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Friday, July 11, 2014

Bob Lutz: Wildcats do their best to make Saturday memorable


STILLWATER, Okla. — Let's just say there were two Games of the Century played Saturday night — from two ends of the football spectrum.

Oklahoma State and Kansas State went at it in a football game/shooting gallery, with OSU holding on to win 52-45, as K-State failed twice to get the ball into the end zone from the 5-yard line in the final seconds.

In Tuscaloosa, No. 2 LSU beat Alabama, 9-6, in overtime in what everyone expected — a defensive bloodbath.

Two games as different as they could be, barely resembling the same sport.

But what a Saturday night of college football.

And Kansas State did as much to make it great as any of the other three teams. The Wildcats fell behind early and looked to be in danger of a second straight blowout loss.

But K-State rallied, just as it did last week against Oklahoma. This time, though, K-State didn't relent. There was no 35-0 second-half blitz to bury the Cats. They fought until the bitter end, losing with two pass plays into the end zone.

It's a shame that Kansas State junior quarterback Collin Klein couldn't have come away from this one with the upset. He was stupendous. If there's a tougher Cat in college football, Oklahoma State doesn't want to run up against him.

So why was Klein, who does his best work with his legs, throwing on those last two plays?

Sure, time was fleeting and K-State was out of timeouts. But there's not a quarterback around who runs with the agility and power of Klein and he ripped through the OSU defense for 144 yards and three touchdowns. Whenever Kansas State needed tough yards, he found a way to get them.

Except in the final five seconds, during which a pass to Chris Harper was just out of Harper's reach and another, intended for Tramaine Thompson with just one second left, was overthrown.

As that pass sailed over Thompson's head and Oklahoma State's sellout crowd let out a palpable exhalation, Klein went to a knee in disappointment.

It was a sad way for such a great performance to end. Klein, who also passed for 231 mostly-clutch yards, is such a gamer, such a leader.

Give Oklahoma State credit, though. When the Cowboys had to have touchdowns after spending more time trailing than they had all season, they got touchdowns.

Led by senior-citizen quarterback Brandon Weeden, who passed for a career-high 502 yards and four touchdowns, the Pokes couldn't be stopped, scoring two touchdowns in the final 4:47 when Kansas State absolutely needed a stop.

Oklahoma State's offense has a way of wearing down a defense, and the Wildcats were operating on fumes when they needed their energy most.

There just wasn't any way K-State was going to stop a prolific OSU offense that amassed 575 yards while also committing four turnovers.

It was up to the Wildcats' offense to win the game and it almost did. It was a coming-out performance for freshman receiver-returner Tyler Lockett, who had 315 yards of total offense and returned a kickoff 80 yards to the OSU 20 to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Lockett probably would have scored on that one had he not looked back to check for OSU defenders.

Kansas State had 507 yards of offense and pushed an Oklahoma State team that has visions of a national championship to the brink. So much so that those visions became blurred after K-State rallied from 14-0 down to take a 24-14 lead, then from a 34-24 deficit to go ahead 38-37 with 5:16 remaining.

It was a stretch to give the Wildcats much of a chance in this one, but there should be no discounting what Klein and that man who coaches the team, Bill Snyder, can accomplish.

I am surprised, though, that Snyder didn't give Klein a chance to get the game to overtime with a run, especially on the final play. Instead, Klein lined up under center, took the snap and dropped back to pass.

That's not his strength and it hasn't been all season. The way the 6-foot-5, 226-pound Klein was able to slip through and around defenders all night, and the way he has been able to score rushing touchdowns, I think he would have willed himself to get those five yards and get the game to overtime.

But it wasn't to be. Kansas State lost the game throwing the football, which I think will haunt the Wildcats for the rest of the season.

It's a season, though, that retains much promise. Through the disappointment, K-State has to be encouraged by the way it fought the No. 3-ranked Cowboys in front of a sellout crowd.

The Wildcats didn't give an inch. They came close to pulling off one of the biggest upsets in their history.

What a game. What a century.

Check sports columnist Bob Lutz's blog at blogs.kansas.com/lutz. Reach him at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com.

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