Jesse Ertz fell to the ground and struggled to find the strength needed to get up at the conclusion of Oklahoma State’s 43-37 victory over Kansas State on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
For much of the afternoon, it looked like Ertz was going to lead the Wildcats to their biggest victory of the season. Instead, his day ended in agony with an interception in the end zone on the final play.
Friday’s box score
K-State (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) lost a heartbreaker to No. 22 Oklahoma State (7-2, 5-1) in a wild, back-and-forth thriller.
For a while, everything seemed to be going right for the Wildcats. Then the Cowboys took control.
“It hurts real bad,” K-State defensive end Jordan Willis said. “If we would have won today it would have set up a whole bunch of good stuff for the team. I’m not saying there still isn’t good stuff that can happen, but we dug ourselves a deep hole. To get to a bowl game, we have to keep winning. We have a tough challenge ahead of us.”
The Wildcats could have avoided that challenge with better execution on myriad plays against the Cowboys. But the game appeared to begin to slip away with about 9 minutes remaining. K-State led 37-28 and possessed the ball at midfield following a D.J. Reed interception. A score, or even a series of first downs followed by a punt, would have greatly enhanced their victory chances.
But that didn’t happen. K-State quickly found itself facing a third-and-one at midfield and gave the ball to Ertz on a keeper. He rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns in the game, but Oklahoma State stuffed him on this play.
That left the Wildcats with a decision to make.
Right tackle Dalton Risner wanted to go for it. So did running backs Charles Jones and Alex Barnes. Seemingly every offensive player on the field urged coach Bill Snyder to try for a conversion. But Snyder opted to punt, saying he didn’t want to leave the Wildcats in bad field position.
“We keep that drive going and we put the game away right there,” Risner said. “Really disappointed. We can argue as much as we want, but if we didn’t get it on third and inches how is coach supposed to expect us to get it on fourth and inches? It’s on us.”
The Wildcats were playing well on defense up to the point in the second half, so hope remained. Duke Shelley returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and Reed intercepted a pass near midfield in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma State’s offense, after a hot start, was showing signs of weakness.
But that all changed following that K-State punt. Momentum swung Oklahoma State’s way.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph found James Washington for an 82-yard touchdown that immediately tightened things up.
The Cowboys then forced a quick punt and scored again on a 17-yard run from Chris Carson with 1:46 remaining. A two-point conversion made the score 43-37.
“We make some big plays, but we give up big plays, too,” K-State safety Kendall Adams. “We have got to stop giving up the big plays.”
Still, K-State had a chance to score a go-ahead touchdown. It put itself in position, driving all the way to Oklahoma State’s three, but a pass-interference call against Byron Pringle pushed the Wildcats back to the 18 for a final desperation heave into the end zone.
It ended in an interception by Jordan Sterns.
“Kansas State is more of a traditional running team, but if you go and look at their history, they are pretty good in the two-minute drill,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “They have always been really good and the reason why is because they are good pass protectors and their quarterback sits there, so no lead is ever safe in this conference.”
The result spoiled an afternoon for K-State in which it unveiled new military-themed uniforms.
“That’s what makes it so disappointing,” Willis said. “The new uniforms were really exciting. When we found out that was going to happen this week, I saw more excitement than usual. Guys were really into it. We had such a great week of preparation. To fall this short is disappointing.”
Rudolph led the way for the Cowboys, completing 29 of 38 passes for 457 yards and five touchdowns. He did more than enough good to overcome a pair of interceptions.
James Washington was his favorite target. He caught seven passes for 117 yardsd and two touchdowns. Tight end Blake Jarwin also had big plays, piling up 96 yards and a touchdown on two catches.
Oklahoma State gained 637 yards with 457 coming through the air against K-State’s suspect secondary.
K-State answered with a strong rushing attack. The Wildcats rushed for 345 yards behind Ertz, with Barnes adding 72 yards, Jones 70 and Justin Silmon 29.
That made for quite the back-and-forth game.
The Wildcats began in dominant fashion, marching 75 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive on 11 straight runs. Jones and Ertz took turns chewing up Oklahoma State’s defense until Ertz punctuated the drive with a nine-yard score. Then K-State got a stop on defense and got back to work, moving with ease into the end zone and setting up fullback Winston Dimel for a 10-yard touchdown.
At times, the Wildcats have struggled to start games this season. But it was hard to imagine a better opening than this. Aside from a missed extra point from Ian Patterson, who handled kicking duties in place of an injured Matthew McCrane, it was an ideal beginning.
But then Oklahoma State answered with quick-strike scores and took a 21-16 lead into halftime.
K-State surged ahead in the third quarter and mounted a charge late, but it wasn’t enough.
“How we come back from this will be a major test of our character, players and coaches alike” Snyder said. “I like to believe that our guys will respond.”
No. 22 Oklahoma St. 43, Kansas St. 37
TableStyle: SP-byperiodsCCI Template: SP-byperiods
KST: Ertz 9 run (kick failed), 9:20
KST: Dimel 10 run (Patterson kick), 4:58
OKS: McCleskey 12 pass from Rudolph (Grogan kick), 2:58
OKS: Jarwin 54 pass from Rudolph (Grogan kick), 13:42
KST: FG Patterson 43, 7:19
OKS: Washington 3 pass from Rudolph (Grogan kick), 3:44
KST: Shelley 29 interception return (Patterson kick), 8:20
KST: Ertz 2 run (Patterson kick), 2:34
OKS: Hays 34 pass from Rudolph (Grogan kick), :41
KST: Ertz 1 run (Patterson kick), 12:21
OKS: Washington 82 pass from Rudolph (Grogan kick), 7:45
OKS: Carson 17 run (Childs pass from Rudolph), 1:46
TableStyle: SP-footballstatsCCI Template: SP-footballstats
Time of Possession
RUSHING: Oklahoma St., Carson 7-69, Hill 9-44, Sanders 3-34, Rudolph 5-26, Childs 1-7, McCleskey 1-0. Kansas St., Ertz 30-153, A.Barnes 8-72, C.Jones 7-70, Silmon 5-29, Dimel 1-10, Warmack 3-8, Pringle 1-3, Lochbihler 1-0.
PASSING: Oklahoma St., Rudolph 29-38-2-457. Kansas St., Ertz 12-18-1-87.
RECEIVING: Oklahoma St., McCleskey 8-68, Washington 7-117, Seales 3-67, Hays 3-59, Lacy 3-33, Carson 3-17, Jarwin 2-96. Kansas St., Heath 4-48, Zuber 4-20, Pringle 1-9, C.Jones 1-9, Silmon 1-2, Harris 1-(minus 1).
MISSED FIELD GOALS: None.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett