Cowboys Fall To Wildcats, 31-27

Kansas State used two special teams touchdowns and erased a 10-point deficit in the last four minutes to defeat Oklahoma State 31-27 in the Cowboys' Big 12 Conference opener Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.

The Cowboys, now 3-2, had a chance to rally after the Wildcats had gone ahead with 1:11 remaining in the game on freshman quarterback Josh Freeman's 21-yard touchdown run. OSU freshman Perrish Cox returned the kickoff to midfield and three consecutive Bobby Reid completions had the Cowboys at the Wildcats 25-yard line with 22 seconds remaining. But Reid's last four passing attempts were unsuccessful, including a pass interception by KSU's Marcus Watts in the end zone on the game's last play.

"It's a tough loss. It's tough on the players. It hurts everybody," Cowboy head coach Mike Gundy said after the loss. "This is a close team. They're hurting right now, and I want them to hurt right now. When you put as much into it as they have, and you come up a little short that's the way it is."

The interception by Watts on the game's final play was the second big-play of the game for the junior cornerback, who blocked a Matt Fodge punt which was picked up by Daniel Gonzalez and returned 21 yards for a touchdown for Kansas State's first touchdown early in the second quarter.

The Cowboys trailed 10-3 at halftime but appeared to take control in the third quarter. Reid drove his team 60 yards on the first drive of the second half which resulted in a Jason Ricks 38-yard field goal. Kansas State was forced to punt on its next drive and Cox made another big play, returning the Wildcat punt 63 yards to set Reid and the Cowboy offense up at the 27-yard line. Eight plays later, on second-and-goal from the 2, Reid found tight end Brandon Pettigrew open in the end zone for a touchdown to give OSU its first lead of the game, 13-10.

KSU's special teams came up with its second big play of the game on the ensuing kickoff when Leon Patton returned the Cowboy kick 95 yards for a touchdown to give the Wildcats a 17-13 lead.

However, OSU's Grant Jones answered with an outstanding kickoff return of his own. The Pawnee, Okla., senior took the kickoff two yards deep in his end zone and wasn't stopped until nearly 90 yards later on the KSU 11-yard line. Cowboy freshman Keith Toston's 11-yard touchdown run gave the lead back to the Cowboys.

The Cowboys appeared to put the game away by marching 80 yards in seven plays on their next possession. Toston took a pitch for 30 yards, Reid threw 31 yards to Pettigrew, and Toston carried for 18 yards down to the 1-yard line. Reid gave OSU a 27-17 lead when he found fullback John Johnson wide open in the end zone for a touchdown with 10:48 remaining.

OSU's defense forced a Kansas State punt on the next possession but the Cowboy offense couldn't run out the clock. Dantrell Savage was thrown for a five-yard loss on a third-and-33 from the KSU 30-yard line, and the Cowboys were forced to punt it back to the Wildcats with just 4:25 on the clock.

But Freeman, a true freshman quarterback from Kansas City who was making his first collegiate start, drove the Wildcats right down the field in six plays that culminated with Patton scoring on a 1-yard run to pull within 27-24 with 3:04 left.

The Cowboys were expecting an onside kick but the Wildcats used a pooch kick that Tommy Devereaux could only fall on at the 10-yard line. Fodge was called upon to punt after three plays netted just three yards, and the Wildcats took over on the 42-yard line.

It took just three plays for Freeman to put the ball in the end zone. The Wildcat quarterback found Gonzalez for 20 yards, and then threw 17 yards to Yamon Figurs. On the next play, with the Cowboys blitzing, Freeman scrambled for the 21-yard touchdown which would be the winning points.

Unofficial stats for the game show Reid was 14 of 22 passing for 138 yards and two touchdowns, and the interception on the last play of the game. Cowboy freshman running back Keith Toston carried for 109 yards on 14 attempts. Adarius Bowman caught five passes for 59 yards and tight end Brandon Pettigrew had four catches for 58 yards. KSU's Freeman was 10 of 15 passing for 177 yards, while Patton ran for 151 yards on 21 carries.

"To be honest I feel like crying right now but I'm telling myself that I can't do that right now because if my guys see me crying than I don't want them to start hanging their heads," Reid said. "When we get to get back on campus and start working again the drive won't be there."

Gundy said, "We have to put all three phases together. We were poor on special teams, which is not like us. Defensively, we were good for three and a half quarters, but we couldn't make the plays at the end. And then offensively we couldn't get anything going in the first half. So we played one half of offense, three quarters of defense, and we didn't play very much special teams. So we've got to do a better job in all three phases."

Oklahoma State will travel next Saturday to Lawrence, Kan., looking to get back in the win column against the Kansas Jayhawks, which lost to Texas A&M 21-18 on Saturday to fall to 3-3 on the season.

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