MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — TCU and Kansas State had gone through pregame stretching and warm-ups, even tossed the coin, and were minutes away from kickoff Saturday when the first flash of lightning lit up the sky.
After a 3-hour weather delay, the Horned Frogs returned to the field to start the game.
The Wildcats never really showed up.
Sixth-ranked TCU’s stingy defense shut down the ailing Kansas State offense, and Kenny Hill threw for 297 yards while running for a touchdown in a 26-6 victory that kept the Horned Frogs undefeated.
“Honestly no,” Hill said, when asked whether he thought TCU would be the Big 12’s lone remaining unbeaten team. “To get to this point, I wasn’t expecting that at all. I mean, it’s a good feeling, but you’ve got to keep pushing, keep plugging away and keep trying to get another win.”
Sewo Olonilua added two short touchdown runs for the Horned Frogs (6-0, 3-0), who held the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2) without points both times they ventured into the red zone.
Kansas State was forced to play without quarterback Jesse Ertz, who was hurt in last week’s double-overtime loss at Texas. Sophomore backup Alex Delton got his first start and was 11 of 29 for 146 yards, struggling to run coach Bill Snyder’s complex offense against the Big 12’s best defense.
The Wildcats’ ground-based attack managed just 70 yards on 29 carries.
“There are some things that I need to get straightened out,” Snyder said. “They gave good effort. There are just some things that are not taking place. That falls into my lap.”
After kickoff was delayed because of the lightning, the Horned Frogs wasted little time in taking the lead. Their defense got the ball back deep in Kansas State territory, and Aaron Hicks pounded away five straight times before Hill scampered in from seven yards out for the touchdown.
Jonathan Song added a pair of field goals later in the first half.
“We had the same thing happen to us at Texas where we had a delay a couple of years ago,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said, “and so I let them play some music and they were singing, doing all the things they wanted to do to stay loose.”
The Wildcats’ most promising drive reached the TCU 5, but they followed with a pair of penalties on Byron Pringle — including pass interference to wipe out his TD catch — before fumbling the ball away.
They had a similar meltdown late in the third quarter, when they marched inside the TCU 10. The Horned Frogs’ defense proceeded to stuff Delton on third-and-2, and then shot through the line to bring down running back Justin Silmon on fourth-and-inches to get the ball back.
“That’s very surprising. I expect us to convert all the time,” Wildcats offensive lineman Abdul Beecham said. “It’s very disappointing no matter who we’re playing not to find the end zone.”
Early in the fourth quarter, another lightning spell sent the teams back to the locker room.
Only a few thousand water-logged fans were left when the teams returned to play the final 12:49, and the Horned Frogs made sure they stayed quiet. They forced a quick punt by Kansas State and breezed 65 yards downfield before Olonilua scored from one yard out for a 26-3 lead.
The Horned Frogs cruised the rest of the way in avenging a defeat from last year for the fourth time in their first six games. They’ve also beaten Arkansas, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
“All I know is, we’re bowl-eligible and that’s my first goal, is to get to six, and now it’s going to be to get to seven,” Patterson said. “But you got to have six first.”
Patterson called more blitzes than he has in years to keep the athletic Delton from scrambling for big gains. It worked. He carried 19 times for 39 yards. “We did not want to let Delton out,” Patterson said, “and it’s the first time he’s starting, so we kept doing things to confuse him.”
TCU’s defense bailed out an offense that played well in back-to-back wins over the Cowboys and Mountaineers but squandered plenty of changes Saturday. Darius Anderson fumbled the ball away in his own territory to set up Kansas State’s first field goal, and KaVontae Turpin dropped a pass in stride early in the fourth quarter that would have gone for a game-sealing touchdown.
Kansas State simply looked inept on offense. Delton’s inconsistency in the passing game allowed the Horned Frogs to stack the line of scrimmage, taking away the Wildcats’ run game. Offensive coordinator Dana Dimel hardly helped with some head-scratching decisions, such as running out of the shotgun when the Wildcats were stuffed on their fourth-and-inches try.
TCU returns home to face struggling Kansas next Saturday.
Kansas State gets another stiff test in No. 12 Oklahoma on Saturday.