Close, but not close enough for the No. 20 Wildcats

Emily DeShazer | The Collegian K-State linebacker Dakorey Johnson catches an interception by Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Thursday, September 19, 2014.

Missed field goals, dropped passes and bad bounces on incomplete passes will fill the minds of all 53,046 that filled Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Thursday night.

Ultimately, these mistakes left 16 points on the field that would have given K-State a season-defining victory.

In facing Auburn (3-0), the Wildcats’ (2-1, 1-0) room for error was minimal. Limited penalties, no turnovers and converted field goals were three key areas that they’ve traditionally fulfilled.

To the surprise of many, Tyler Lockett, the normally sure-handed wide receiver, was the culprit of one of these many gaffes and even he was left asking questions following the team’s 20-14 loss.

“It’s one of those plays,” the senior captain said. “I don’t know what happened and I’m still trying to figure out what happened myself. It’s one of those things, we didn’t let it bother us and we kept on fighting.”

Fourteen points is the fewest K-State has scored at home since its near mental lapse against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 3, 2011 in a 10-7 victory. In that game, K-State turned it over five times, including four fumbles.

“What I tell the team in the locker room is between me and the players,” Snyder said firmly in his postgame press conference. “Is it frustrating? Yes, it’s frustrating because we didn’t play well and we made the mistakes that cost us an opportunity to win a ballgame.”

Conversation leading into the game circled around the high-powered Tiger offense and rightfully so. Behind the legs of quarterback Nick Marshall and running backs Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne, the Tigers were averaging 330 rushing yards per game and are rarely contained.

Heading into the nationally-televised game, K-State was 21-2 over the last three years when holding its opponents under 200 rushing yards. It was also 1-5 when they surpassed the total.

However, the Tigers defied the odds.

“As far as missed opportunities, it was a collective team loss,” senior defensive end Ryan Mueller said. “The defense, you could say we stepped up the whole night, whatever. But in the fourth quarter and third down and we get that stop, it’s a different ballgame. There were some missed opportunities there and that’s all I can really say. When you’re playing defense, it’s every guy’s job to do their job and stay focused on the task at hand.”

Where do the Wildcats move from here? UTEP (2-1) will visit Manhattan in eight days and offer Bill Snyder’s bunch a far-less prestigious opponent.

Despite the loss to the Tigers, the game should offer K-State a profile of who it can be against any opponent.

In typical Bill Snyder fashion, the senior wide receiver said it’s up to he and his fellow captains to help the team evaluate where its heading.

“(I need) to go back in there and leaders have to be able to step up today, and whenever we get back up here we need to get the team going,” Lockett said. “We played the No. 5 team and we gave them a run for their money. We made a lot of mistakes like I said, but it shows we can play with anybody.”