Wildcats Just Run out of Time
Wildcats Just Run out of Time
No Quit in these Cats
By Sean Kelly
The Kansas State buses rolled in Bryan College Station late Thursday afternoon with a record of 2-1 and everyone outside of the Wildcat program giving the Cats little chance of a victory. Looking for an upset in one of college football's most hostile environments- Texas ATM's Kyle Field, the Cats come into the game rested and healing from bumps and bruises- and the underdog.
As a small contingent of Wildcat faithful watched over their team warming up and going through their pre-game rituals, Darren Sproles was about to play on national television in front of one of the most storied atmospheres. Earlier in the day dark clouds rolled in and the sky opened literally pouring rain with loud claps of thunder following- a sign of the impending war to come.
The Cats came out of the gate quickly behind the running of Sproles, and yet it was Meier that drew first blood on a Quarterback keeper to put the first points on the board before a stunned crowd of 72,675 fans.
"The first score of the game was important for us. You never want to go on the road and play in front of a crowd like this and with fans like they have and the crowd noise. You would like to take that part of the game out and neutralize it the best that you can" said Coach Greg Peterson.
Sproles and Meier traded carries in putting the Wildcats into scoring position as Darren carried 7 times for 35 yards in setting up a the first and goal from the one that Dylan Meier took in for the score. The drive took a little over four minutes off the clock and showed the power running game and elusive running that made Sproles a Heisman finalist last year. Mixed with a critical third down conversion that saw Meier hit Davin Dennis for 10 yards to keep the scoring drive alive, the Cats gave notice they had come to play.
The Aggies immediately responded with a drive of their own, created off a turnover deep in Wildcat territory after the Cats defense had all but shut the door on the Aggie offense and the dangerous Reggie McNeal. Needing only 12 yards to reach the end zone, the Ags backed themselves into a hole with a personal foul that placed them back at the 29 yard line only to come back on the very next play for a 29 yard throw to Terrance Murphy to tie the score at 7 apiece.
The Cats came storming right back, seizing momentum as the crowd howled and screamed when Meier hooked up with his big Tight end, Brian Casey to the tune of 26 yards after calling a time out with the play clock winding precariously close. The drive however, stalled as two costly and ill-timed false start penalties put the Cats in third and a mile. With the Aggies bringing everyone but their mascot, the Cats were unable to convert and were forced to punt as the wrecking crew defense started to seize momentum of their own in front of a raucous crowd as the Wildcat offense struggled early.
The Aggie defense feed the Aggie offense and Reggie McNeal took the lead, making numerous rollout passes and moving the ball with his feet on numerous draws and assorted well designed running plays. McNeil often got to the corner of the defense and was able to turn north and pick up yardage and before all was told on this drive, the Aggies took the lead and lead 14-7.
Trailing by a touchdown, the Wildcat offense again regrouped and drove the ball down the field using a variety of screen passes and runs in an attempt to slow and take advantage of an aggressive Aggie defense. Time and again the Aggies loaded up the box to stop the run of Sproles and blitzed putting Meier under heavy duress. Disguising its blitz packages and making adjustments at the line- the Aggies tried to overload blocking zones and bring one more man then the Offensive line could block, leaving Meier scrambling and attempting to improvise.
With 5:20 left in the half, the Cats were again forced to punt killing another long drive and putting a visibly tired Wildcat defense back on the field. On the very next play, the Ags again capitalized on a winded Lynch Mob going 43 yards through the air and again putting them into scoring range at the Cats' 26 yard line.
"If there was a turning point early on for them (A&M), it was that long pass they completed right before we answered ourselves around the half. You take that play back and it is a different story " said defensive coordinator Bob Elliot.
Facing first and goal and stacking 10 men in the box, the Aggies running back Courtney Lewis ran untouched across the goal line for a 1 yard plunge. Linebacker Matt Butler made a desperate last second dive in an attempt to keep Lewis from crossing the goal line but to no avail as the Aggies extended their lead and went up 21-7, seemingly hitting on all cylinders on offense.
Desperate to answer and in need of a sustained drive to give the defense a much needed rest, Dylan Meier took the lead in the face of a seemingly endless supply of harassing Maroon defenders. Time and again Meier stood tall in the pocket knowing he would be hit and taking the punishment the Aggie defense administered. And time and again Dylan delivered, hitting open receivers while literally avoiding constant pressure from the Aggies. Taking 2:30 off the clock and eating up yards both with the run and the pass, Meier orchestrated a huge momentum swinging scoring drive. Hitting a streaking Yamon Figurs down the sidelines for a 20 yard strike, Meier put another 6 points on the scoreboard.
"That pass was just right there. Dylan played really well tonight, I thought he did a good job. I was supposed to run my route and when I turned around the ball was there and I was able to just take it up and in. I think they might have overplayed the ball because after I caught it I was able to take it in" said Yamon Figurs describing his touchdown score right before the half.
Going toe-to-toe with his aggie counterpart Reggie McNeal, Dylan Meier grew up before the eyes of the Cat faithful and 70,000 plus screaming aggie fans. Converting critical plays when he had to and showing composure in spurring the Wildcat passing game to life. Being knocked to the ground more then once, Dylan took shot after shot from the Aggies and still found ways to distribute the ball and get his receivers involved- taking pressure off Sproles and the running game. Going 65 yards and needing exactly 10 plays, the Cats under Meier again answered the call, closing the gap and heading into halftime trailing by a touchdown.
