Time runs out on Senior Day
K-State running back Darren Sproles' career ended in unceremonious fashion on Saturday, with a 37-23 loss to Iowa State.
The loss left the crowd inside KSU stadium in a state of disbelief as Iowa State rattled off 28 fourth quarter points. In the quarter, K-State was out gained 171 to 8 and ended the season with a 4-7 record.
Sproles, performance, though was typical. He rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown in the game. Along the way, he racked up a few more records. He finished 10th in NCAA history with 4,796 yards rushing. The mark is the third highest total in Big 12 history.
The stats didn't mean much to him, though. The way the season ended, without a trip to a bowl and a losing record hurt too much.
After the game, K-State players huddled near the 10-yard line and walked off the field. Sproles raised his arms into the air and waved goodbye to fans. Later, he said he enjoyed playing at K-State and was proud of the fans that stuck by the team. He wished that he had another year on No. 43 and play for K-State. The time goes by too quickly, he said. Sproles' friends and family were in attendance for his final game. The list of those in attendance included Gene Weir, Sproles high school coach at Olathe North High School in Olathe, Kan. The pair appeared together on K-State's post game radio show. Weir said he was proud of Sproles' performance and his career at K-State.
Those close to Sproles said he was a team player who deserved a better exit.
"It is painful, he just deserves so much more than to go out with a loss," K-State running backs coach Michael Smith said.
K-State coach Bill Snyder said he would have liked to send out Sproles with a better season.
"He's been through rough times," Snyder said. "He understands. He is a team-oriented young guy. He cares about his team and he's got a lot of football ahead of him."
In his career, Sproles has always been consistent with respect to his stats- he likes to accumulate a lot of touchdowns and yards, but winning is most important thing.
"It was never about the awards or anything else for Darren," Weir said.
The first half of the game, though, was indicative of Sproles' performance this season.
For the first 25 minutes of the game, Sproles struggled to find running room behind K-State's offensive line. In the first quarter, he fumbled for the 10th time this season.
Then, with 5:52 remaining in the second quarter, Sproles found a crevice in the Cyclone defense and broke a 36-yard run. Later, in the drive, Allen Webb score on a touchdown run.
A few minutes later, Sproles had a 30-yard run and finished the half with 12 carries for 101 yards. In the third quarter, two plays after Iowa State roughed the K-State kicker and prolonged the drive, Sproles rushed for a 41-yard touchdown run. The score was his last in a K-State uniform. In his career, he had 48 rushing touchdowns and 6,812 total yards of offense. He had 24, 100-yard games in his career. He has the top three rushing seasons for a K-State running back.
Still, his teammates will remember more than Sproles' stats. "I am just impressed by how humble he is," K-State offensive lineman Jeremy Clary said.
While Sproles' and his class of seniors concluded careers, those remaining coaches and players are left to reexamine what went wrong this season. They are facing an off-season where they can attempt to rebound from this season, including Saturday's fourth quarter when things went wrong for K-State.
K-State led 23-9 entering the fourth quarter, when Iowa State started to take control of the game. The Cyclones scored 28 points and three touchdowns in the last three minutes of the game. Iowa State tied the game with a three-yard pass from Bret Meyer to Todd Miller and went ahead with 2:07 remaining in the quarter on a 20-yard run by Stevie Hicks. K-State was left having to come back. The Cyclones LaMarcus Hicks intercepted a Webb pass and returned the ball 40-yards for a touchdown.
The score clinched the game for Iowa State. Now, K-State is left looking forward to next season. Snyder said the players must decide what they want to do about next season.
"I told them what they could anticipate and expect from me and the program, and what this program is really all about," Snyder said. "I don't think some of them understand what this program is all about and they need to search their souls." Players said the team will need to eliminate distractions.
"I feel that we need to come together as a team and not allow distractions at any cost," K-State sophomore linebacker Brandon Archer said. "I think we need to come together and the leaders really need to get productive now, and the coaches as well. We need to become a team and build some trust."
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