Alex Del­ton’s tough­ness, poise shine through in 21-17 vic­tory over KU

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Sports - BY KELLIS ROBINETT

Alex Del­ton cel­e­brated like never be­fore fol­low­ing Kansas State’s 21-17 vic­tory Sun­flower Show­down vic­tory over Kansas on Satur­day at Bill Snyder Fam­ily Sta­dium.

He pumped his fists. He yelled. Then he ran cir­cles around team­mates as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

This felt like more than a bat­tle of strug­gling teams to the ju­nior quar­ter­back who grew up in Hays. It might have been his fa­vorite mo­ment in a K-State uni­form.

“It just meant a lot from a lot of as­pects, more than the in-state ri­valry,” Del­ton said. “It’s been a tough year. We haven’t, at times, played to our po­ten­tial. We haven’t done things that we know we can do, and things haven’t fallen our way to some ex­tent. It’s just good to fi­nally get a win un­der our belt and en­joy it.”

This was an im­por­tant win for the Wild­cats (4-6, 2-5 Big 12). Not only did it keep their bowl hopes alive, it extended their win­ning streak over the Jay­hawks to 10. Los­ing this game, to a team that hadn’t won a road con­fer­ence game since 2008 and re­cently fired its coach, would have made an al­ready dis­ap­point­ing sea­son much worse.

But they es­caped with a con­fi­dence-boost­ing vic­tory. And Del­ton was a big rea­son why.

K-State en­tered this game with con­sid­er­able un­cer­tainty at quar­ter­back. Usual starter Sky­lar Thomp­son was un­able to play while re­cov­er­ing from a head in­jury he suf­fered last week against TCU, and Del­ton is far from 100 per­cent. With nag­ging in­juries mount­ing for him, there was gen­uine con­cern Bill Snyder might have to turn to fresh­man John Hol­combe or sel­dom-used Hunter Hall against the Jay­hawks.

Del­ton was too tough for that, though.

He played through a no­tice­able limp and com­pleted 11 of 17 passes for 126 yards while also rush­ing for 55 yards and a touch­down. Best of all, he en­gi­neered a fourth-quar­ter come­back when his team needed him most.

“My thoughts have never changed about Alex,” Snyder said af­ter­ward. “He is a young guy that gen­uinely cares. He is extremely com­pet­i­tive and he is go­ing to bat­tle you un­til the bit­ter end. He is one of those guys who gets into every snap. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Here’s how he earned that re­spect from his head coach and won the game:

The Wild­cats got the ball at their own 40 with 5:02 re­main­ing fol­low­ing a bizarre se­quence of penal­ties and a punt from the Jay­hawks. KU led 17-14, and this was prob­a­bly KS­tate’s fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to mount a come­back.

Run­ning back Alex Barnes moved the chains ini­tially thanks to a gutsy run on fourth down, then Del­ton found Dal­ton Schoen for 28 yards down the left side­line, then he found the end zone on a 21-yard keeper.

K-State man­aged just 59 yards dur­ing a score­less first half, and its of­fense seemed lost much of the af­ter­noon. It was alarm­ing to see the Wild­cats struggle for so long against an op­po­nent with a sus­cep­ti­ble de­fense.

Still, the Wild­cats scored when they had to.

“We knew it was kind of now or never,” Schoen said. “We knew we had to put it in the end zone right then.”

K-State’s of­fense found most of its suc­cess in the sec­ond half af­ter Del­ton got in­volved as a run­ner. It was fit­ting that he won the game on the ground.

“It was a de­signed quar­ter­back run, a play we have run thou­sands of times since I’ve been here,” Del­ton said. “The guys up front did a great job.

Barnes did a great job lead block­ing for me and, to be hon­est, I just did the easy part. We have a bunch of reps on that play. It is one of our bread-and-but­ter plays and I felt good run­ning it. All I had to do was take it in.”

This sea­son hasn’t been easy for Del­ton, but he per­se­vered on this day.

“He goes from start­ing at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son to kind of get­ting in­jured to taking a cou­ple weeks off and think­ing Sky­lar was go­ing to ride this thing out,” right tackle Dal­ton Ris­ner said. “Then he gets thrown in there last week. He’s the dad out there among 10 other men, and he does a good job of own­ing that. He has grown up so much. I am re­ally proud of him.”

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