AUSTIN, Texas — Alex Delton took part in practice this past week the same as always. Regardless of the status of Kansas State starting quarterback Jesse Ertz, who was believed to be less than 100 percent, Delton went about business as usual as the backup.
Ertz, who didn’t play the final series of the previous game, was good to go Saturday against Texas, but with 4:50 left in the third quarter he limped off the field with an apparent knee injury. Delton took over with K-State trailing by seven points and directed two drives that produced 10 points for the lead.
The Wildcats, however, needed more points and more defense, as they dropped a 40-34 double-overtime decision to the Longhorns.
“It’s tough,” Delton said. “We gave it everything we had. We can’t focus on the negative too much, and (we’ll just) move on to next week.”
With Ertz not at full speed, K-State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) had 28 rushing yards when Delton entered and he quickly changed the direction of the game. He ran for 16 yards on his first snap, then picked up a yard before a 2-yard touchdown.
“He came in and gave us that quick boost we needed,” said Wildcat offensive guard Abdul Beecham. “He came in and knew what to do. He’s a guy we can depend on.”
Delton kept rolling on his second series, with runs of 13, 11 and 22 yards, plus a 23-yard pass to Dalton Schoen.
“That’s a credit to the offensive line,” he said. “They take pride in running the ball and they want to run the ball. When I got in there, they got me hyped up to run and we started running and got into a rhythm early on.”
He lost two yards on third-and-4 from the 14, and the Wildcats came away with a field goal and a 27-24 lead with 12:19 left in regulation.
“He had a lot more speed and he was very patient with his blocks,” Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson said of Delton. “He made it very difficult on our defense.”
Texas got the game to overtime on Joshua Rowland’s 34-yard field goal with 1:37 remaining.
Delton’s 8-yard touchdown run answered the Longhorns’ touchdown in the first overtime, but in the second overtime the Wildcats went backwards. Back-to-back holding penalties on Beecham and fullback Winston Dimel resulted in a 53-yard field goal attempt by Matthew McCrane, who bounced it off the left upright and missed (McCrane was good from 54 and 33 earlier in the game).
The Longhorns (3-2, 2-0) put an end to the 3-hour, 56-minute tussle on Chris Warren’s 2-yard touchdown run.
“I felt like we did some things well and we hurt ourselves in some situations,” Delton said. “I feel like we ran the ball well and threw the ball decent. We executed the game plan.
“We had a good plan for these guys. They are a very talented team that is fast and physical and big. I felt confident in our game plan and we had a good week of preparation. We knew they were a tough defense but we just came out on the short end.”
Delton had 12 carries for 79 yards and completed 2 of 5 passes for 30 yards.
“Alex played well,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “A few things popped up in the ballgame that he really hadn’t had an opportunity to work on. Consequently, it created a couple of bad plays, but overall, he played very well. Ran the ball well, threw the ball well.”
Ertz returned for K-State’s final possession in regulation, throwing an interception that resulted in a missed Texas field goal. Ertz was 12-of-18 passing for 224 yards with touchdowns of 82 and 12 yards to Schoen, but he netted only four rushing yards on nine carries while being sacked three times for 21 yards.
Snyder said Ertz “got banged up a little bit.”
There had been speculation late in the week that Ertz would be a game-time decision. Delton, who wasn’t available the first two games because of injury, had played only one series this season — last week against Baylor.
“Any time you play, it’s exciting, and you can’t take anything for granted,” said Delton, a sophomore from Hays. “I always try to be ready and I always am ready. I wasn’t trying to do too much. I just looked to the sideline to see what (plays) they gave me.”
The Wildcats put up 394 total yards against a good Texas defense, but the Longhorns amassed 546 yards against a K-State defense that hadn’t allowed more than 20 points the first four games, yet gave up 21 in the first half.
“There were a couple of plays when we could have ended the game, but we didn’t make the plays we needed,” said K-State safety Kendall Adams. “We scored 34 points, and that should be enough to win the game, so this one is on us as a defense.”
As good as Delton was in his relief stint, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger was even better all night. The true freshman got the call for his third start — with Shane Buechele dealing with an ankle injury — and torched the Wildcats for 107 rushing yards and 380 through the air with two TDs on 30-of-50 passing.
“That’s the thing I’ve been concerned about all week, regardless of which one it happened to be (Ehlinger or Beuchele), was his ability to bring the ball out of either the quarterback draw or scrambles,” Snyder said. “When he did scramble, we let him get on the edge. The receivers work the boundary, and any time that he scrambles, they got some big plays out of it.”
Contact Ken Corbitt at (785) 295-1123 or @KenCorbitt on Twitter.