Cowboys Needed Just One More Play

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Football is both a physical and an emotional sport. On Saturday inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium the Cowboys went on a roller coaster ride with both the physical and the emotional aspects. But in the end the physical mistakes led to a result that was emotional punishment for a Cowboy team that had worked hard for two weeks in preparation to kick start themselves in the Big 12.

In more blunt terms the Cowboys allowed a charged up Kansas State team that refused to give up to erase a 10-point OSU advantage in the final 4:32 of the contest, and the Wildcats, rumored to be on the brink of a complete collapse, celebrated a 31-27 win.

From the physical side the Cowboys offense was stagnant and lackluster in the first half, but dominated most of the second half with scoring drives of 60, 27, 11, and 80 yards to forge a 27-17 lead. Bobby Reid was efficient hitting 14 of 22 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 43 yards although the final total was lowered to 31 yards because of two Kansas State sacks.

Mike Gundy promised he would go with the hot back in his trio of runners and freshman Keith Toston was that sizzler as he rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Toston picked up 97 of his 109 yards in the second half. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew had career highs of four receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown. The four catches and the yards represented career highs and his 31-yard catch on the Cowboys 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter was a career long.

"We made some adjustments at halftime and we got the option going and we got the bounce going," said senior captain and offensive tackle Corey Hilliard. "I think guys understood time was running out and they had time of possession over us in the first half. We started clicking and got the running game going, and I'm proud of us for doing that."

"Guys weren't too sure about blocking assignments and I wasn't too sure about things all around," Reid said of the first half. "We came in at halftime and got it together and started clicking."

On defense the Cowboys held Kansas State to 165 yards of total offense through three quarters. Defensive end Victor DeGrate had two sacks, another tackle for a loss, and deflected a Josh Freeman pass. DeGrate, with five sacks on the season, has equaled his career best sacks for one season with seven games left.

On special teams the Cowboys saw freshman Perrish Cox return a punt 65 yards to set up a score. Grant Jones returned a kick-off 89 yards to set up a touchdown. Jason Ricks hit both his field goal tries from 33 and 38 yards, and Matt Fodge averaged 44.2-yards on four punts.

"We had it worked out for two weeks on how we were going to do it," Jones said of his return that took the ball to the K-State 11-yard line and set up a Toston touchdown run on the first play after the return. "Everybody blocked like they were supposed to and I just ran."

That was the good, but the physical had a bad side. The offense, as stated, was slow in the first half and only produced three points. The defense struggled to adjust to Kansas State's surprising offensive change of personality. What was a West Coast offense a week ago -- throwing 60 percent of the time -- turned into a one-back zone running machine with new true freshman starting running back Leon Patton rushing for 151 yards and a touchdown. Kansas State's offense controlled most of the first half.

"I think we gave it to them," said defensive end Marque Fountain. "All game we didn't play on the top of our game. There were some plays we could have capitalized on and the plays they had to take advantage of they did. K-State is a good team and you can't go out and play two quarters and expect to win in the Big 12. You have to go out and play four quarters."

The special teams allowed two special teams touchdowns for Kansas State. The Wildcats Marcus Watts slipped through on the right side of the Cowboys punt formation to block a second quarter punt and Daniel Gonzalez raced 21 yards with it for the game's first touchdown. Then in the third quarter after the Cowboys took a 13-10 lead, Patton returned the kick-off 95 yards to put K-State back up 17-13.

"The blocked punt hurt us because most teams don't come back to win after they get a punt blocked," said strong safety Andre Sexton. "Even though we were up most of the second half, both the blocked punt and the kick return hurt us. It's the little things we have to focus on."

Still, Oklahoma State led 27-17 when Kansas State took over on its 8-yard line with 4:32 left. One play, any play, by the offense, defense or special teams could have and would have secured the win. That one play never came as Kansas State made all the plays in the last 4:32, driving the ball 92 yards on six plays, kicking off with a pooch and sticking the Cowboys on their 10-yard line, forcing a punt in three plays, driving the ball 58 yards in three plays to take the lead 31-27, and then finally holding off the Cowboy drive that took four shots at the K-State end zone in the final 30 seconds.

One more play was all it would have taken, but the Cowboys didn't have it and the loss drops them to 3-2, 0-1 in the Big 12 and a terrible emotional loss to try to recover from.

"Personally, I feel like crying right now but I'm telling myself that I can't do that because my guys see me crying and I don't want them to hang their heads," said Reid. "We get back on campus and start working again the drive won't be there because they will see the leaders dropping their head. I'm going to keep working hard, make a play, and get my guys rallied up."

"I'm just questioning what can I do as a captain to get things fixed," said Hilliard. "More than anything it just hurts, it hurts after you work so hard every week."

"Eventually, we'll get rid of it," said Jones. "This next week is a new week and every day is a different day. All we have to do is build of this and get stronger."

"We can handle that, my coaching staff and myself that (emotions) won't be a problem at all," said head coach Mike Gundy. "The guys they know that there are roller coasters in life and in college football. That is the way it is. We'll go out there and have a good practice Monday, get game plans in, and be prepared to go play on the road next week. These guys care about each other and this is a close team. These guys hurt right now and I want them to hurt. When you put as much into something like this and come up a little short that is the way it is. We're going to get prepared and go play Kansas."

With the hope, obviously, of finding that one play that's needed to change the result.

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