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September 25, 2010

Wildcats ride out UCF's storm

With his Wildcats trailing by three points with the football at the University of Central Florida’s 7-yard-line, Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman waded through the trenches of the Knight defense and pushed his way into the end zone. The touchdown pushed the Wildcats to a 17-13 victory on Saturday afternoon. And the sun shone.

“(Seeing Coffman score) was a big relief,” running back Daniel Thomas said. “We didn’t want to go into overtime. That was big for him to get in their for us and finish the game.”

For much of Saturday’s contest at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, sunlight - both literal and figurative - seemed miles away from Manhattan, Kan. Consider:

- Thomas, who entered the game as the nation’s leader rusher from the running back position, gained just 76 yards on the ground and coughed up a fourth-quarter fumble.

- Coffman completed just 50 percent of his passes, threw one interception, and was sacked twice.

- K-State did not pick up an offensive first down until early in the second quarter and did not score until late in the third.

- The Wildcat defense surrendered 344 total yards, including 252 on the ground.

- The game met a delay after just three minutes of action. The delay lasted 86 minutes.

Coach Bill Snyder said that the Wildcats’ struggles were no mystery. “They played better than we did,” Snyder said. “They whipped us up front. They were more aggressive. They ran the ball better.”

Despite all the game’s misgivings for those in purple, it ended as each game on the Kansas State schedule has so far this seasonl, with a victory.

“Our team knew that if we just kept pounding and pounding,” linebacker Blake Slaughter, who finished with a game-high 13 tackles, said, “that eventually the tide was going to turn our way.”

The final Wildcat drive began on their own 33-yard-line with 5:44 left on the game clock. The Wildcats had to put points on the board, as Knight kicker Nick Cattoi had just put a 27-yard field goal through the uprights to give UCF a 13-10 edge. Though Kansas State’s offense had been sporadic, at best, throughout the contest, those involved said their was an air of confidence when the purple took the field. “The whole fourth quarter, I was saying, ‘We own the fourth quarter,’” Coffman said.

Kansas State worked dangerously from the start, missing on two passes before Coffman connected with red shirt-freshman tight end Andre McDonald for an 18-yard gain. “The pass to Andre McDonald was a big play to get us a first down,” Snyder said, “and first downs were hard for us to come by.”

The Wildcats met two more third downs on the 13-play drive, but Coffman converted both - the first by land with a two-yard carry, and the second by air, connecting with Brodrick Smith after rolling out of the pocket. “Carson made a couple of throws in their that made a difference in the drive,” Snyder said.

“I know going into that drive [Coffman] had a lot of heart,” Smith said of the senior quarterback. “A lot of guys relied on him and he got the job done today.”

Though the offense put little together through the first three quarters, the Wildcat defense rose to the occasion after the initial UCF scoring drive. One drive after taking a 7-0 lead on an 8-yard Ronnie Weaver carry, the Knights again threatened in Wildcat territory the next time they had the ball. The drive met a quick death when K-State safety Emmanuel Lamur picked off a Jeff Godfrey pass. Later in the half, UCF had a prime opportunity to increase their lead with a first-and-10 on the Kansas State 25-yard-line. Three plays and two penalties later, the Cattoi pushed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Weaver led the Knights with a game-high 130 yards on the ground. Godfrey added 99 rushing yards and 92 passing, but also tossed two interceptions. Wildcat defenders mentioned that facing that sort of speed would be a benefit in preparing for the rest of the season. “Getting ready for the Big 12, there are going to be a bunch of fast teams out there,” Slaughter said. “This was probably one of the fastest teams we’ve seen yet.

Despite being out-gained by the Knights 170-43 in the first half, the Wildcats trailed by just seven points at the (non-weather related) break.

Though little seemed to go in K-State’s favor for much of the game, the same could be argued for UCF. The Knights failed to take advantage of several opportunities that could have gone far in clinching a victory, or at least pushing their lead to two scores. The Knights missed a pair of field goals; from 42-yards out late in the second quarter and from 23-yards in the third. They also missed out on an almost-sure touchdown when receiver A.J. Guyton hauled in a 32-yard reception with nothing but open field in front of him, but stumbled steps later and fell to the ground clutching his ankle.




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