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November 6, 2011

K-State falls short against Cowboys

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Bill Snyder would probably prefer not to see red dirt, drive past an Indian casino or hear anything about table salt -- let alone salt flats -- anytime soon.

The 72-year old football coach doesn't need another reminder of the two-week long torture session his team endured at the hands of Sooner State-based programs. The memory is one he'd actually like to suppress. Kansas State's narrow, 52-45 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma State on Saturday was served up differently than the 41-point bullying it took from Oklahoma the week before, but the aftertaste wasn't any less sour.

"They're both pretty frustrating," defensive end Jordan Voelker said. "When you're that close, though, you can think of a play here or there that would have changed the outcome."

Those types of plays were a plenty in Stillwater this weekend. The first half alone featured a pair of K-State turnovers that set the Cowboys up inside the 10-yard line and chunk plays were commonplace for the Cowboys.

Nail-biters that feature teams combining to score 28 points over a three-minute stretch of the final quarter are exciting, and everyone likes a shootout. Everyone but Snyder, that is. No, the 1,082 yards of combined offense that showed up on Saturday didn't exactly have him jumping up and down with the rest of the country.

"I'm looking at a sheet here that says they had 522 yards of pass offense," he said as he glanced over the final statistics. "Obviously, there are some issues there."

"Sometimes, if you're going to get beat, it's probably better that they beat the tar out of you."

The Wildcats led Saturday's contest as many as 10 points and held a one-point advantage with just more than five minutes to play. They held the ball for 67-percent of the game. They scored enough points to keep pace for most of the evening and played enough defense to keep their heads above water despite falling into an early 14-0 hole.

But when the final whistle blew, K-State was still 7-2 and locked into a two-game losing streak. As for the team's Big 12 title hopes? Those are as dead as the mood in the visiting locker room.

"For me right now, everything is just a little overshadowed," said a visible upset Collin Klein, following the loss. "I can't think big picture."

The pain was the product of proximity. In this case, proximity to a victory that would have reinserted the Wildcats into the Big 12 title chase with just four winnable games to play. All of that, though, is for not. As is the acrobatic 34-yard reception Tramaine Thompson made to help set up a go-ahead score in the second quarter. In the grand scheme, defensive back Allan Chapman's 60-yard interception return for a touchdown doesn't matter much either.

And as for the 315 all-purpose yards true freshman Tyler Lockett churned out against the Cowboys? They were dismissed as a nice sign of promise but nothing more.

Instead, K-State's two turnovers, both of which set Oklahoma State up inside the 10-yard line, and the 502 passing yards it allowed figured more prominently into the result. So did the 13 catches for 205 yards tallied by Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon.

"Give Blackmon credit, he's really good," cornerback David Garrett said. "I can't disrespect anything he did. He's one of the best."

The backbreaking moment came in the final quarter. With the game tied at 45 with less than three minutes to play, the Cowboys unleashed a 62-second scoring drive capped by a 23-yard run by tailback Joseph Randall. When K-State's ensuing possession, its last of the game, ended on an incomplete pass from the Oklahoma State 5-yard line, the No. 3 Cowboys had officially escaped.

Klein watched his pass skip off the orange end zone turf, and the scene is one the signal-caller won't soon forget.

"I was trying to get Tramaine on a snag and just missed him," he said of the game's final play.

Klein finished the contest with 231 yards passing, 158 yards rushing and four total touchdowns. So while he was responsible for both of his team's untimely, first-half turnovers (one fumble and one interception), his performance was one his head coach ultimately praised.

"He's tough-willed, tough-minded, physically tough and disciplined," Snyder said of his junior quarterback. "He's an extremely fine football player."

K-State, now 4-2 in the Big 12 and 7-2 overall, is scheduled to host 5-4 Texas A&M in Manhattan next weekend. Oklahoma State, 9-0 on the year, is set to travel to Lubbock, Texas, for a road meeting with Texas Tech.


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