Down in Manhattan, Kansas on Friday, August 30, all anybody wanted to talk about was the heat.
“MY WORD! IT IS HOT!” There was little to argue with as the temperature an hour before kickoff was 99 degrees. The temperature for the kick off was going to be 98 degrees but a heat index of 103 degrees. There was a reason to complain, whether you were fan or player.
“It affected all of us,” said Brock Jensen after the game. “You can’t really prepare for this.”
The entire playing field along with 90 percent of the stands was covered by the shade as the sun dipped below the west stands and the newly renovated press box. And while it relieved some from the beating sun, the oppressing heat continued on through the evening.
Whether it affected the players or not in the first quarter is up for question. Both offenses came out sluggish especially the Wildcats who had to call a timeout on the first play from scrimmage and had a false start penalty during the drive.
The Bison didn’t fare much better, having to punt on their first two drives on offense. It was a special team’s play that ignited the Bison offense in the first quarter. Christian Dudzik, who had replaced Ryan Smith during the week as the starting punt returner due to a concern over Smith’s hamstring, returned a punt 49 yards and put the Bison in business.
On a third and goal from the five, senior quarterback Brock Jensen found fellow senior and roommate Ryan Smith for a touchdown pass that put the Herd up 7-0.
Right before the end of the first quarter, Kansas State to find success in the passing game. However, at the quarter break, they went with a couple run plays and were unable to score. The Wildcats took not of this and decided if it isn’t broke, why fix it.
Jake Waters and the offense drove 78 yards on four plays, capped off by a 45-yard touchdown catch by Tramaine Thompson, to tie the score up at seven apiece. On the play, Colten Heagle was caught looking in the back field that allowed Thompson to sneak by him and score.
As both teams traded punts to end the first half, the temperature dipped slightly but the humidity picked up. The start of the second half saw that maybe the Bison weren’t ready for this condition and the Wildcats were.
The purple and silver came out on fire, connecting on a 56-yard pass from Waters to Tyler Lockett. The pass saw All-American Marcus Williams become toast as he bit on a pump fake that allowed Lockett to get by him.
After a Jensen interception, the Wildcats brought in back-up quarterback Daniel Sams to finish off the short drive with a 17-yard scamper to end zone. It looked like the Bison were feeling the effects of fatigue and would not be able to keep in the game much longer.
Then, came a Jensen fourth and one run that ended up in a first down halfway through a scoring drive that pulled the Bison right back into the contest. Jensen would end the drive by throwing a touchdown to Kevin Vaadeland to make it 21-14.
A field goal by Adam Keller later in the third quarter made it 21-17. A few more empty possessions and the scene was set for what might end up being the greatest drive in Bison history.
The Bison got the ball with 8:58 to go in the game on their own 20 and took the ball down to the 1-yard line with just 32 seconds to go. An amazing drive that saw the Bison convert on four third downs.
Every Bison fan knew the ball was going to stick in Jensen’s hands and he didn’t disappoint. Just one yard later and Jensen fell backward into the end zone for the game winning score and a Bison lead at 24-21.
A Grant Olson interception sealed the deal and the celebration was on for the Bison Nation.
“We found a way to gut it out,” said Jensen. “That was the most gutsiest performance I had ever seen in my life.”