MANHATTAN — Kansas State coach Bill Snyders worries began to build early in the week. Each day of practice, the idea that his team might not be prepared to play North Texas began to wear on him a little more.
By Saturday morning, still hours from a 6 p.m. kickoff, he lamented the fact he would have to wait an entire day to find out if those weeklong fears were justified.
So despite his No. 15 teams 35-21 victory over the Mean Green, despite improving to 3-0 headed into next Saturdays showdown at No. 5 Oklahoma, he found himself dissecting a game that was much, much closer than it should have been.
And he wasnt happy.
I think its the attitude, the way we prepared and our approach to practice all week, Snyder said. Weve got issues.
Those issues could have been much worse without some early heroics from Tyler Lockett and a career game from wide receiver Tramaine Thompson, who finished with five catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Numbers are cool, Thompson said. But what I really like is getting that W for us.
After K-States offense sputtered on its first two possessions including a near-disastrous fumble by John Hubert that quarterback Collin Klein recovered deep in Wildcat territory North Texas took a 7-0 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter on a 6-yard touchdown run by Brelan Chancellor.
In a scary moment for the Wildcats, All-Big 12 middle linebacker Arthur Brown went down with what appeared to be a right ankle sprain on the drive and had to be helped off the field by trainers.
Brown sat out several series but came back after testing the ankle out on the sideline and led Wildcats with 13 tackles.
Well have to wait and see (about Brown), Snyder said. Its going to be a couple of days before we know for sure.
Lockett took the kickoff after North Texas touchdown back for a 96-yard touchdown, making one quick move around the K-State 30-yard line and then beating the rest of the Mean Green kickoff team in a footrace to the end zone.
I felt slow but it all worked out in the end, Lockett said. Youre back there thinking just run, run, run as fast as you can. It was a big swing because we needed a spark to get into the game.
K-State missed on its first chance to take the lead when Hubert fumbled on North Texas 8. The Mean Green missed on the chance to take another lead when Zach Olen had a 45-yard field-goal attempt blocked by Vai Lutui.
Special teams saved us, Snyder said. We gave up a couple of bad kickoff returns in the third quarter, but besides that I thought we played extremely well on special teams.
The Wildcats took the lead on their next possession, with Collin Klein finding a wide-open Thompson in the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown pass.
Klein ended the Wildcats final possession of the first half with an interception.
We werent as sharp as we needed to be, Klein said. We werent in sync, but we were able to settle in a little bit in the second half.
North Texas settled in right away in the second half with a 14-play, 88-yard drive that ate up almost eight minutes and was capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run by Antoinne Jimmerson. Olen missed the extra point that wouldve tied the game and K-State led 14-13.
They just came at us with smash-mouth football, nothing tricky, K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller said. Everything they did was very basic, they just blew us off the ball.
Once the Wildcats got the ball back, they scored quickly. Klein hit Thompson again for a touchdown, this time from 21 yards out. Officials on the field initially ruled it an incomplete, but a review overturned the call and Thompson matched his career total for touchdowns in one game.
When youve been playing wide receiver as long as I have, you know when youre in and youre out, Thompson said. And I knew I was in. Thank God for instant replay.
K-State finally got the breathing room it needed in the fourth quarter, going up 28-13 on a 6-yard touchdown run by Hubert and 35-13 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Klein.
We just needed to hang together, like weve been doing, Klein said.
North Texas scored once more, on a 19-yard pass from Derek Thompson to Chancellor to cut K-States lead to 35-21 with 2:31 to play. K-State wide receiver Chris Harper fielded the Mean Greens onside kick and K-State was able to run out the clock for the win.
Were not going to accept losing, not when youre trying to change a losing culture, North Texas coach Dan McCarney said. I was proud of the effort but Im not here to lose. If this hurts them as much as I think it does, we can grow this. We can learn from this, we can mature from this.
Congratulations to Bill and his team but we came here believing we could win, not hoping. Its a shame we didnt.
Thompson, who struggled throwing the ball in the first two games, finished 25 of 28 passing for 208 yards and no interceptions.
Klein was almost as accurate, going 15 of 20 for 230 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 85 yards. The Mean Green had the ball, in total, 15 minutes more than K-State and the Wildcats only ran six offensive plays in the first quarter.
Now, the Sooners await.
We better practice with purpose this week, Snyder said. Or itll be 150-0.