Storming out of the gate to start the half, the opportunistic Wildcats forced a fumble when Berry stripped the ball setting up an Edmonds fumble recovery deep within Aggie territory. As the residents of Kyle became restless, the Cats turned to pure speed and gave Yamon Figurs his first rushing carry…..good for A Wildcat First Down!
The Cats would take advantage of the timely aggie turnover, converting a Rheem FG to pull within 4 points of the lead. Again eating up clock and keeping the Lynch Mob off the field, the scoring drive lasted 10 plays and just a hair under five minutes to go the 30 yards.
The aggie offense had not committed a turnover in over 14 quarters of play this season when they turned the table on the Cats. Darren Sproles coughed up the ball on a muffed punt return at the Wildcat 5 yard line after the Cat defense had forced the Aggies to punt. In a little over 3 plays, 1 minute and 18 seconds, the Ags punched the ball across the goal on a 4 yard run by Jason Carter.
Following the fumble, Coach Snyder put Thomas Clayton into the ballgame at 7:11 seconds of the third and gathering Sproles on the sideline, talked to him and settled the senior Heisman candidate. On the next play, Sproles lined up at WR in an effort to shake things up offensively. Going three and out, Coach Snyder reached into his bag of tricks and called a fake punt to pick up a much needed first down on 4th down and sustain the drive. Facing third and long and having only converted 7 of 14 third downs, The Aggie 12th man noise levels again played a factor and forced Meier to call a timeout with the play clock dwindling. Give credit- The Cats were pulling out all the stops and thumbing through the playbook in an effort to close the gap.
Just as it seemed the Cats had gained the confidence and success to make a run at the Aggies, another costly turnover gave the excellent field position and a chance to reach the end zone again. Meier attempting to make a pass on a cross field out misfired as the corner blitz hurried his throw and a racing Aggie jumped the route and took it the other way down the sidelines to the Wildcat red zone. Needing only one play and 3 seconds, Courtney Lewis again found pay dirt crossing the goal line for the third time on the night and basically closing out all Wildcat hope of a comeback- Almost!
There is no Quit in this team. This team may have lost quite a few names and faces from last years squad but this team fought and clawed to stay in this game and pull the huge upset in one of college footballs most hostile of atmospheres. Driving the field and then going for it on 4th and long, Meier again hooked up with TE Brian Casey for a huge play – good for A Wildcat First Down!
Going almost exclusively to the pass, the offense started to take advantage of an overly aggressive and blitzing Aggie defense using middle screens to pick up large chunks of yardage. Going 65 yards and 15 plays, Meier found Jermaine Moreira in the back of the end zone for a 3 yard touchdown pass and the score was 35 -23…… setting the table for a dramatic ending.
Finding Moreira for his second TD catch of the evening, the Cats showed their true colors pulling to within a touchdown of upsetting the Aggies at home. Meier gathered the troops again for once last assault on the gates of Kyle and threw himself into the fray. Scrambling and running for his life, placing ice in your veins critical throws to keep the Cats hopes afloat. Driving for the go –ahead score, facing 4th down with a little over 2 minutes to play, Meier avoided defender after defender before pitching the ball to Sproles as he was being tackled to the ground. Darren split the pursuing defenders and with one man to beat spun off an attempted tackle before running into his own Offensive linemen Johnson and falling- 5 yards short of the first down.
Reggie McNeal then took control of Aggie fortunes- icing the game and leading them to victory with a back breaking 62 yard gallop to the end zone that put the game out of reach.
"They (ATM) played well enough to win the ball game," Head Coach Bill Snyder said. "Granted, they had help (turnovers). There's no doubt about that. They held us when they had to. We're 40 yards away with three minutes to go and they played well enough to keep us out of the end zone."
But that is not the end of this story…..With 2:20 to play I stood on the sidelines and listened to the Wildcat faithful scream at the top of their lungs, Darren Sproles! Darren Sproles! Darren Sproles! Darren Sproles!
A whole section of Purple Clad Horde vocally cheering til the final gun. The Chant of Let's Go Wildcats! Droned out all other sounds as the Cats fought tooth and nail to win this game. The locals tried to drown the Wildcats voice out with their own cheers and synchronized yells….to no avail. And the Cats responded – giving all they had and leaving everything out on the field. This was a game that came down to the final minutes and was not decided until the final gun.
"This was a tough game to lose but we only have one way to go from here and that is up. We need to keep fighting and we need to just get things together and go forward. We played with everything we had tonight and at the end we believed we could win this game. Everyone of us thought we were going to win this game and that we could win this game." said Figurs.
If you are looking for truths and signs in this football team, they are all around.
"Surprisingly on a night where they got 42 points," K-State defensive coordinator Bob Elliott said, "there were some really good things. There wasn't much offense for them in the second half. Our guys played hard. I'm proud of them. I'm not proud that we gave up 42 points but I'm proud of how they played and we can build off that."
This team never quit and never gave up and in my mind and in a lot of ways, the Cats didn't lose this game they just ran out of time!
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