HOUSTON -- With a pair of 20-yard scampers on the decisive scoring drive Wednesday, Kansas State's Jesse Ertz proved his worth as a dual-threat quarterback. When the Wildcats needed one last first down to seal their victory, they knew exactly where to turn. Ertz produced three touchdowns, two on the ground, as Kansas State capped a sweep of Lone Star State programs with a 33-28 victory over Texas A&M in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium. Ertz finished with 262 total yards for the Wildcats (9-4), who closed the season with four consecutive victories and six over their past seven games with one of the youngest rosters of the Bill Snyder era. Kansas State had dropped seven of its previous eight bowl games, but after beating Big 12 foes Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor and TCU, added the Aggies (8-5) to its list of dispatched programs from Texas. "It's so easy to take that for granted and say, 'Hey, you've got a lot of guys coming back therefore you're going to be good,'" Snyder said. "It doesn't work that way. It's new dynamics every single year regardless of who you have coming back or who you don't have coming back. All the pieces have to fit. "It's so easy to say you've going to have a good football team, but as I said to them, 'That's up to you.'" Texas A&M, behind receiver Josh Reynolds, who set a school bowl record for receptions (12) and a Texas Bowl mark for receiving yards (154), rallied within one score and marched to the Kansas State 23-yard line before facing a fourth down with 2:15 to play. Wildcats cornerback Cre Moore blitzed off the edge and forced an incomplete pass from Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight to snuff the rally attempt. "I checked the out route," said Knight, who passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. "They showed zero coverage. We weren't going to block the guy on the outside, so I didn't make the throw or you can point to a lot of different things but we didn't execute. That will be one that will probably haunt me forever." On the ensuing march, Ertz scampered for a first down to essentially seal the victory. His two 20-yard runs led to his 1-yard plunge and a 33-21 lead with 9:00 remaining. "We didn't try it that often, quarterback run game, and we threw it a lot," Ertz said. "The backs were having success, and that just opened things up for me at the end. We kind of lulled them to sleep." Kansas State caught momentum on the first snap of its second drive when Ertz dropped a perfect pass down the near sideline for a 79-yard strike to Byron Pringle. The touchdown pulled the Wildcats even at 7-7 with 4:52 left in the first quarter. They later reeled off three consecutive drives in which they tallied points. The Aggies were helpless against the onslaught, allowing drives of eight and seven plays that resulted in a touchdown and a field goal plus a 52-yard touchdown run by Wildcats receiver Dominique Heath on a jet sweep with 3:07 left in the half. Kansas State had its offensive blitz stalled when Ertz, whose 5-yard run gave the Wildcats a 13-7 lead at the 12:19 mark of the second quarter, was dropped for a loss on fourth-and-1 at the Texas A&M 26-yard line with 32 seconds left in the second quarter. In the second half, it was more of the same for the Wildcats, who recorded big plays when they needed them against the scrambling Aggies defense. "It was a case tonight where either we stopped him or gave up the home run," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Consistency level was the issue. We gave up three big plays in the first half and couldn't get enough stops." The Aggies breezed to a 7-0 lead, covering 75 yards in 10 plays on their opening drive. However, needed a splendid 37-yard, third-down reception from Josh Reynolds to fuel their second score, a 3-yard toss from Knight to Ricky Seals-Jones that gave the Aggies a short-lived 14-13 lead. NOTES: Kansas State entered the postseason with 125 combined starts from freshmen and sophomores this season, the most by any Bill Snyder-led team. The previous high was 101 by his first squad in 1989. ... Aggies WR Ricky Seals-Jones recorded his first touchdown reception on the season with his 3-yard catch in the second quarter. ... The Wildcats' 79-yard touchdown pass from QB Jesse Ertz to WR Byron Pringle was the second-longest pass play in Kansas State bowl history. Michael Bishop hit Darnell McDonald for 88 yards in the 1998 Alamo Bowl. ... With his 3-yard reception in the second quarter, Aggies WR Christian Kirk became player in program history with multiple 80-catch campaigns. Kirk finished with 80 receptions as a freshman in 2015.
Ertz powers Kansas State past Texas A&M
The Sports Xchange | Dec 29