One might wonder why Warner only had one sneaker in his hands, rather than two. A glance down towards his right foot revealed the secret to the world — a black walking boot had replaced the wolf gray colored Nike.
“When you get this old,” Warner said, “things start hurting. But nothing major, it’s just precautionary.’
Late in the fourth quarter, Warner exited the game because a lingering ankle issue had become too much to play through even though No. 13 Kansas State (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) was on the verge of nearly completing a 21 point second half deficit against the Longhorns.
With 2:43 left in the fourth quarter, K-State trailed Texas by a touchdown, but they had just gained possession at their own 19-yard-line after their defense stuffed All-American running back Bijan Robinson — who ran for 209 yards and a touchdown on the night — on a third down pitch play for a loss of yards.
Promptly, K-State began their march toward the endzone, but Warner and the Wildcats’ other outside receivers Malik Knowles were on the bench with injuries. fighting a strong wind blowing strong gusts of brisk air into their face, quarterback Adrian Martinez completed four straight passes to begin the drive, which got K-State all the way to their own 46-yard line. Then, an incomplete pass intended for RJ Garcia hit the turf. On the next play, Martinez was sacked for a loss of two yards as he attempted to scramble out of the pocket for the first down marker. As he approached the sideline, though, Longhorn defensive tackle Keondre Coburn forced a fumble. The ball bounced on the turf, but not into the arms of either team before it landed out of bounds. Disaster avoided.
Three plays later, catastrophe — and Coburn — did strike when Martinez fumbled again while attempting to reach the first down markers. This time, though, the ball found safety in the arms of Texas’ defender Jaylan Ford. The Cats’ comeback efforts ceased, and Teas quarterback Quinn Ewers kneeled on the turf for the clock to slowly strike zeros.
“Trying to do too much,” Martinez said of the fumble. “Trying to make a play there at the end of the game, and was moving through my progression and getting down to the bottom, which would be the check down. Trying to make that throw, and had it batted away. … Turnovers definitely hurt us tonight.”
With the clock reading zero, Kansas State’s stranglehold on second place in the Big 12 disappeared. Now, the Cats are joined by Texas and Baylor, though the Longhorns technically are ahead of K-State because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“We can only control what we can control,” linebacker Daniel Green said. “We got to do our thing and it’s going to work out how it’s supposed to work out. But we can only control what we can control.”
But all is not lost for the Wildcats. A chance to play for a Big 12 title in 2022 is certainly still possible, they likely just need help to get there. Next week when No. 7 TCU (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) plays Texas, the Cats should be roaring for the Horned Frogs to beat their instate foe. Then, K-State will have an opportunity to hand Baylor a third conference loss when the two teams meet in Waco.
“We just need to get ready for Baylor,” head coach Chris Klieman said. “I don’t know if we need help. I don’t know all that stuff. This is about us suffering a loss and getting ready for the next opponent, which is a really good Baylor team, and that’s the only thing we can really control.”
“If we win out,” defensive tackle Eli Huggins said. “We still have a really good chance of being where we want to be.”