MANHATTAN — The Kansas State Wildcats were looking for a defining moment.
Skylar Thompson's legs may just have provided just that.
Thompson's three big runs — a 61-yarder from deep in Wildcat territory, a gritty fourth-down conversion and ultimately a 3-yarder for the game-winning touchdown — were significant on many levels last Saturday as K-State broke a two-game losing streak by holding off TCU, 24-17.
"It was huge, not only for Skylar but for the whole football team," K-State coach Chris Klieman said Monday during the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference. "To say in the fourth quarter we had an opportunity — granted we had to go 95 yards — and he made some great plays with his feet and with his arm and we were able to run the football a little bit and then were able to get a stop on a two-minute drive, and so I think for the whole football team it was something we needed."
The Wildcats never trailed against TCU, but then again they never led by more than a touchdown. And losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor to open Big 12 play left a bitter taste going into their final bye week.
When a Horned Frog punt pinned them at their own 5-yard line with 8 minutes, 3 seconds left, they needed something special and the offense delivered.
"We all had a really positive mindset going into the drive," said junior wide receiver Wykeen Gill, who scored his first career touchdown in the second quarter, one of his three catches for 45 yards. "We loved the calls we had in.
"All week we loved the calls we had in and we knew if we could just take it one play at a time, keep executing one play at a time, keep moving the sticks, keep moving the chains, it was going to bust.
Thompson opened the drive with a 5-yard completion to Malik Knowles, who nearly broke free for a big gain. On the next play Thompson ran a quarterback draw to perfection, rambling all the way to the TCU 29.
"You've got to love Skylar," Gill said. "He's out there battling his heart out and he busts one for us late.
"We can't ask much more from him."
After the big gain, the Wildcats next faced fourth-and-1 from the TCU 20, and decided against kicking a field goal.
"There was not a question in my mind that we were going for that on fourth down," Klieman said afterward. "We didn't want to have a three-point lead, we wanted to have a seven-point lead."
On the fourth-down play, Thompson was forced to the right sideline, where he was able to dive ahead for a 2-yard gain and the first down. Then on third-and-9, he found Knowles at the 7 to move the chains again.
Harry Trotter picked up 4 yards on first and goal, and on the next play Thompson ran it in with 2:45 left, capping the 11-play drive that took 5:18 off the clock.
"I live for those situations; I have my whole life," Thompson said. "I love to be under the gun and under pressure in those situations. That's what I've worked my whole life for, to be in situations like that and deliver for my teammates."
Even after the touchdown, K-State's defense had to hold on. TCU advanced to the Wildcat 36, but from there Wyatt Hubert came up with a sack, and on fourth down he forced Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan into an incomplete pass.
"Our defense did a great job as well," Thompson said. "Wyatt Hubert making a big play, getting some stops.
"It was a team effort today. I'm so proud of our guys, the way we responded to the past two weeks, coming off a bye week and playing the way we did today."
to kick off at 2:30 p.m.
The Big 12 announced Monday that the Sunflower Showdown between Kansas State and Kansas in Lawrence on Nov. 2 has been set for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff and will be televised on FS1.
The Wildcats wrap up a three-game home stand next Saturday with an 11 a.m. game against unbeaten Oklahoma.