Junior defensive end Wyatt Hubert got around the edge and hit Oklahoma State redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Sanders in the first quarter. He stripped Sanders but the ball bounced right into the arms of an offensive lineman. That’s the way the ball tended to bounce in an excruciating 20-18 loss to the Cowboys.
An Oklahoma State punt returner muffed a punt, but it bounced right back to him. Freshman quarterback Will Howard fumbled the ball into the waiting arms to redshirt sophomore safety Jason Taylor, who ran it back for a touchdown. Momentum ran wild in the Wildcat loss.
“We missed some opportunities,” head coach Chris Klieman said. “Give Oklahoma State credit, they capitalized on some opportunities.”
Turnovers and bouncing balls that had gone K-State’s way all year went against K-State this week and were the difference in a close loss. They also erased one of the Wildcats’ best defensive performances of the year.
“On defense, we were able to get off the field and not sit out there for 90 plays like they want you to,” Klieman said.
K-State’s first half shut down the Oklahoma State offense. The Cowboys were held to just 83 yards and four first downs in the first half. That translated to a 12-0 lead at halftime. Hubert recorded two-and-a-half sacks, and the Wildcat defensive line as a whole hurried Sanders four times in the game. They had eight tackles for loss as a team.
“We were so disruptive,” Klieman said. “We were able to control the line of scrimmage and make open field tackles.”
The Wildcats had their opportunities to seize on the momentum, but never capitalized. The Wildcats settled for two early field goals when their defense was dominant. They needed touchdowns.
“We just gotta finish,” senior center Noah Johnson said. “We can’t think ‘Oh, we’re driving, we’re in the red zone, we’re going to automatically score.’ We gotta finish.”
When they did score a TD at the end of the first half, the Wildcats took a chance on a two-point conversion. Howard and a wide-open sophomore wide receiver Phillip Brooks could not connect in the flat on the conversion attempt.
“You always are trying to get to those 14 points instead of chasing it later on,” Klieman said. “We had a great play called and we just didn’t execute.”
At the half, it looked like K-State had an opportunity to run away with the game, but they went three-and-out on their first possession. From there, Oklahoma State scored 13 unanswered points on three straight possessions. K-State managed only six yards while OSU went on their run.
In the fourth quarter, K-State wrestled the momentum back with a four-play, 70-yard drive. The strip sack that put Oklahoma State up 20-12 came on third down deep in the OSU red zone.
“I wouldn’t say deflating,” senior linebacker Justin Hughes said. “They made a play, we can go out there and make opportunities for our offense just the same as they did for theirs.”
After a big momentum-changing touchdown drive that ended in yet another failed two-point conversion, the K-State defense had one more opportunity to give their team a chance.
“If we would have tackled better, a lot of those big, explosive plays wouldn’t have happened and they wouldn’t have got momentum in the second half,” Hubert said.
They came up big with one final three-and-out. After the Cowboy punt, K-State only needed a field goal to win, but Howard threw an interception to seal the loss.
“In the end we had our chances and we just didn’t quite finish the job,” Klieman said.
K-State falls to 4-3 on the year and 4-2 in Big 12 Conference play. They have a bye week before traveling to Ames, Iowa, to take on Iowa State.