MANHATTAN — Team unity.
That’s what the Kansas State Wildcats stressed in the wake of their 24-14 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
For the second straight week, there was more than enough blame to go around. But players refused to point fingers anywhere other than at themselves.
What else could they do?
Last Saturday, K-State was helpless to stop against Baylor’s spread attack in a 47-42 loss. Afterward, offensive players labeled it a “team loss” and defensive players insisted they let their squad down.
Against the Cowboys, the opposite occurred. The Wildcats’ defense improved dramatically, holding one of the nation’s top scoring teams to three touchdowns and a field goal. K-State’s offense was unable to match.
With a tough schedule remaining, there is no time for the Wildcats (5-3 overall, 2-3 Big 12) to worry about whether the offense or defense is most responsible for the close losses. So they have chosen to tough out their two-game losing streak together.
“I don’t see any division taking place,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “Who would you look to? You certainly can’t point fingers. There’s nobody to point a finger at unless it was at me. I think they’re respectful young people and don’t do that. No, I see a football team that wants to stay committed and has not taken a step backwards.”
And while K-State did improve in several areas on Saturday, it didn’t take a step forward, either.
Coming into the game, Oklahoma State (7-1, 3-1) was averaging 48 points on the season and K-State had scored over 40 points in its last two games.
A few defensive stops were all both quarterbacks figured they needed. Considering the Wildcats forced Oklahoma State to punt six times and created two turnovers, K-State quarterback Carson Coffman took the loss personally.
“We had a ton of opportunities to win it as an offense, but most of all I feel like I let the team down,” Coffman said. “I didn’t play very well.”
Coffman struggled most in the second half. Despite completing 23 of 35 passes for 170 yards, he threw no touchdowns and two interceptions. Both were momentum killers while K-State was trying to rally.
After taking a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, Oklahoma State scored 24 straight points to take control of the game. Its final touchdown came with 7 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, when Johnny Thomas intercepted Coffman across the middle and ran 26 yards for a score.
Before that, Josh Cherry missed his first field goal of the year, and running back Daniel Thomas, who rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown, threw an interception out of the Wildcat Formation.
But the final turnover was the game-clincher. Not only had K-State’s offense failed to show up for a shootout, it handed the opposition a cheap touchdown. At that point, many of the 50,831 fans on hand headed home and Coffman, who was suffering from a mild ankle injury at the time, limped to the sideline shaking his head.
While Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns, Kendall Hunter ran for 143 yards and Wichita native Joseph Randle added 123 yards of offense, the Wildcats’ defense shrugged off the fact that they surrendered 511 yards of offense and made big plays when they had to. At halftime, the score was tied 7-7.
Freshman safety Ty Zimmerman led the way with 12 tackles and a fumble recovery.
“We held a good offense to 17 points,” Zimmerman said. “I think we did pretty good.”
Every time the K-State offense needed a big play, however, there were none to be found.
“My hat is off to the defense,” said K-State wide receiver Aubrey Quarles. “They held an explosive offense to only seven points in the first half. It gave us the opportunity to go out and get more points than they did. But at the end of the day, we just weren’t able to do it.”
How can the Wildcats fix that problem against Texas and Missouri in upcoming games?
“It’s still a team thing,” Snyder said. “You have to win it on both sides.”