ARLINGTON, Texas — Will Howard didn't watch as Ty Zentner lined up to try a game-winning field goal.
Then again, Howard swore he didn't need to. He already knew the outcome beforehand, and really, so did everybody else on Kansas State's sideline.
So Zentner — a Shawnee Heights High School graduate — calmly walked on the AT&T stadium field Saturday with a Big 12 championship on the line and punched through a 31-yarder to give the Wildcats a 31-28 overtime victory and their first conference title in 10 years.
"I'm running off the field and I go over, and I give him a high five as he's running (on) and I say, 'Go win a championship,' and he's got a smile on his face the whole time," Howard said. "Now, I couldn't look, just being on the sideline, but there was no doubt in my mind he was making that kick."
And why should there be? After taking over place-kicking duties on Oct. 29 Oklahoma State — he already handled all punts and kickoffs — Zentner has been perfect. Nine field goal tries, nine makes. The same on 29 point-after attempts, including four in regulation against TCU.
"I would say over the last five to six weeks, there may not be a more valuable kid on the football team than Ty Zentner," K-State coach Chris Klieman said. "And Ty was huge again today. And what was just so poetic for me was the ball was on his foot in the last game in Big 12 play for him.
"And there was no doubt in my mind that he was making that. No doubt in my mind."
Of course Zentner needed some help along the way. To start overtime, K-State's defense made two stops on third and fourth downs inside the 1-yard to thwart TCU's first overtime possession.
And then, when the Wildcats took over for their turn at the Horned Frogs' 25-yard line, Deuce Vaughn ran twice to pick up a first down. But from there, it was all Zentner, as they lined the ball up in the middle of the field for the kick heard all around K-State nation.
"It's just same thing as every time," Zentner said matter-of-factly. "Just hit my ball.
"I wouldn't say there were any nerves. I told Will (Howard) before overtime, I said if we got the ball and it's time to win it, we're going to do it. He said, 'I know. I've got confidence in you,' so jogging onto the field I just gave him a look, and the rest is history."
Ty Zentner arrived at Kansas State via Butler County and Shawnee Heights
And what a history for Zentner, a sixth-year super-senior from Topeka and Shawnee Heights High School by way of Butler Community College. At the start of the season, he was content kicking off and punting, but when the Wildcats struggled with field goals through the first seven games, Klieman decided to give him that job as well.
Zentner was equally effective in his other disciplines against TCU, limiting the Horned Frogs to an average of 19 yards on four kickoff returns and averaging 45.6 yards on seven punts with four inside the 20.
When it came to the field goal, his teammates left him alone and let him gather his thoughts. And then the kick operation itself was flawless.
"Everyone did a great job just kind of leaving me on that side of the field, and it was kind of cool just how it worked out," Zentner said. "Shoutout to Randen Plattner (long snapper) and Jack Blumer (holder), because they operated cleanly, not just today, but ever since I took over the kicking duties.
"They did my job for me. The ball just kind of kicked itself."
Kansas State football kicker was ready to step in when needed
Zentner, who did punt duties and kick field goals at Butler, still never imagined he would be in this position at the start of the season. Or did he?
"That's just the life of a specialist," he said with a smile. "You've got to stay ready. You've got to imagine things that probably other people wouldn't think about.
"Just stay ready for every opportunity, and shoutout to (Klieman) for giving me the opportunity he did, and you've just got to make the best of it."
Arne Green is based in Salina and covers Kansas State University sports for the Gannett network. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @arnegreen.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Kansas State football's Ty Zentner kicks winning field goal