That's all nice and dandy, but the most important factor is how the game was won. There were two special teams touchdowns, which were nice, but the young freshmen on the offensive side of the ball made the difference in this shootout.
K-State started four freshmen on offense, and the offensive had four players starting in either their first start game or in an unfamiliar position. The only thing this did was help the Wildcats compile 357 yards of total offense. This was the most yards the offense has racked up on the season. K-State also rushed for 180 yards, the second most of the season, and averaged seven yards per play.
Four freshmen started on the offense, and three of them had never started a collegiate game before in their careers.
Here is the grade I would give these youngsters if I were coach Ron Prince.
Quarterback Josh Freeman – A+
Freeman had only six pass attempts going into the fourth quarter, but he was the game-changer when it mattered most – on the last two drives.
With his team down by 10 points and 4:25 to play in the game, Freeman led the Wildcats on a 92-yard and a 58-yard touchdown drive. He accounted for all but one of those 150 yards. The lone yard he didn't account for was a one-yard touchdown run by running back Leon Patton.
These two drives were the first time all day that Freeman actually had some time in the pocket to create and find his receivers. He was sacked four times in the first three quarters, and that is another reason why Prince chose to not call very many pass plays until the final two drives.
The first play of the first drive was an incomplete pass to tight end Rashaad Norwood. That would prove to be Freeman's only incompletion of the final two drives. After that he connected on four straight passes, which was capped off by a 43-yarder to wide receiver Jermaine Moreira. He got the ball to the one-yard line and Patton punched it in for six points on the next play.
The Wildcat defense stalled, and K-State got the ball back with 1:54 on its own 42-yard line. Freeman hit wide receiver Daniel Gonzalez for 20 yards and Moreira for 17 yards to get the ball to the 21. The Moreira catch was challenged and upheld, and Freeman rushed for a 21-yard touchdown run on the next play. The play was a designed pass, but the pocket collapsed and he had to scamper up the middle to try and make something happen with his feet.
"Adrenaline took over and I just took off," Freeman said. "The line did a great job of opening up the middle of the field for me. The pressure came, the line spread it out, and I just ran."
Freeman finished the day 10-of-15 for 177 yards. He also had seven rushes for 16 yards and one touchdown. He had 41 yards rushing, but the negative yardage from the sacks is why he only ended up with a net of 16. One of the most important statistics from his performance is the big zero he put up in the turnover column. He never threw the ball into double-coverage, and he made smart decisions when he had to.
Running back Leon Patton – A+
Why such a good grade? Well, he had 301 all-purpose yards to start off with. That tied him for the fifth most all-purpose yardage in school history. It was the first time a Wildcat tallied more than 300 all-purpose yards since former running back Darren Sproles set the school record with 351 against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 18, 2004.
He was impressive in that he refused to go down after first contact, something former starting running back Thomas Clayton had a problem with.
Patton rushed the ball 21 times for 151 yards and a touchdown. He had a long of 40 yards, and averaged 7.2 yards per carry. He also had one reception for 33 yards.
His most impressive ‘carry' in the game was the kickoff return that he returned 95 yards for a touchdown.
Patton came into the game with cornerback Justin McKinney as the two return men. Patton received the ball and headed straight for his wall.
The wall held up, and he found a seam. He was slowed when a Cowboy grabbed him from behind, but he wriggled free and streaked for the left sideline. He beat everyone to the outside and was gone for the touchdown, giving his team a 17-13 lead late in the third quarter.
"I remember seeing a hole and coming through it," Patton said. "Somebody grabbed onto my foot, and our team needed to score so I tried my best to get free and get into the end zone."
And get into the end zone he did. His ability to break tackles and get away from defenders makes him an extremely valuable asset. I'm not sold on him or Freeman just yet because it was only one game, but I won't be surprised if they have another game like this one sometime soon.
Right tackle Nick Stringer – B-
It's much harder to grade offensive linemen because there aren't too many statistics to base judgment on. Freeman was sacked four times, and twice was due to a defender coming around the right side. Whether it was bad communication with the tight end, or a defensive end just beating Stringer to the outside, these things shouldn't happen. Stringer should have had a better game, considering he has been starting all season
Other than that, he was effective in the running game, aiding Patton rack up all of his yards. He and the rest of the offensive line played their best when Freeman was going off, which was the most crucial part of the game. Now they need to find a line that works and stick with it. No matter who Prince chooses, Stringer will be the right tackle.
Right guard Brock Unruh - C
I was impressed with what I saw in Unruh's first career start. Obviously Prince feels comfortable with him, because the other two players (John Hafferty and Gerard Spexarth) who have started at the position this year were not even on the two-deep depth chart for this game. Rumors were spread that maybe they were suspended, but they were both suited up with no signs of injury during Saturday's game.
Unruh usually found a guy to block when he was pulling on running plays, and he was another reason why Patton was able to rush for so many yards. He had some problems in pass protection, but that's to be expected from a first-time starter. He was a big contributor in helping the team rush for 180 total yards, and we'll see if Prince sticks with him in future games.
"There were a few plays I messed up on and everything like that," Unruh said. "You're always going to have mistakes in the game, but overall I think I did pretty decent in my first start."