The last time the K-State Wildcats traveled to Stillwater, Okla., the Wildcats trailed the Oklahoma State Cowboys 52-45 with one second left on the clock, and it was third-and-goal from the five yard line.
On the next play, former K-State quarterback Collin Klein rolled to the right, stepped into the pocket and then fired a pass over the head of then-sophomore wide receiver Tramaine Thompson that sailed through the back of the end zone.
It was the second and final loss of the 2011 regular season for the Wildcats, who later went to the Cotton Bowl, but it was a painful one nonetheless.
The two teams had combined for 28 points in the final six minutes of the game and the Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the then-third ranked team in the country. Nevertheless, it was the second straight week K-State had lost as they were coming off a blowout at the hands of Oklahoma in the previous week.
Last year, the Wildcats exacted their revenge with a dominating 44-30 win at Bill Snyder Family Stadium en route to a Big 12 title. Last year’s game against the Cowboys was also the first time Daniel Sams had seen any meaningful playing time in Big 12 play, as Klein left the game midway through with a concussion.
Sams was left with the task of not letting a 24-point lead slip. The Cowboys ended up cutting the game to 14, but K-State left victorious and Sams finished with 45 yards passing on just 5-of-6 attempts and also ran for 20 yards.
“I thought Daniel did reasonably well,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said after that game. “He did not make any major mistakes, he ran out of bounds one time when we were trying to run the clock out. He does not have that figured out yet. Aside from that, he managed the game okay.”
Now Sams is one of two quarterbacks heavily used by the Wildcats and said he hopes to have a big role as K-State looks to rebound from its Week Four 31-21 loss to the Texas Longhorns.
“We have two quarterbacks that are playing well,” Snyder said during his bye week press conference. “And as I have said before, both of them deserve the opportunity to play and both of them will have the opportunity to play.”
Against Texas when the Wildcats fell behind early, junior quarterback Jake Waters took the reins as the team was forced to go to the air in attempt to cut the deficit. Sams never even saw the field in the second half.
Late in the fourth quarter, K-State had cut Texas’ lead down to 10 points and the Widlcats were knocking on the door inside the 10 yard line. But two fumbles on consecutive drives by Waters dashed any hope of a late comeback.
Snyder said this week that Waters has put that behind him, though, and that he’s ready to go into Stillwater with a clean slate.
“He is one of those young guys that does not let it affect him,” Snyder said. “He is one of those guys that is ready to move on to the next snap, ready to move on to the next practice and ready to move on to the next game. It hurts him when it happens, but he understands that you have to play to the next snap.”
It wasn’t all bad in Austin, Texas for K-State, though. Junior wide receiver Tyler Lockett set a school record with 237 receiving yards and leads the Big 12 in receptions per game at 7.2.
This weekend, Lockett said he is going into the game looking to avenge the 2011 loss the Wildcats suffered to the Cowboys.
“The last time we went to Oklahoma State we ended up losing, and this is my last time playing at Oklahoma State,” Lockett said. “When you look back at it, you do not want the same thing to happen again. I think it really starts on the practice field, but I think a lot of players are really getting ready for this game on Saturday.”
The Wildcats had two weeks to correct the mistakes that presented so many problems in the Texas game, as K-State had a bye week last Saturday. Snyder said that having that much time to prepare magnified the issues his team his faced after its second loss.
“When you lose a couple of ball games, those things tend to grow a little bit,” Snyder said. “And it is important to thoroughly investigate those things each week, win, lose or draw.”
One of the biggest issues on the defensive side of the ball for K-State has been the pass rush. Going into Saturday, the Wildcats are seventh in the Big 12 in sacks with just seven. Against the Longhorns, senior Wildcat defensive lineman Chaquil Reed was the only player to manage to get to the quarterback as he recorded the team’s lone sack in the loss.
Sophomore defensive end Marquel Bryant said this week that the defense is putting an increased emphasis on improving its ability to put pressure on the quarterback.
“It is a big deal coming from the defensive ends’ point of view,” Bryant said. “Lately these last few games, we have not been giving too much. I feel like we can give so much more. [Oklahoma State is] more of a passing team, so it is a big deal for us to get back there. The coaches have been on us during practice and drills about our handwork to get to the quarterback.”
As for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, they’re coming off their first loss of the season, a 30-21 upset in Morgantown, W.Va. at the hands of the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The Cowboys were initially picked as the top team in the conference in the preseason Big 12 poll. But with the Oklahoma Sooners being the only team ranked in the Top 15 of the AP Poll, the conference is anybody’s for the taking this season.
Snyder said that the Cowboys will come out with an increased competitiveness following the loss, though.
“They will be angry. They certainly will continue to be very competitive,” Snyder said. “I think it is that emotion when you lose a ballgame — the real competitive people get very upset about it and anger can be channeled in the right direction to help perform.”
The Cowboys are led by sophomore quarterback J.W. Walsh, whose dual-threat capability has him ranked fourth in the conference in total yards per game with 299.5.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy also employs the spread no-huddle offense, as do most Big 12 teams. That will be one of the biggest obstacles for the Wildcats to overcome on Saturday.
“I would say their tempo just because they are faster than any team that we have faced this year,” sophomore defensive back Dante Barnett said. “But every team in the Big 12 has a fast tempo and a spread offense. So I feel like we have been preparing all year for this.”
Ultimately, both K-State and Oklahoma State are coming off losses, and both teams are looking to get their season back on track. A win on Saturday for either side could set the tone for the entire season, while a loss would likely bury any chance of winning the Big 12.
“We are angry after a loss, so I would assume that they are angry after a loss and motivated like we are,” sophomore kicker Jack Cantele said. “I expect a good game, and we expect them to be the team that everyone thinks that they are. It is going to be a good challenge for us.”