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Thomas-led Wildcats hold off UCLA, 31-22
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Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas celebrates a touchdown with teammates including fullback Lucas Hamm (49) during the first half of their NCAA football game against UCLA Saturday in Manhattan, Kan.

MANHATTAN — The largest crowd for a home-opening game in Kansas State history, along with a national television audience, witnessed a career-best rushing day for senior running back Daniel Thomas.
The Big 12 Conference’s leading rusher last season, Thomas juked, stuttered and wore out UCLA with 235 yards and two touchdowns, as the Wildcats rallied for a 31-22 victory Saturday afternoon at sun-baked Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Even though he lined up in one-back sets on several situations and everyone in the stadium knew he was getting the ball, he still was able to pick his holes and gain positive yardage.
Sometimes in big chunks.
“I just think I’ve got good chemistry with the offensive line and a lot of it is preparation and just watching film, knowing who our guys are blocking,” Thomas said. “I didn’t know or do that last year. I was just running, so this year I have a little bit of understanding.”
Most of the 51,059 fans were quiet in the second quarter, as the sputtering Wildcats managed just nine yards of offense in the period and trailed 10-7 at halftime.
Led by Thomas, who also had a career high for rushing attempts with 28, the Wildcats snapped out of their funk and outscored the Bruins 24-12 in the second half. Kansas State has now won 21 straight season openers.
It was far from easy.
K-State clung to a 17-16 lead after UCLA’s Kai Forbath kicked his third field goal with 6:28 remaining. For Forbath, the 2009 Lou Groza award winner, it was his 40th-straight field goal inside 50 yards.
Garden City product and Minnesota transfer Brodrick Smith caught a 5-yard scoring pass from Wildcats quarterback Carson Coffman to extend their lead to 24-16 with 4:25 remaining. It topped off a six-play, 45-yard drive, which was started by Thomas gaining 27 yards for a first down. A late hit by UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers on Thomas at the end of the play advanced the ball to the Bruins 38-yard line.
Enter senior running back William Powell, who combined with Thomas as a 1-2 punch to help deliver the knockout. Powell, who finished with 72 yards in just six carries, had consecutive runs of 18 and eight yards, planting the ball at the UCLA 12.
“Powell, he is one of the fastest players on the team,” Thomas said. “He’s a great back. He’s somebody nobody knows about, but they will as the season goes on.”
After Coffman was stopped for no gain, it set up a third-and-2 at the 12. The senior QB gained four yards to the 8 for first-and-goal.
A delay-of-game penalty on the Wildcats moved the ball back to the 13 before 3- and 5-yard gains by Thomas, before and after K-State timeouts, made for a third-and-goal at the 5.
Coffman then hit Smith near the right corner of the end zone.
“That’s a play we’ve been running all through camp, and we knew it was going to work,” Coffman said of the scoring toss. “I feel like I have a lot more to prove.
“I felt like I did OK, well enough for us to win the game, but there’s more that I would like to get better at.”
It was a stellar ending for Coffman, who earlier was cramping up and throwing up, replaced temporarily by backup Collin Klein.
Yet Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince had an answer, leading them on a two-play, 64-yard scoring drive by hitting Cory Harkey for 35 yards and then connecting with Ricky Marvray for a 29-yard TD pass with 1:19 left, cutting the lead to 24-22 and setting up a potential game-tying 2-point conversion.
On the conversion, Prince rolled to his right and threw to the end zone, where Brad Duncan deflected Prince’s pass, intended for wideout Taylor Embree, as the Wildcats dodged a bullet.
After KSU’s Travis Tannahill recovered the onside kick at the UCLA 44, Thomas put a lid on it with a 35-yard TD run on third-and-1.