MANHATTAN — Blake Lynch was back in a groove, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Kansas State Wildcats.
Nearly two months after his most recent field goal, Lynch matched a career high with four straight in last Saturday’s 21-6 victory over Texas Tech. His 13 total points, combined with Brock Monty’s blocked punt for a safety, meant that the Wildcats’ much-maligned special teams provided the exact winning margin.
“Everybody on special teams, they were pretty excited in the locker room, just because we haven’t had a game like that in a while,” said Lynch, a sophomore and former walk-on, who on Monday was named Big 12 special teams player of the week. “It means a lot, especially on senior day.”
By beating Texas Tech, the Wildcats not only sent their seniors out on a winning note in their final home game, but at 5-6 they kept their postseason hopes alive heading into Saturday’s 6 p.m. regular-season finale at No. 25-ranked Iowa State.
For Lynch, it completed a comeback from an injury that sidelined him three games and limited him to seven extra-point attempts in the last three since his return.
“It was a good day,” said Lynch, whose 20-yarder early in the second quarter got the Wildcats on the board, trailing 6-3 on a cold and windy afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. “It was pretty special go give the seniors a win like that, and Colby (Moore, the holder) and (long snapper Dalton) Harman did really good today in giving me the best opportunity.”
That was a departure from the two previous games, where problems getting the ball down had led to a pair of aborted attempts and a costly missed point-after in a 14-13 loss at TCU. And considering the conditions on Saturday, a clean placement was paramount.
″(The ball) was pretty rock solid,” Lynch said. “It was pumped up pretty good and I had to swing pretty hard at it.”
The four field goals — he also had a 34-yarder in the third quarter and hit from 41 and 22 in the fourth — created just enough of a cushion on a day that the Wildcat defense was on top of its game.
“I try not to think about it, but I definitely know the score going out there, too,” Lynch said of the tense circumstances. “I just try to block it out.
“When it’s a close game, I try to just focus on kicking and stay focused on that, basically.”
K-State coach Bill Snyder, asked if Saturday’s performance helped restore Lynch’s confidence, suggested that confidence never was an issue.
“I would guess it probably had a little impact on him,” Snyder said. “But Blake doesn’t lack for confidence. He’s not an overconfident youngster, but you have to realize he missed one, whenever it was, a week or so ago, it was the only field goal he’s ever missed in his life.”
Actually, Lynch was 9 of 11 going into the game, but had not missed from inside 50 yards. He was 7 of 11 in his two years of kicking (2014-15) for Goddard Eisenhower High School.
But suffice it to say Lynch was pleased, considering he still isn’t 100 percent physically.
“It means a lot,” he said of coming through in a close game. “I’m still not fully back, but I’m getting there.”
For all his own success, Lynch was just as excited about Monty’s punt block through the end zone in the third quarter that put K-State up 12-6. It came right after the Wildcat offense had been stopped on fourth down at the Tech 10-yard line and quickly reversed the momentum.
“It was crazy,” Lynch said. “I think it was one of the biggest moments of the game.”
The punt block also served as vindication of sorts for K-State’s special teams, which had come under fire this season after a number of gaffes from their kicking and return units.
“As close as it was for the vast majority of the ballgame, anything is significant when you can create a field position turnaround like that,” Snyder said. “It’s dynamic.”