STILLWATER, Okla. —In one of the most exciting, back-and-forth college football games of the season, Kansas State came up one big play short.
If Collin Klein's final pass of the night had found Tramaine Thompson in the end zone, the Wildcats would have had the chance to earn a memorable victory in overtime — or even go for a two-point conversion at the end of the fourth quarter and a victory. Instead, it floated over his head and fell harmlessly to the ground Saturday night at Pickens Stadium, and the No. 17 Wildcats lost a 52-45 heartbreaker to No. 3 Oklahoma State.
When it was over, Klein dropped to the ground and everyone on the K-State roster tried to deal with the hurt of a second consecutive loss.
"This hurts," Thompson said. "It hurts bad right now. I hate losing."
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Though it did go down as a defeat, many will say the Wildcats (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) responded well to their first setback of the season, which came against Oklahoma last week.
They entered Saturday's game as big underdogs, trailed 14-0 midway through the first half, and threatened to steal the game until the final second ticked off the clock.
That likely won't mean much to a K-State team that doesn't believe in moral victories. It is now likely out of contention for a conference title, leaving Oklahoma the main opposition to Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0) in the league.
But it was a fiercely contested battle from start to finish. In many ways, it felt like a basketball game.
"We would score and go ahead, then they would score and go ahead," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "We continued to fight that battle. We just need to learn how to do that and piece that together with consistently being a better executing football team."
Things started off in Oklahoma State's favor, when Klein fumbled at the Wildcats' 4-yard line on the second drive of the night. The Cowboys jumped on the ball, and Wichita Southeast's Joseph Randle ran in a short touchdown on the next play.
Following a K-State punt, Oklahoma State went ahead 14-0 on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon 8 minutes, 2 seconds in.
Just like its loss against Oklahoma last week, the No. 17 Wildcats found themselves in an early hole. But they also responded to the Cowboys the same way they did the Sooners.
When a muffed punt by Justin Blackmon allowed K-State to start a drive at Oklahoma State's 25-yard line, momentum began to shift its way. They Wildcats only managed a 37-yard field goal from Anthony Cantele out of the field position, but they got the ball right back when Tysyn Hartman made a leaping interception on the first play of the ensuing drive.
Thanks to a 57-yard run from Tyler Lockett on a double reverse, K-State once again found itself in scoring range, and Angelo Pease ran in a touchdown from five yards away to make the score 14-10. Lockett later caught a touchdown pass, and sparked the Wildcats' offense all night.
With the game tightening up, K-State's defense then came through with a three-and-out, which allowed the Wildcats to take a 17-14 lead on a 76-yard scoring drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown run from Klein with 11:36 remaining in the second quarter.
K-State had its first lead of the game, and it quickly added to it when Allen Chapman jumped in front of a Weeden pass near the sideline and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown.
After falling behind by touchdowns before it could get accustomed to its road surroundings, the Wildcats pulled ahead 24-14. Of the 58,895 in attendance, only K-State fans were cheering.
But Oklahoma State had another run in it before halftime. The Cowboys answered back with two field goals and a five-yard touchdown pass from Weeden to Tracy Moore to take a 27-24 lead into the locker room.
The Cowboys scored the touchdown after linebacker James Thomas intercepted a pass that deflected off Chris Harper's facemask near midfield and returned it to the K-State 5.
The third quarter began with both teams trading touchdowns. Then Oklahoma State opened the fourth quarter with a field goal to pull ahead 37-31.
But K-State responded its first go-ahead score of the second half when Klein ran in a four-yard touchdown with 5:16 remaining. The Wildcats drove 70 yards to reach the end zone, and take a 38-37 lead, with Klein converting a fourth-and-7 with a 13-yard run along the way.
That's when things really got interesting. Oklahoma State scored 29 seconds later on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Weeden to Blackmon and the same duo connected on a two-point conversion pass that gave the Cowboys a 45-38 lead.
But K-State answered almost as quickly. Lockett returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards, and Klein ran in a tying touchdown from 12 yards out with 3:18 remaining.
The offensive fireworks weren't over, though. Oklahoma State quickly drove 65 yards for a touchdown. Randle gave the Cowboys a 52-45 lead with 2:16 to go.
Behind Klein, who rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, the Wildcats marched all the way to the Oklahoma State 5. But Klein was unable to connect with Chris Harper or Thompson on the game's final two plays.