"With that said, I thought we could come down here and play with this team. I thought we had improved in some areas on defense. I thought we had improved our team speed."
At first, it seemed his team had indeed improved in all areas. For three quarters, Kansas State played well against Auburn, even leading near the end of the game. To his dismay, however, the Wildcats gave up a late-game touchdown pass that gave Auburn the lead, then gave up fumble that Auburn recovered.
"We had a nice game going for awhile, but that's the difference," he said. "When you go on the road it's like a heavyweight fight; you have to knock the champ out. You can't try to win on decision. And no one was trying not to be aggressive. Our kids gave it everything they had.
"Auburn demonstrated why they are a great team. They can put together a fourth quarter pass rush and they can put together a championship drive in the fourth quarter. Those are things we aspire to. You can tell they have a plan. The coaching staff, they stick with the plan."
Prince said he thought his team started out dictating the terms of the game. "But in the end, it came down to could we execute against Coach (Will) Muschamp's defense when it got down to crunch time. That was going to be the ultimate test, because they have the best player in college football on defense rushing the passer."
Kansas State brought the house on every play on defense, sending Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox scurrying for throwing room and eating grass five times on sacks. Prince said he admired him. "We hit the quarterback all night long," Prince said. "I don't know how many times we knocked him down, but we hit him a lot. And for him to be able to make that kind of throw after being hit that many times, my hat is off to him. I have the utmost respect for him."
Prince said the disappointment was keen. "We knew we had to come in here and knock the champ out and we just didn't get it done today," he said. "It was a great learning experience; it was a teachable moment. We're going to take some lessons away from this. I'm very disappointed we let this one get away. We went toe-to-toe with a terrific team. This is the kind of team we aspire to be."