FORT WORTH, Texas – Max Duggan threw for 280 yards with three touchdowns and Kendre Miller ran for 153 yards and two scores as eighth-ranked TCU again rallied from a big early deficit to stay undefeated, beating No. 17 Kansas State 38-28 on Saturday night to take over sole possession of first place in the Big 12 Conference.
Duggan's 55-yard strike to Quentin Johnston late in the third quarter put the Horned Frogs (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) ahead to stay. That was their third consecutive drive to finish in the end zone.
The Frogs, with new coach Sonny Dykes, have won four consecutive games over ranked opponents. Three in a row was already a first in school history, which they accomplished a week earlier at home by overcoming a 17-point deficit to beat then-No. 8 Oklahoma State in double overtime.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence ... there’s no sense of panic,” Dykes said. "And that gives you a chance when you always believe that you can figure out a way to win. And more often than not, you’re going to.”
Kansas State (5-2, 3-1) had jumped out to a 28-10 lead when Will Howard threw for two touchdowns and ran for another after taking over for banged-up quarterback Adrian Martinez on its second drive. Deuce Vaughn's 47-yard run for his first touchdown in five games capped the fourth consecutive TD drive for the K-State.
“Proud of Will Howard. I thought he played a good football game,” K-State coach Chris Klieman said.
Howard ran for 14 yards on his first play and completed his first seven passes for 156 yards. He finished 13 of 20 for 225 yards, leaving the game briefly after hurting his shoulder on a running play late in the third quarter. Freshman Jake Rubley, the third K-State QB in the game, threw an interception on his first pass that came after TCU had gone ahead to stay.
Miller scored on a 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 on the opening drive of the second half to get TCU within 28-24, after Jared Wiley's 4-yard TD catch that ended a 91-yard drive just before halftime.
K-State then missed a field goal attempt, and the Frogs needed only four plays before Duggan's long TD to Johnston. Rubley was stopped short on fourth-and-1 early in the fourth quarter, setting up a drive that ended with a 9-yard scoring run by Miller.
TCU led 7-0 after a 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Derius Davis on its first drive.
Martinez was among several Wildcats players that got dinged up in their last game two weeks ago at Iowa State. He was good to start and had a 19-yard keeper on the first play against TCU, but was in the locker room for an undisclosed issue before they had the ball again and Howard got his first game action this season.
“The frustrating part is I don’t know how bad those guys are hurt,” Klieman said.
Howard started 10 of his 15 games the past two seasons before Martinez transferred from Nebraska.
Kansas State: The Wildcats had won three in a row since a 21-7 home loss Sept. 17 to Tulane, a team that this week got ranked for the first time since 1998. The open date apparently wasn't enough to heal up the lingering issues for Martinez and the other players. Vaughn, who missed the final few minutes of the 10-9 win at Iowa State after getting leg-whipped, went to the locker room during the first half at TCU, though he did return and had some nifty runs.
TCU: The Frogs had lost three in a row to Kansas State without scoring more than 17 points in any of those games. Duggan, who lost the starting role going into the season, finished 17-of-26 passing and has thrown a Big 12-best 19 touchdowns with only one interception since taking back over when Chandler Morris got hurt in the opener. Miller has a rushing TD in every game this season, and has run for more than 100 yards in four of the last five.
The Frogs could possibly move up a spot since No. 7 Ole Miss and No. 9 UCLA, the teams they were between, suffered their first losses Saturday. Kansas State is sure to drop some, but should still be ranked when the new poll comes out Sunday.
Kansas State is home against No. 11 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1) next Saturday in a matchup of second-place teams.
TCU plays three of its next four game on the road, the first next Saturday at West Virginia (3-4, 1-3).
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