LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) Freshman quarterback Avery Johnson played the entire second half while starter Will Howard watched because Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said Texas Tech was giving the Wildcats the QB run game.

Still, there will be questions about what's next under center for the defending Big 12 champions.

Johnson ran for five touchdowns, a first in FBS this season, while sharing time with Howard before taking over after the break, and Kansas State beat the Red Raiders 38-21 on Saturday night.

“That’s why we stayed with Avery because if they’re going to play a deep safety and give you quarterback run, then we’re going to make people pay for it,” Klieman said. “Had we had to get into a game where we’re throwing the heck out of it, who knows what we would have done?”

Johnson finished with 91 yards rushing as the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) bounced back from a surprising loss at Oklahoma State with an eighth consecutive victory in the series.

Jake Strong led a 99-yard drive to the only lead for Texas Tech (3-4, 2-2) in his debut in the third quarter after replacing injured starter Behren Morton. But the freshman threw three interceptions after the Wildcats had gone back in front.

Morton, who was starting because of the third long-term injury in as many seasons to Tyler Shough, was slow to get up several times in the first half and was ruled out after the break.

Coach Joey McGuire said Morton had already been dealing with a shoulder injury before the Red Raiders had a two-game conference winning streak stopped after a disappointing 1-3 start to his second season.

“I’m frustrated right now because I think you’ve always got to find a way to win no matter who’s out there,” McGuire said. “This is going to go back to, ‘Yeah, hey, you lose your starting quarterback.’ But at the end of the day, we didn’t play good enough football to win the game.”

Strong's second series started at the Texas Tech 1-yard line, but his 13-yard pass got the drive going.

Strong ran 54 yards to set up an 8-yard scoring pass on third down, when he lofted a pass just as he was hit hard in the pocket and Jerand Bradley got a foot down as he fell out the back of the end zone to give the Red Raiders a 21-17 lead.

Johnson, whose only other touchdown came in a blowout of Southeast Missouri State in the opener, replaced Howard on the third series and scored on a 2-yard run for a 10-0 lead.

Howard, a senior closing in on 30 career games but coming off a three-interception showing against the Cowboys, returned several times in the first half.

It was Johnson's show after the break.

His 30-yard run put Kansas State back in front for good at 24-21, and Johnson's 11-yard score put the Wildcats up 10 the first play after VJ Payne's 17-yard return of Strong's first interception.

After Kobe Savage corralled Strong's third interception in the end zone, Johnson led an 80-yard drive to the game-sealing score, a 3-yard run for his fifth TD.

The Wildcats finished with 436 yards a week after generating a season-low 372 in a 29-21 loss to Oklahoma State.

“We just needed to stay the course, block out the outside noise and listen to the inside noise of coaches, support staff, your teammates that do believe in you all the time,” Klieman said.


Kansas State: The Wildcats appeared to have a chance for a three-score lead just before halftime when linebacker Jake Clifton forced a fumble on a catch by Cam’Ron Valdez and Kansas State recovered inside the Texas Tech 25. But Clifton made helmet-to-helmet contact with Valdez and was ejected for targeting. Texas Tech then drove for a touchdown and a 17-14 halftime deficit.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders just can't seem to escape injuries at quarterback. Shough had played the deepest into the season of the Oregon transfer's three years in Lubbock before breaking a leg. Now the question is how soon Morton might return, if at all. This could be a serious test of the QB depth chart.


Treshaun Ward had 118 yards rushing as the Wildcats finished with 273 yards on the ground, the most allowed by Texas Tech this season. Tahj Brooks ran for 98 yards and a touchdown for Texas Tech, and Morton scored on a 1-yard plunge.


Kansas State: TCU at home next Saturday in a rematch of last year's Big 12 championship game, when the Wildcats handed the Horned Frogs their first loss of the season.

Texas Tech: at BYU next Saturday in the second meeting between the schools. The other was in 1940.


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