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October 20, 2008

Moore offers some bright spots in loss

BOULDER, Colo. -- Reminded prior to facing Colorado that he had gone seven career games without getting an interception, Kansas State cornerback Joshua Moore, who came up big with some goal-line heroics at Texas A&M, figured himself to make an impact again. This time as a ball hawk against the Buffaloes. "I'm way past due," he said. "If I just go out and do my job I should be able to do that."

Moore knew starting quarterback Cody Hawkins had thrown six interceptions, tied for the most in the Big 12. Through watching film, he knew of Hawkins' tendencies and how he looked off routes across the middle in favor of hitting perimeter targets, meaning the cornerbacks were certain to see some serious work.

Moore just didn't know his first interception since the Kansas game in 2006 would come against Tyler Hansen, as the surprise freshman aimed a 10-yard pass toward the sideline and to the Buffaloes' top receiver, Scotty McKnight, late in the second quarter.

And Moore assuredly had no idea his interception would arrive exactly one drive after he was victimized on a Hansen-to-McKnight connection in which McKnight gained a step along the sideline for a 21-yard catch in the end zone for the Buffaloes' first points Saturday night.

"Could've done better," Moore said. "If we won the game, maybe I would feel a lot better with my performance and the defense's performance."

Moore finished with a career-high 13 tackles -- all solo stops -- for the most solo stops by a player in a single game since -- ready for this? -- Josh Buhl had 13 against Ohio State in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl.

The Wildcats' 14-13 loss at Colorado wasn't bittersweet for Moore. There's no room for sweetness, even when the defense surrendered its fewest yards (353) in more than a month, its fewest passing yards (106) since the season opener and captured just its second interception in 315 passing attempts against Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks dating back to the final three games of last season.

Sure, K-State held Colorado to 7-for-17 on third downs, a small victory after its previous four opponents each converted at least 50 percent of their third downs, and 35 of 64 (54.6 percent) total, the highest allowed during any four-game stretch by a K-State defense in years.

But Moore will remember one third down in particular. Trailing 14-13 and with just 3 minutes, 48 seconds remaining, the Wildcats came out of a Buffaloes' timeout needing a stop on a third-and-15 play at the Colorado 29-yard line. Hawkins, in the game now, coolly found Josh Smith a step in front of Moore along the sideline for 22 yards -- the impact of Moore's hit sending both sliding toward K-State coach Ron Prince.

"(Smith) did an out-and-up and I was supposed to be up on him," Moore said.

Seven plays and three timeouts later, the Wildcats did finally get the ball back on their own 31 with 59 seconds left. And nobody needs a reminder of how that turned out.

But it was impossible for Prince not to recall the numerous times Moore's name blared over Folsom Field after he made a tackle. Then there was Moore's fumble recovery and two pass breakups as well.

"(Moore) was in a lot of action," Prince said. "He played both in the slot in the nickel and outside at the corner position and tried to do a number of things to help. He was tested quite a bit. He had quite a number of balls at him. (McKnight) is a very good wide receiver and they were trying to get the ball to him over there. They had a couple more plays then we did. That's the reality."

Afterward, teammates lauded Moore's performance, as he enters the Wildcats' matchup against No. 4-ranked Oklahoma this Saturday leading the team with 48 tackles, seven passes defended and six pass breakups.

"Josh has done a tremendous job for us," defensive end Ian Campbell said. "He's a phenomenal athlete and without question is one of the best athletes in the Big 12. He's shown his ability to step up and be a playmaker and has shown the maturity to really come through."

Strong safety Courtney Herndon called Moore's interception "big time."

"We need those plays out of him," Herndon said. "He has to make those plays."

Still, the touchdown pass to McKnight and the third-and-long pass to Smith continued to eat at Moore after the game.

"Coming into this game, the defense had a lot of things to prove," Moore said. "We did a lot of the things that we're supposed to do. But the defense, myself, could've done better, especially on that last drive of the game.

"We could've done better than we did."

This weekend against the high-flying Sooners, another big test will begin again.


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