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Guggisberg: K-State was overmatched on defense

By Grant Guggisberg

When some families reunite, this is what it looks like.

It’s dramatic. It’s frustrating. By the end of it, you might see tears, or you might be burning with anger. But when the Kansas State football family gets together each year, it’s not supposed to go this way.

But the Bison didn’t follow the script.

Considering the pomp and circumstance that went along with the West Stadium Center dedication Friday morning, winning this one was of utmost importance, even if the Wildcats were facing a team ranked No. 1 in the FCS.

In losing 24-21 to North Dakota State, K-State fans will feel like their team let one slip away, and with a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter, most Snyder-coached teams would have cruised to victory. Instead, the Wildcats continued to flounder in their ground game and gained just 43 yards the rest of the way, while the Bison scored 17 unanswered points, including a methodical 18-play, 80-yard march down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown with 28 seconds left.

A goal-line stand at the end would have been enough — but nothing about the way the fourth quarter played out made you think it was going to happen. K-State was being out-played, out-hustled and out-manned in the trenches for the entire night and was fortunate to even have a chance to win the game in the final seconds.

North Dakota State did all the things Snyder typically does to his opponents. They piled up rushing yards, controlled the clock and wore out the K-State defense with several long, meticulous drives.

The Wildcat defense looked overmatched all night long, starting with the front four. They couldn’t disrupt the Bison running game, which finished with 215 yards and out-gained the Wildcats by 174 yards on the ground.

The linebackers did what they could, with Blake Slaughter finding success to the tune of 10 tackles and two sacks, but the unit gave up too many passes over the middle of the field to tight ends and running backs.

Perhaps the most unimpressive aspect of K-State’s defensive regression was the lack of success on third down. NDSU converted 6 of 7 chances in the second half, including a perfect 4 for 4 on the game-winning drive.

The way NDSU was playing, K-State was lucky to even have a chance to win the game with a defensive stand in the fourth quarter, as the Bison whiffed on several opportunities to score against the Wildcat defense earlier in the game.

Change the results of three plays, and K-State might have been the ones playing catch-up in the fourth quarter.

NDSU tight end Kevin Vaadeland saw a TD pass slip right out of his hands in the second quarter that instead resulted in a 34-yard field goal try that bounced off the left upright.

In the third quarter, the K-State defense caught a break when Bison quarterback Brock Jensen, who had a field day throwing over the middle of the K-State defense, threw an interception to Dante Barnett in NDSU territory that set up one of the Wildcats’ scores.

Later in the quarter, the K-State special teams pinned NDSU at its own 2-yard line, but the defense promptly gave up a 66-yard scamper to Sam Ojuri on the first play of the drive. Had Randall Evans not knocked him off balance with a two-handed push on a last-ditch effort along the sideline, he would have scored a touchdown. Instead, the Bison settled for a field goal.

That’s 11 points right there, perhaps more if NDSU steals back any momentum on the drive that ended with Barnett’s interception.

If any of those plays end differently, the landscape of the game changes dramatically.

As bad as Friday was for K-State fans, just imagine the family disharmony that could stem from that.

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