BOULDER, Colo. – Kansas State is bowl eligible, quarterback Josh Freeman is playing well and the Wildcats are beginning to jell with only two game remaining in the regular season and the showdown with the No. 3-ranked Texas Longhorns looming.
K-State (6-4 overall, 3-3 Big 12 Conference) looked awesome in the first half of Saturday's 34-21 victory over the Colorado Buffaloes here at Folsom Field. The team didn't play as well in the second half, but it was still able to avoid a comeback victory by Colorado (1-9, 1-5 Big 12).
Picking players for gameday awards is much easier when K-State plays like it did Saturday. Here are the awards for the win over Colorado.
Players of the game on offense – Quarterback Josh Freeman
As if there were any question. Freeman completed 22-of-26 passes for 251 yards and a career-high two touchdowns. He was spectacular as he led his team to victory, and at one point he completed 15 consecutive passes spanning from midway through the first quarter to the beginning of the fourth.
Honorable mention – Wide receiver Jordy Nelson
In easily the best game of the season for Nelson, he caught five passes for 117 yards and his first touchdown of the season. His score came on a 74-yard pass from Freeman. Nelson caught the ball on a five yard out pattern, and he broke a tackle and received good downfield blocks from Yamon Figurs and Leon Patton on the play. The score came at a crucial time with Colorado coming back. The Buffaloes had just scored to make the score 20-14 K-State, and Nelson dashed any hopes of a Colorado comeback with his spectacular play.
Player of the game on defense – Defensive end Robert Jackson
The stat book doesn't always tell the story. Jackson recorded three tackles and one tackle for loss Saturday, but it's what he did.
He was in the backfield all game long, and he was a big reason why Buffalo quarterback Bernard Jackson was unable to find his groove. He looked nervous as he was overthrowing his receivers and making poor decisions.
Jackson also had a key pass block in the game. On second down and goal to go on the Wildcat two-yard line, a Buffalo receiver was open in the endzone, but Jackson got his hand on the pass and knocked it down. Colorado was unable to score on the next two plays and turned the ball over on downs.
Surprise contributor – Wide receiver Yamon Figurs
I had a feeling Figurs would have a breakout game, but I didn't expect it to come the way it did.
He caught three passes for only 24 yards, but he brought down a nine-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter that was his first receiving score of the season. He also scored midway through the fourth quarter on a reverse. Running back James Johnson received a pitch from Freeman, who then pitched it to Figurs. He took it around the defense and scored from 30 yards out.
Offensive Grade – A
The offense is coming together, and it had its way against Colorado to the tune of a season-high 439 yards of total offense. The ground is clicking, and the team combined for 188 yards rushing.
K-State was 8 of 14 on third-down conversions, which is its best percentage of the season. Also, and most importantly, the Wildcats committed zero turnovers in the entire game. It's a lot easier to win when your team doesn't turn the ball over.
Defensive Grade – B
Colorado only had two yards rushing in the first half, and were shut out. The second half was a different story, and that is why K-State doesn't get an A. The Buffaloes ended the game with 225 yards rushing and 370 total offensive yards.
Special Teams Grade – A
K-State had a solid day for the special teams. Kicker Jeff Snodgrass connected on two of his three field goal attempts, and he was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points.
Colorado kicker Mason Crosby – considered by many to be the best in the country – missed his only field goal attempt of the game.
Tim Reyer only had to punt three times for K-State, and he averaged 43.7 yards in his attempts. Colorado never recorded a punt return because of the excellent coverage by the Wildcats forcing fair catches, and the Buffaloes had four kickoff returns for minimal yardage.