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Special K-State: Wildcat kick returns doom Golden Eagles

Tech back home next week to host OVC rival Austin Peay

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Special teams – more specifically, kickoff coverage – was Tennessee Tech’s largest undoing Saturday afternoon in a 49-7 loss at Kansas State.

Wildcat Brandon Banks returned two Tech kicks for touchdowns to lead the Big 12 squad to the victory.

The first was a 91-yard return late in the first quarter after the Golden Eagle had tied the score at 7-7. The second came on the opening kickoff of the second half, a 92-yard race downfield after Tech had gone to the break trailing 21-7.

Banks finished the game with 273 all-purpose yards to the delight of 48,094 fans in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It was the second-largest crowd in Tech history.

In addition to Banks, who had three catches for 90 yards and two kick returns for 183 yards, tailback Daniel Thomas rushed for 139 yards in 26 carries to pace the KSU offense. Keithen Valentine rushed for 73 yards on 10 tries and backup quarterback Grant Gregory added 58 on nine totes.

K-State finished the game with 448 yards of total offense on 71 plays, getting 296 on the ground on 60 carries. The Wildcats passed for 152 yards, as Coffman and Gregory combined to go 10-for-11.

Sweeney was 11-for-18 passing and Tre Lamb connected on his only attempt. The combined for 126 yards through the air, but the Golden Eagles were limited to a negative 19 on the ground. That added up to 107 yards of total offense in 44 plays.

It took the Kansas State offense more than seven minutes to drive 58 yards for the game’s first touchdown, as Tech’s defense looked strong in the early going. It only took 12 seconds for the special teams to score the second TD of the game for the hosts and make it 14-7.

Jake McIntosh led the Tech defense with nine tackles, while Howard Griffin and Justin Vann made eight stops apiece and Dustin Dillihay had seven.

The Golden Eagles (1-2/0-1 OVC) come back home next week for an Ohio Valley Conference game Saturday against Austin Peay. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. in Tucker Stadium.

Pregame Notes

* Quarterback Lee Sweeney was listed as questionable when the team arrived Friday, but the senior from Mt. Juliet did start. Meanwhile, sophomore tackle Scott Schweitzer did not play, and sophomore transfer Andrew Higgins got his first career start.
* Sophomore Dwight Evans got his first career start at defensive end, moving ahead of senior Kelvin Quarles.
* Both of Tech’s A-backs, Henry Sailes and Tremaine Hudson, missed the game with injuries.
* Tech’s football team is back in Manhattan for the first time in 25 years. The 1984 Golden Eagles dropped a 28-12 decision to the Wildcats under head coach Garry Darnell.
* Pregame festivities on Fort Riley Day included the reading of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and flyover by two Blackhawks and two Apaches.
* The coin toss featured the team captains. For Tech, it was Kelvin Quarles, Brendon Fisher, Taron Ryce and the injured Derrian Waters. K-State won the toss and deferred to second half. Tech will receive.

First quarter notes

The Wildcats had to overcome a couple of penalties on their first drive. KSU picked up a first down on a fourth-and-one at the Tech 31. On third-and-two at the 15, Brendon Fisher filled the hole and stood up the Wildcat ball carrier, but on fourth down quarterback Carson Coffman picked up the first down at the 12. LaDarrius Verge collided with ball carrier Daniel Thomas at the four, bringing up a third-and-one. Tech’s defense stopped Coffman at the one. Thomas took a pitch and leaped over blockers into the end zone with 5:35 to go in the first quarter for a KSU lead. The drive was 15 plays, 58 yard 7:11. Including the penalties, KSU had 77 yards of offense on the drive.

The Golden Eagle offense answered quickly, tying the game at 7-7 in less than three minutes with a seven-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Sweeney’s touchdown pass to Hogue was not only Hogue’s first career reception, it also allowed Sweeney to tie the school record for career touchdown passes. It was his 38th scoring pass.

Banks returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.

On first down, Sweeney threw deep toward Benford but Tysyn Hartman made an acrobatic interception at the KSU 35.

Second quarter notes

Once again, the Golden Eagle defense forced KSU into fourth-and-one after an ankle tackle by Dustin Dillehay. Thomas broke a tackle in the backfield on fourth down that would have given Tech the ball, but he picked up the first down at the Tech 28. Facing third-and-7 at the TTU 13, Justin Vann and Dedrick Miley sacked Coffman for a six yard loss. That forced KSU to settle for a 36-yard field goal try by Josh Cherry, which sailed wide right. With 11 minutes to play in first half, it’s K-State 14, Tech 7.

Nick Campbell booted a 45-yard punt that the Golden Eagles downed at the KSU one-yard line. However, Tech was charged with a penalty for an illegal formation, and had to do it all over. This time, Tech downed it at the seven.

From in his own end zone, Coffman connected over the middle with receiver Brandon Banks, who dodged three tacklers and turned it into a 64-yard gain. Thomas had a 19-yard pickup to the 13, and Thomas took the next carry to the six. Dedrick Miley, Matt Moran and Jerry King met Thomas for a two-yard loss to the five. After an incomplete pass, Coffman rushed up the middle for the Wildcat touchdown to finish the 93-yard drive. Cherry’s PAT makes it 21-7 with 2:34 remaining in the half.

Third quarter notes

Banks took the second-half kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.

Tysyn Hartman had a 22-yard punt return to the Tech 39, and the Wildcats drove to the end zone in five plays for a 35-7 lead. Thomas crashed the final yard for the score.

After a 54-yard punt by Campbell, Hartman had a 24-yard punt return to the KSU 40. The Wildcats rushed the ball seven times to drive 60 yards for a 42-7 lead. Keithen Valentine had six of the seven carries, including a 15-yard TD run to finish the drive.

Fourth quarter notes

The final touchdown of the game made it 49-7, coming with 10:59 to play. Grant rushed one yard for the touchdown, capping a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive.

photos by Tony Marable