Wildcats Unable to Capitalize on early Oppostunities
The team was different – this time it was the No. 24-ranked Missouri Tigers – but for the third straight week, the Wildcats were unable to punch the ball into the endzone and therefore lost momentum during a crucial stage of the game.
K-State was ahead 7-3 early in the second quarter after having scored its first defensive touchdown of the season on a 43-yard fumble recovery by linebacker Zach Diles on the first play from scrimmage.
The Wildcat offense was marching down the field, embarking on an 11-play, 47-yard drive, and it was ready to punch it in and take a 14-3 lead and the early momentum from a dangerous Missouri squad.
The only problem was that the drive came up one yard short of its goal.
K-State had the ball on the Tiger 9-yard line, but two runs of three total yards by running back Leon Patton and a false start penalty by left guard Caleb Handy left the Wildcats in a third-down situation at the 11.
They were handed a gift when Missouri was flagged for a personal foul facemask penalty after Patton rushed for only three yards on the next play.
That set up the Wildcats with another opportunity with a first and goal from the four, but five yards were given back after Handy was again flagged for a false start.
Running back James Johnson was inserted into the lineup for Patton, and he responded with three runs of eight total yards, setting up a fourth and goal from the one.
Coach Ron Prince decided to go for it instead of kick the field goal, and he chose – for the third straight week – to try a handoff to his running back instead of attempting a quarterback sneak with his 6-foot-6, 240-pound quarterback, Freeman.
This time it was Johnson carrying the ball, but he, too, was stuffed at the line by Missouri defensive lineman Tommy Chavis. That play ended the potential threat from the Wildcats.
"No question that was the critical moment in the game," Prince said. "My thought was that to be able to go up 14-3 right there would have been significant for us, and it would have given a lot of confidence for this young team on the road.
"It took a lot of air out of our team. It took a lot of wind out of our sails both on offense and defense."
It showed, as the Wildcats were never able to fully recover. The Tigers marched 99 yards in only 3:13, and they needed only 10 plays for the 10-7 go-ahead 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chase Daniel to tight end Martin Rucker. Missouri scored 31-straight points after the failed fourth-down conversion by the Wildcats en route to a 41-21 victory Saturday at Faurot Field.
When asked if he might have done something different in that situation, Prince said he was confident in his play call and he would make the same decision to hand the ball off to Johnson again if he had to.
"I knew it was coming to me," Johnson said. "I should have gotten the touchdown, and I am really disappointed about that. I'm a running back, and I should be able to get one yard.
"I feel like I had a bad game just because I didn't get that touchdown."
Johnson might have said he had a bad game, but his statistics say something a little different. He had 127 yards rushing and a touchdown on a 6.3-yard per carry average.
Patton was right behind him with 112 yards, a touchdown and a 6.2-yard per carry average. He also was the leading receiver with two receptions and 38 yards, and he had five kickoff returns for 124 yards, which gave him 274 all-purpose yards in the game.
"I was pleased with my game in a way," Patton said. "But I could have done better. The running game got into a rhythm and did real well today."
He also said he had a feeling that he would be able to break as many tackles as he was able to break.
The running game was on point in the latter stages of the game, but K-State's passing game lacked any type of rhythm whatsoever.
Freeman's day consisted of 5-of-19 passing for 63 yards and two interceptions.
He now has seven interceptions on the season and zero touchdown passes.
"Throwing two interceptions is frustrating, and we just weren't clicking I guess." Freeman said of the timing of him and his receivers. "I hate to lose, but Missouri did a great job and they have a good team. Aside from that, you just got to move on and you can't really look back."