STILLWATER, Okla. — Anytime a team loses the type of game Kansas State did to Oklahoma State on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium — a 52-45 thriller that came down to the final play — there will be plenty of second guessing to go around.
The No. 17 Wildcats, who have lost two in a row and sit 4-2 in Big 12 play after winning their first seven games, could certainly point to a number of plays as the one that prevented them from picking up what would have been a wild and memorable victory over the No. 3 Cowboys.
There were all those passes K-State allowed Brandon Weeden to easily complete across the middle of the field. There were those four straight drives where the Wildcats' came up empty after building a 24-14 lead in the second quarter. And there were those three consecutive incomplete passes Klein threw in the final seconds.
"We were very close," said freshman receiver Tyler Lockett, who racked up 309 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. "We made little mistakes that hurt us in the long run. But I really thought we were going to win this game."
So did everyone on the K-State sideline. When the Wildcats took a 38-37 lead with 5 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter the crowd of 58,895 was quieter than it had been all night.
Oklahoma State and its high-powered offense was simply more suited to close out the game with quick scores than K-State was.
Weeden, who threw for 502 yards and four touchdowns, and receiver Justin Blackmon, who caught 13 passes for 205 yards and two scores, allowed the Cowboys to spread the field and get two late touchdowns.
Lockett returned a kick 80 yards to set up Klein with a touchdown run, and Klein, who rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns while also passing for 231 yards and a touchdown, willed the Wildcats to within five yards of a tying score in the final moments.
It wasn't enough. Klein had gashed Oklahoma State on running plays throughout the fourth quarter, but coaches let Klein's arm decide the game instead of his feet.
"In case something happens, you have got maybe another chance with an incomplete," Klein said. "So we had two plays out there at the end instead of having one. It's a little safer. We're confident with whatever play is called as long as we execute. We played together, we fought hard. We just came up a little short."
There were conflicting answers late Saturday night as to what the close loss meant to the Wildcats.
Senior safety Tysyn Hartman said he felt no different after a close loss to Oklahoma State than he did after a blowout loss to Oklahoma last week. Allowing more than 500 passing yards for the second straight week was hard to take.
"A loss being close doesn't help your record," he said.
K-State coach Bill Snyder admired the way his team fought back from a 14-0 deficit, and competed until the end against a heavily-favored foe. It tried to do the same against Oklahoma, but after taking a 17-14 lead allowed 44 straight points to end the game.
"Whatever question I might have had last week, they answered this week," Snyder said. "I'm very proud of them, because they responded the way you hope all of your teams respond — admirably."
Cornerback David Garrett went as far as to indicate Saturday's game could serve as a momentum boost. He thinks the two toughest games on the schedule are now behind K-State. Up next are challenging games against Texas A&M, Texas and Iowa State, but none of those three teams pass as effectively as Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
K-State's defense is at its best when it can play three linebackers and focus on stopping the run. It may be able to do that as the season ends.
With the offense finding a spark in the versatility of Lockett, and the improvement of receiver Tramaine Thompson, who grabbed six catches for 71 yards, the Wildcats should be confident as they fight for bowl positioning.
"Even though we just got these two losses by two great teams, we still control our own destiny," cornerback David Garrett said. "Nobody can change that. Kansas State hasn't won 10 games in a long time. We can. We just have to stay together and keep fighting."