The theme of No. 20 K-State and No. 5 Auburn’s nationally televised contest was established early and enforced often.
Constant mistakes, including three missed field goals, plagued the Wildcats and they fell to the No. 5 Tigers, 20-14.
“This isn’t about could of, should of, would of,” senior wide receiver Curry Sexton said. “It’s not about a moral victory. We left a ton of plays on the field and I really feel like we played well enough to win that game, we just didn’t do the little things right and we beat ourselves.”
The blunders started just 1:53 into the game. On their fourth play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Jake Waters fumbled the ball while trying to hand it off to sophomore running back Charles Jones. That gave the Tigers great field position at K-State’s 24-yard line.
Defensive coordinator Tom Hayes’ defense stopped the Tigers on three straight plays following the fumble, but Auburn still struck first. A 34-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson put Auburn on top 3-0 just over four minutes into the first quarter.
On the Wildcats next drive, they drove the ball 74 yards over the course of 11 plays. They milked more than five minutes off the clock, but disaster struck at the one-yard line. A Jake Waters pass deflected off the hands of senior wide receiver Tyler Lockett and ended up in the hands of Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones.
Once again, the home team’s defense would hold strong. The Tigers were forced to punt to Lockett, who looked to capitalize after his endzone mistake. The preseason all-American darted through defenders before he was brought down at the 30-yard return.
The return set up K-State well for its first points of the game, but Jack Cantele missed his first of three field goals from 41 yards.
K-State again was given good field position courtesy of a 20-yard return by Lockett, starting at their own 43-yard line. The Wildcats picked up yards in chunks, with passes of 22 and 23 yards.
Senior running back DeMarcus Robinson finally put Bill Snyder’s squad on the board from four yards out and earned his first touchdown of his career.
“It was my first, but it put us up, so that’s what I was more excited about then anything,” Robinson said. “The offensive line got great movement on that so it was pretty easy to just run in the middle.”
The Wildcats’ lead did not last for long. On Auburn’s next drive, Marshall threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Ricardo Louis. This play gave them the lead they would hold onto for the rest of the game.
On the Wildcats’ second drive of the second half, they drove deep into Auburn territory and Cantele had another opportunity to redeem himself, but missed a 21-yard field goal.
Head coach Bill Snyder was quick to defend his junior kicker saying he was affected by bad snaps and holds on kicks.
The Tigers next possession broke the game open. They moved down field efficiently, traveling 80 yards in 15 plays. The capped off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to D’haquille Williams.
Auburn’s defense stifled the Wildcats, then the Tigers took control with a field goal. They took a commanding 13-point lead with 6:28 left in the game.
K-State fought back and gave their SEC foe one final scare. The Wildcats threw to Curry Sexton four times for 47 yards on the drive.
Sexton had a total of 11 catches and 121 yards in the game, both of which were career highs.
“I don’t care, I really don’t care,” Sexton said. “I’d take zero catches, miss 20 blocks, and play the worst game ever if it meant coming out on top. I could care less about statistics. I hurt. This team hurts. There’s nothing fun about losing.”
Sophomore running back Charles Jones ran one yard for a touchdown to finish the drive, bringing his team back within six points. This was one of only two red zone conversions for the Wildcats, who had five possessions end inside the opposing team’s 20-yard line.
“We didn’t execute well and we have to finish better when we get in the red zone,” senior center B.J. Finney said. “It’s something we’ve always done, but for some reason we just couldn’t do it tonight. We have to figure out why and we have to get it fixed.”
With time winding down, the Wildcats had one last chance to get the ball back. Auburn faced 3rd and 9 on their own 37-yard line with 2:09 left, but K-State was out of timeouts.
Marshall heaved a bomb to Williams, who reeled in the pass for a 39-yard gain. Auburn was able to kneel the ball and run out the clock after the play.
“There was a ton of mistakes that we made that impacted the outcome of the ball game,” Snyder said. “Auburn is a tremendous football team. We just made too many mistakes.”