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November 20, 2011

Defense delivers in win over Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- There were no overtime heroics, no rushing records broken and no progress made the pursuit of an individual award. No. 16 Kansas State's 17-13 win over Texas was in no way another celebration of Collin Klein.

It was actually quite the opposite.

This was the product of defense -- a defense that had given up a whopping 160 points in the three games leading into Saturday's win in Austin. Following the game, the relief floating around the locker room was tangible. So while Coach Bill Snyder's anger at his offense wasn't veiled in the slightest, his mood, sour as it was, couldn't quell the pride radiating from the other side of the ball.

"The thing I love about this defense is that we never get down on ourselves," linebacker Tre Walker said. "We just go to work and that's what we did tonight. We thrive on adversity."

Thrive they did. The Wildcat defense criminally abused the Longhorns at times and got in a body slam or two for good measure. K-State allowed just nine plays longer that eight yards, picked up a pair of interceptions that led to scores and forced Texas into a mid-game quarterback switch.

Then there was the game-winning stand.

When Texas took possession in K-State territory with 2:39 to play, it needed just five points to salvage a victory, but couldn't even manage five yards. Instead, they moved backwards and saw most reasonable hope of stealing a win disappear when defensive lineman Adam Davis sacked backup quarterback Case McCoy, who replaced an ineffective David Ash in the second half.

"Our defense had to stand up all day because the offense didn't," Snyder said after telling his offense that the lackluster effort was "not fair to their defense teammates."

On a night that saw the offense struggled to gain any momentum and Klein finish with just four yards rushing, the other side of the ball did its part. Critical interceptions were credited to safeties Emmanuel Lamur and Ty Zimmerman and cornerback Nigel Malone racked up nine tackles, all of which were of the solo variety.

The stat sheet was stuffed, but each number on it was an absolute necessary.

"It feels good to come out and really kind of nip our problems it in the bud, you could say," safety Tysyn Hartman said. "We just found a way to win."

The win, combined with an Oklahoma loss at Baylor, moved the Wildcats into a tie with the Sooners for second place in the Big 12 and created a not-so-far-fetched championship scenario. Should Oklahoma State lose to Oklahoma in the final game of the regular season, Snyder's team would need only a win over Iowa State to stake claim to a share of the Big 12 title. It wouldn't be the league's automatic BCS qualifier, but the trophy and rings commemorating such an accomplishment wouldn't make note.

It's a possibility that even those on the team's roster are having a hard time wrapping their heads around.

"It's nice," wide receiver Sheldon Smith. "I can't believe it, but it's nice. The defense really won that for us today, but we'll take it however we can get it."

The Wildcats never trailed on Saturday and built a narrow halftime lead in a defense-orientated first two quarters that could have lulled a caffeinated toddler to sleep. So when Klein found Chris Harper with a 16-yard touchdown pass, there was cause for celebration -- in this case a "bring it on" motion from the wide receiver directed at the hostile burnt orange crowd.

K-State led for the rest of the evening. When Klein converted a familiar three-yard touchdown plow in the third quarter, the advantage stretched to 17-3, giving Snyder's defense all the points it needed.

"The defense stepped up and supported us magnificently," Klein said. "That's why I love this team. They won the game."

K-State will play its final game of the regular season on Dec. 3, when it's set to host Iowa State at 11:30 a.m.



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