Why Chris Klieman refused to kick a field goal on final play of K-State loss at Texas

Scott Wachter/USA TODAY Sports

Chris Klieman’s mind was made up.

He was going to be aggressive and play for the win.

As soon as the Kansas State football team started overtime of its 33-30 loss to Texas on defense, he knew the Wildcats would end up in a position to beat Texas on the final play of a thrilling, back-and-forth game. It didn’t matter if that do-or-die moment came on a field goal, a fourth down or a two-point conversion, the Wildcats were going to try to defeat the Longhorns whenever they got the ball.

The final play arrived moments later, when K-State found itself staring at a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line after Texas scored a field goal on its possession in overtime. Klieman could have sent his field-goal unit onto the field to tie the score. Instead he trusted his offense.

The Wildcats snapped the ball to quarterback Will Howard in a shotgun formation, then he looked to his right, where he hoped to see tight end Ben Sinnott streaking open at the goal line. It didn’t happen. Texas covered him and then got pressure on Howard in the backfield.

Down he went. Game over.

Texas celebrated the victory on Saturday inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium that cemented its position atop the Big 12 standings — and knocked K-State down a few spots.

Klieman’s strategy failed. Even so, he has no regrets.

“It’s one of those things where if I had it all over again, we would have done it again,” Klieman said. “I don’t know if (offensive coordinator Collin Klein) would have called something different. I’m just telling you. We would have done that again. We were at the 4-yard line, we have a lot of really good (plays) and we needed to end that game when we had the chance.”

K-State football players liked the decision.

“We weren’t going into this game looking to tie,” Sinnott said, “or looking to go into another thing of overtime. We wanted to take care of business immediately and just go for the win.”

“We all knew that was what we were going to do,” Howard said. “There was no doubt in my mind about it.”

The only thing the Wildcats wish they had done differently: get the ball in the end zone.

K-State attempted to pull off one of its favorite plays with the game on the line against Texas. Unfortunately, the Longhorns sniffed it out.

The play was designed for wide receiver Keagan Johnson to create space near the goal line for Sinnott on an out route. Johnson ran a deep out into the end zone, which would have shielded Sinnott from the Texas defense had the Longhorns played straight man-to-man defense. But the Texas defender that lined up across from Johnson switched to Sinnott and there was nowhere to throw the ball.

Texas got pressure on Howard and the game ended in frustrating fashion for K-State.

“We ran a little rub concept to the boundary,” Howard said. “They clouded both sides. Good for them. We were hoping they would go man coverage. It is what it is. They took away my first read and then did a good job of covering Keagan on my second read. Then I lost my footing a little bit.”

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said he called timeout before K-State ran its play specifically to try and take away that type of pass. He was also worried about Howard scrambling for a touchdown, so it wasn’t an easy defensive assignment for the Longhorns. But they executed the play to perfection.

The game fittingly ended in thrilling fashion.

The final play didn’t work out for K-State, but there is a good chance Klieman will try for a touchdown the next time the Wildcats are in that same position.

“We were going to try and end that game,” Klieman said. “Whether they scored and we scored and needed to go for two, we were going to try and end that game. Collin (Klein) and Will loved what we had. It was at the 4-yard line, so it was 1 yard farther than a two-point play. Our guys were gassed a little bit. Their guy made a play. But I’m just telling you we were going to (try and) win that game in overtime.”