Offense Never Finds a Rhythm

On a day the Cats had to execute and play flawless football, the Offense goes missing-in-action. Only trailing by 7 points at the half, penalties and turnovers killed any momentum the Cats had and a talented Rutgers team capitalized and feasted on the Wildcat mistakes.

Josh Freeman had the best game of his young career on Nov. 11 when his Kansas State football team upset No. 4-ranked Texas in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

The true freshman quarterback had 269 yards passing and four combined touchdowns to defeat the then-undefeated Longhorns and knock them out of the national championship race.

The past two games, however, have been a totally different story.

Freeman had six combined turnovers in a 39-20 loss at Kansas Nov. 18 and he had two crucial turnovers in the 37-10 loss to No. 16-ranked Rutgers at Houston's Reliant Stadium in the inaugural Texas Bowl Thursday night.

After the loss to the Scarlet Knights, he was asked about his recent struggles to finish off the season after being named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week following his amazing performance against Texas.

"Of course it tarnishes the season," he said. "You never like to go out on a losing note. We are just going to have to step back and just re-examine what we are trying to do and what our real core values are and what we gotta do next year so this doesn't happen again."

Freeman was 10-of-21 for 129 yards while throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns.

K-State was down only 17-10 going into halftime and received the ball to open the second half.

On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Freeman threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and the Wildcats were never able to regain what little momentum they might have had. He threw another pick late in the fourth quarter but the game was well in-hand by then.

K-State (7-6 overall, 4-4 Big 12) was playing in its first bowl game since losing to Ohio State 35-28 in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl, but the team didn't look like it came ready to play against a superior Rutgers team.

"Rutgers played a great game," Freeman said. "They were hungry, they felt like they got screwed out of a (Bowl Championship Series) game. They were out there to prove something and we weren't able to respond."

The Scarlet Knights had 479 yards of total offense, which was the most ever given up by K-State in bowl history. The Wildcats were only able to respond with 162 yards of their own. K-State coach Ron Prince put a lot of the blame of his teams' performance on himself, and he also said that one of the biggest factors in the game was the inexperience of his team in a bowl game.

"We were very poor. I am responsible for that effort and that is obviously not something I am happy about," Prince said. "They dominated the game in every way, and overall I thought that Rutgers was clearly the better team tonight." K-State entered Rutgers territory only twice in the game.

The Wildcats drove the ball to the Scarlet Knights' 27-yard line early in the second quarter. That drive would lead to a field goal, and K-State would not take another snap in Rutgers territory until late in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats got the ball to the Rutgers 46-yard line with 6:21 remaining in the game, but that is when Freeman threw his second pick and ended the last shot K-State would have at scoring.

Prince said he thought the pressure of playing in such an important game got to Freeman, but he is going to learn from this experience and become a better quarterback in the future because of it.

"He's going to have his day," Prince said. "We're going to make sure that we put the kind of team around Josh and build the kind of team that can play in these kinds of games and do well."

The rest of the team that Prince put around his quarterback against Rutgers didn't give Freeman too much help.

The running game only amounted for 31 yards on 21 carries with James Johnson leading the way with 20 yards and Leon Patton rushing for 14 yards.

The offensive line didn't open up enough holes for the running backs to get through, and it also contributed to the three sacks on Freeman and the constant pressure he received every time he dropped back to pass.

"We had a good game plan, but we were just not able to go out and execute like we wanted to," senior offensive tackle Greg Wafford said about the play of the offensive line. "If we could have just made any plays, it would have been a better game. It was a sad way to go out, but I know these guys will bounce back for next year."

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