK, Tex. – On a night in which everyone wore black, purple and white was the color of the night, as Kansas State knocked out Texas Tech, 38-21, behind a record-tying performance by true freshman quarterback Avery Johnson, who rushed for five touchdowns in his first appearance in a Big 12 Conference game on Saturday night at Jones AT&T Stadium.


Johnson rushed 12 times for 91 yards and his rushing touchdowns tied the all-time record by Collin Klein in 2011 and Jonathan Beasley in 2000.

Johnson, who also completed 8-of-9 passes for 77 yards, entered the game for the first time late in the first quarter and rushed for a 2-yard touchdown. He raced five yards into the end zone in the second quarter, then scored three straight touchdowns on runs of 30, 11 and three yards in the second half, as the Wildcats went from a 21-17 deficit to a 17-point lead.

On and on it went. It was mesmerizing to watch.

“He was really good,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said.

K-State, 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12, appeared as potent as it has been all season behind a rushing attack that gained 273 yards on 46 carries against a Red Raiders’ defense that allowed 123.0 yards on the ground per game.

Johnson and the Wildcats could’ve run for even more, but Johnson slid down after a 14-yard gain as the team ran off the final minute of their most lopsided win over the Red Raiders since 2014. They raced through Texas Tech, 3-4 and 2-2, to win their eighth straight in the series, while Johnson joined elite company.

“You see it all over the place, ‘K-State Beef,"” Johnson said. “They were opening holes for me to run through tonight. It’s not just them, it’s tight ends, wide receivers and running backs just setting stuff up. At the end of the day, they’re opening it up for me and that’s just me running and trying to get into the end zone.”

Although the defending Big 12 Champions came back from defeat to score victories last season, they had something to prove after a loss at Oklahoma State and were badly in need of a road win before back-to-back home games against TCU and Houston.

Mission accomplished.

“We just needed to stay the course and block out the outside noise and listen to the inside noise, the coaches and your teammates who do believe in you all the time,” Klieman said. “I understand we needed to play better and didn’t play well last week, but it doesn’t mean we have a bad football team or a bad culture, or guys aren’t playing hard. I heard all those things this past week.

“Man, I see those kids every day. I love those kids and told them before the game that regardless how this game turned out, we got better this week. I’m so proud of the effort from the guys.”

Texas Tech outgained K-State 480-436 and the battle was tight in the beginning. Although K-State had a 17-14 lead at halftime, Texas Tech brushed that aside in a hurry behind true freshman Jake Strong, who took the Red Raiders 99 yards in 10 plays for a 21-17 lead with 9:31 left in the third quarter.

But Johnson and the Wildcats rose to the top.

Johnson, who split possessions with starting senior Will Howard in the first half, took control in the third quarter. He led his team 75 yards in nine plays capped by his 30-yard touchdown run on third-and-10 behind blocks from left guard Cooper Beebe, center Hayden Gillum and right guard Hadley Panzer. It was Johnson’s third touchdown of the game, and he hadn’t looked any better or comfortable.

He only appeared to gain confidence as the game wore on.

“We had a plan to play (Johnson) in the first half,” Klieman said. “He had a nice drive. Then we put Will back in and then Avery back in. We just bounced back and forth. Then in the third quarter, they were giving us the quarterback run, and that’s why we stayed with Avery, because if they’re going to play a deep safety and give you quarterback run, then we’re going to make people pay for it.”

Treshaun Ward led K-State with 15 carries for 118 yards and formed a potent one-two punch with Johnson.

“It’s just confidence and having fun, man,” Johnson said. “Me and Treshaun are laughing and having a fun time on the sideline playing the sport we love. Whenever he gets in space, he can put his foot in the ground, change direction, and get up field pretty quick.

“Tonight, he made a lot of guys miss.”

VJ Payne intercepted Strong when he stepped in front of an overthrown pass intended for Myles Price. Payne returned the ball to the 11 to set up Johnson, who strolled untouched into the end zone for his fourth touchdown and a 31-21 lead.

K-State regained the ball again when Strong threw a pass directly to Kobe Savage in the middle of the field at the K-State 28.

Strong tried to overcome his lumps, though, and fired pass after pass before Savage caught another interception off an overthrown pass, this time in the end zone for a touchback.

“I’d like to give a shoutout to the defensive line and the linebackers,” Savage said. “It’s just a credit to all the guys around me. It’s everyone and it’s not being too focused on the last play.”

Johnson threw a dart to Jayce Brown for a 21-yard gain to key another scoring drive. Ward carried the load with three straight runs of 10, nine and three yards. Then Johnson sprang into action against with a 3-yard keeper for his fifth touchdown and a 38-21 lead, prompting Texas Tech fans to head to the stadium exits.

The story of the first half was how Howard and Johnson shared the football.

Johnson took the field for the first time against Texas Tech with 5:09 left in the first quarter and led a 5-play, 59-yard drive in which Keagan Johnson powered 13 yards on a jet sweep before he was pushed out of bounds by Tyler Owens. On the next play, the speedy Avery Johnson took the ball the two yards on a keeper over the right pylon for a score to build upon an early 3-0 lead.

Texas Tech answered as quarterback Behren Morton took the Red Raiders 75 yards on 14 plays capped by his one-yard push into the end zone on fourth down to narrow the gap to 10-7.

“This is a darn good (Texas Tech) team,” Klieman said. “They’re really good. They get after you.”

Howard completed 6-of-9 passes for 86 yards. He and Johnson teamed up to regain a double-digit advantage at 17-7. Howard hit Ben Sinnott with a 5-yard pass and Sinnott ran another 37 yards to the Texas Tech 31. Then Johnson took over and drove the Wildcats the rest of the way. Sinnott, who caught six passes for 72 yards, took out two defenders as a run blocker and Johnson ran through the gap on a 5-yard keeper for his second touchdown.

However, the Red Raiders responded after the Wildcats’ score and got another touchdown of their own when they scurried 89 yards in the final 77 seconds of the first half. Brooks’ 2-yard rush with 23 seconds remaining narrowed the Wildcats’ lead to 17-14. Brooks finished the game with 17 carries for 98 yards and one score.

Although Brooks entered the game with the sixth most rushing yards in the FBS, the night belonged to the Wildcats.

“We’re just going to have to throw this game behind us like we did after Oklahoma State,” Savage said. “We need to stay neutral. We don’t need to get too high after having this win, even though it was a great win.

“We just need to throw it away tomorrow and get back to work Monday with the same mentality and same physicality we had throughout last week.”