One-on-One with Cooper Bassett

It was the night of Nov. 5, 2011, at Boone Pickens Stadium, first-and-goal with 12 seconds left. No. 14 Kansas State was on No. 3 Oklahoma State's 5-yard line, down 52-45. If the Cowboys won, they would leapfrog Alabama for the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings. If they lost, the dream of a perfect season would be gone.

OSU defensive end Cooper Bassett was on the field for the next three plays, all incomplete Wildcat passes, in what became the Cowboys' grittiest defensive performance of the winningest season in program history.

The Cowboys won 52-45.

"It was huge for our season," Bassett said. "We kind of assumed it would be a tough game, but we never expected it would go down to the last play of the game."

Bassett called the aftermath of the goal-line stand a ‘natural high,' from the adrenaline and emotion carried throughout those final seconds. But the most important result of that victory came months later.

"It just gave us a little bit more resilience," Bassett said. "Later on in the season when we played Stanford and we had to go down to the wire against those guys, we had been there before."

But as the Cowboys' prepare for Saturday's primetime rematch against the Wildcats, much has changed. The No. 24 Cowboys are reloading from their Fiesta Bowl run. The No. 2 Wildcats are national championship contenders at the season's midpoint.

Bassett sat down with Go Pokes to discuss the challenge of upsetting K-State and the possibility of an upset in Manhattan.

How much do you respect what Kansas State has achieved so far this season after being overlooked in preseason polls?
Bassett: "I have a lot of respect from them – one, because I was committed there for a long time as a junior and senior in high school. I've always had respect for Kansas State. Coach (Bill) Snyder is arguably the greatest college football coach at least in recent history … he has done a great job of finding guys he can plug into his system that do a great job at finding their nitch and making plays."

What challenges does K-State quarterback and Heisman front-runner Colin Klein present?
Bassett: "He's a great leader and a great person. So because of that, you know he is going to be resilient, he's not going to let anything get him down and all of his teammates are going to have his back. If you mess with him, you're going to get the whole team coming at you. We've got to really bow up, be strong and keep him contained as much as possible … the biggest thing we'll try to do is take the ball out of his hands as much as possible by forcing him to stay in the pocket and try to close down those running lanes inside."

Do you feel like your defense is finally hitting its stride after a rough start to the season?
Bassett: "We've done a great job the past few weeks kind of coming together as a defense. It's great to see our young guys kind of follow the veterans and start really making plays. Hopefully, that will carry over to K-State … We're very confident, we're definitely not cocky. We've had to lick our wounds from earlier in the season and we've had our struggles. But because of that, we've come back stronger and smarter."

Are expectations still high this season after two losses?
Bassett: "Coach Gundy has reminded us of that the past couple weeks, that us and K-State are the only two teams that control our own fate. We don't worry about two, three or four weeks down the line. We're worried about the week right now and we've got a great challenge at hand. We're very focused. We know what this game means to us and we know we can get the job done. It's a big task. It's going to be a tough game, but without question, it's a game we can win."

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