Against an early challenge by the University of Central Arkansas on Saturday night, the Kansas State Wildcats didn't just hit the gas at Manhattan, Kan.
They took off.
The Wildcats, known for smash-mouth running, were efficient in the passing game, with quarterback Jesse Ertz completing 10 of 16 passes for 333 yards in a 55-19 victory at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The 19th-ranked Wildcats ' DJ Reed returned a kickoff to the UCA 4 on the first play, then he added a 62-yard punt return that broke the game open after a quarter and a half.
"You know they can run the football against the big boys," said UCA coach Steve Campbell. "You have to pick your poison. We weren't able to get a whole lot of pressure of him (Ertz)."
The Bears made a fight of it early, scoring on a 37-yard run by Brandon Cox, a 47-yard field goal by Matt Cummins and a 7-yard TD pass from Hayden Hildebrand to Roman Gordon to pull within 17-16 after a missed PAT with 8:53 left in the second quarter.
Then, K-State found another gear.
Ertz connected with Byron Pringle on a 55-yard pass, then Reed returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown to take a 31-16 lead. Late in the half, Ertz went big ball to Dalton Schoen for a 70-yard touchdown for a 38-16 halftime lead.
"We gave up too many big plays starting with the first play," said Campbell. "Special teams really hurt us, then they outplayed us the second half."
In the second half, Ertz connected for 69 yards to Isaiah Harris and Dalvin Womack added an 18-yard run and and field goal. Cummins added a field goal for UCA.
K-State rushed for 186 yards to UCA's 201. Hayden Hildebrand completed 27-35 passes for 198 yards. The Bears' Carlos Blackman rushed for 114 yards on 24 carries.
"There are a lot of things to build on and a lot of things to get better quickly," Campbell said. "They (the Wildcats) can shine a bright illuminating light where you are vulnerable."
UCA plays at Murray State on Saturday night.