On the sidelines in the final minutes on Saturday with a full-house of purple clad Kansas State fans (they sold over 2,500 standing-room-only tickets for $75 each) it was absolutely exhilarating. You could feel the intensity of the coaches and players as Oklahoma State battled for a win on defense, which was leaking throughout the day, actually being blown wide open much of the day by the 345 yards rushing by Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz and three different running backs on the Wildcats.
There was always that sinking feeling trying to creep up from the gut that Chris Carson had weaved his way through the Kansas State defense on the other end for the 17-yard touchdown with too much left on the clock for Ertz and Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder and offensive play caller Dana Dimel to deal with. The crowd was all standing through that final Wildcat drive. It was as intense and high dramatic situation as I can remember since the Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford in overtime.
Yes, I am saying it topped anything last season and it topped the Bedlam win in 2014. You can debate, but that is my opinion and I am sticking with it!
This is not a shot at Oklahoma State home crowds in Boone Pickens Stadium but purely meant as a compliment to Kansas State fans. Their team came in 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference. Solid, but not battling for a New Year's Day bowl game or likely the Big 12 title. They had already lost to Oklahoma, the conference leader, so a tiebreaker was out of their favor.
However, those fans are unbelievable. They stand much of the game, make more noise than any fan base in the Big 12, have clever home-made signs on display, and understand the game and influence it like they did on an early Oklahoma State touchdown where they saw a block in the back on the replay and booed loudly. The officials knew what they were booing about. Those sharp, into the game moments can often influence calls and attitudes later. Give the K-State fans a lot of credit.
Mason Rudolph and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich never gave up. The first interception was Mason's fault, an overthrow that went back all the way for a pick-six and a Wildcat lead in the third quarter. The second interception was a deep ball call, Rudolph threw it into one-on-one coverage, and Jhajuan Seales was beat by the defender.
As Kansas State continued to lead and increased its lead to nine points at 37-28, you had to know their corners and safeties would back up more and do their best to stop a home-run throw. Yurcich called it anyway, Rudolph threw it, and James Washington got behind all the purple-jersey defenders.
Chris Carson and Justice Hill never gave up on the offensive line and the run game. They kept running hard and it paid off with 58 yards rushing in the fourth quarter, including Carson's 17-yard final touchdown.
Finally, the defense, as they were pushed around so much throughout the day by the Wildcats. The defense lost one of its heart and soul members in Vili Leveni, it looked serious and it was certainly the end of his day when he came off the field in the first half and was not able to put weight on his right leg. Later, head coach Mike Gundy said that the injury was indeed a season-ender for Leveni. It hurt, as did the inability to stop K-State in so many drives.
However, when the defense really needed to stop the Cats to win the game they found a way. Kansas State even committed a penalty that helped them come up with an extra play and that was the first turnover of the day the Cowboys came up with after supplying Kansas State with three. One of the foundations of Oklahoma State's success in 2016, turnover margin went against them, but ended up smiling on them in the end.
"The rest of the way these games are going to be this way because everybody in this league is so even," Gundy said in the locker room after the 43-37 win for his 101st coaching win and a 7-2 record for the Cowboys. "I do love watching these guys play. They never get down and never show defeat, they just keep playing. It is nerve wracking and can drive you crazy, but it is fun to watch these guys every Saturday."
Yes, it is. Is it the prettiest, most dominating football ever viewed in Stillwater? No, it isn't but it may very well be the most exciting and the Cowboys make their last stop in front of the home folks this coming Saturday against Texas Tech.