MANHATTAN, Kan. Standing 95 yards away from TCU’s end zone in a tie game about midway through the fourth quarter, K-State’s offense needed a productive series simply to keep the Horned Frogs out of good field position.
A first down or two for K-State, with 190 total yards of offense at the time, would have been positive, especially with the way Devin Anctil was punting.
The Wildcats had other plans, however.
They marched the ball down the field in 11 plays, ate up 5:18 of game clock and Skylar Thompson ended the game-winning drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to propel K-State (4-2, 1-2) to a 24-17 win against TCU on Saturday afternoon.
“I live for those situations,” the redshirt junior quarterback said after his fourth career game-winning touchdown drive at K-State. “I have my whole life. I love to be under the gun, under pressure and in those situations. That’s what I worked for my whole life was to be in situations like that and to deliver for my teammates.”
Thompson helped deliver K-State’s second-longest touchdown drive of the season (97 yards against Nicholls) and its longest against a Big 12 opponent since a 98-yard scoring drive against Texas Tech in 2017.
It also came at a point when the Wildcats were struggling to move the chains. Their previous three drives ended in punts and a combined 24 yards.
Thompson said he felt like “it was just a matter of time” before the offense got going like it did in the second quarter on a 10-play, 76-yard scoring drive. K-State also scored on a short field in the first quarter, after Jonathan Alexander blocked and recovered a punt on TCU’s second possession. Thompson connected with Nick Lenners for a 21-yard touchdown pass two plays later.
“I felt like we got in a rhythm, offensively, today,” Thompson, who completed 11-of-23 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, said. “We just needed to get back into that.”
He got his teammates to believe it before the drive started, too.
“He really pumped the whole offense up. He told us from the first play we were going to punch it in, even when we were backed up against our own end zone,” redshirt freshman receiver Malik Knowles, who had three catches for 48 yards, said. “In the huddle, he said, ‘We’re going to score. It might be a long drive, but we’re going to score.’”
Thompson, who finished the drive with his third rushing touchdown of the season, also sparked it with his legs. After a 5-yard completion to Knowles to gain some breathing room, Thompson took off on a designed second-down run for 61 yards, a career long that put K-State in TCU territory.
“I look at Skylar as a true playmaker, a true dual-threat,” said junior receiver Wykeen Gill, with three catches for 45 yards that included a 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter to go up, 14-7. “People underestimate a lot of his assets. I look at his legs as one of his major assets to make a play.”
Two plays later, K-State faced a third-and-11. Again, Thompson put on his playmaking hat.
On third down, he connected with Chabastin Taylor for 10 yards. On fourth, he used his legs to turn a play action bootleg into a 2-yard gain when nothing else was open.
K-State head coach Chris Klieman said the conversion represented a sample of what impressed him most from Thompson.
“Just (his) toughness and resolve because he got hit a lot and he just kept coming back,” Klieman said of Thompson, who finished with 68 of K-State’s 94 rushing yards. “Skylar continues to impress me. I just love the kid because he’s such a competitor.”
Two plays after that gritty run, K-State stared down another third-and-long. This time, the Wildcats needed nine yards. Thompson converted it with a 10-yard completion to Knowles to put K-State inside TCU’s 10. After a 4-yard run from Harry Trotter, Thompson broke into the end zone on second-and-goal.
“All the work behind closed doors that people don’t see, with our receivers and with this o-line, all the stuff we did this summer to be prepared for situations like that, it’s nothing new,” Thompson said, as K-State’s defense turned TCU over on downs on the ensuing drive. “I’ve envisioned myself being in those situations before, so, when they are presented, it’s time to go execute. I didn’t make the situation any bigger than it was and just tried to execute and pull through for my team.”
K-State will host No. 5 Oklahoma on Saturday, October 26 at 11 a.m., on ABC.