STILLWATER, Okla — Kansas State turned the ball over five times and committed a season-high 12 penalties. The Wildcats were also without Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson.
There was no way the Wildcats should have been in the game against Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Yet, K-State had two chances in the final four minutes to steal a win on the road, but just couldn’t finish the job — losing to the 21st-ranked Cowboys 33-29 at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“In our history, we just haven’t been that kind of a football team,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said, addressing the turnovers and penalties. “I mean, we haven’t always been extremely good, but we haven’t always turned the ball over and we haven’t always been penalized. We had a chance to win even with it… but it sure makes it a heck of a lot harder.”
Both K-State drives at the end of the game were squashed on interceptions thrown by Daniel Sams. He had three on the day, as well as a costly fumble in the third quarter. The sophomore had been used nearly exclusively as a run-only quarterback this season. All that changed Saturday, as Sams was allowed to hold the keys to the offense much of the day — doing more things quarterbacks do and finding a decent balance between the run and the pass.
Sams completed 15 of 21 passes for 181 yards — including a 67-yard touchdown pass to fullback Glenn Gronkowski and a 17-yarder to Torell Miller. He also rushed 27 times for 118 yards and a score.
But those turnovers?
“The good things we all saw, and the bad things we all saw,” Snyder said. “It was just exactly like we saw it… As you can see, he came in and threw the ball just fine. I certainly don’t like the interceptions. Aside from that, he was throwing the ball well early in the ballgame, which gave him a chance to be the balanced-type quarterback that we want him to be and that we know he’s capable of being.”
Sams accepted responsibility for the loss.
“We did some bright spots as an offense, but at the end of the day, everything falls back on your quarterback,” Sams said. “I threw three interceptions and that’s something I can’t do…
“I’ll learn from it and I plan on coming back next week and giving my all again.”
K-State totaled 336 yards of offense — 192 passing and 144 rushing — as the Wildcats fell to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12.
The Wildcats trailed 17-14 at halftime — scoring on the TD pass to Gronkowski and Kip Daily’s 65-yard return following a 43-yard field goal blocked by Travis Britz in the second quarter.
Sams put the Wildcats ahead on their first possession of the second half when he found Miller for a 17-yard strike with 8:20 to play in the third — capping an 11-play, 79-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock. Miller became one of Sams’ favorite targets with Thompson inactive and Lockett out of the game with a leg injury since the early stages of the second quarter. Miller finished with four catches for 35 yards.
Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1) answered with field goals on back-to-back possessions to retake the lead at 23-21 with 2:44 to play in the third — field goals set up by a Sams interception and a fumble by quarterback JakeWaters.
The Wildcats weren’t finished, though, and neither was Sams, who orchestrated one of the finer drives he’s had at K-State. After John Hubert carried the ball for 3 yards on first down, Sams took over, either running or throwing it on the next 11 plays. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 25 yards and rushed seven times for 22 yards on the drive — including the go-ahead 3-yard touchdown with 6:09 remaining in the game.
Miller came through again for Sams on the two-point conversion attempt, laying out in the back of the end zone for the catch that put the Wildcats up 29-23.
K-State’s defense had played well all afternoon — especially in the second half, until the Cowboys’ ensuing possession. After picking up no first downs in the second half, Oklahoma State got four big ones in a row on the go-ahead drive. The Pokes hurried down the field on a 12-yard completion from quarterback J.W. Walsh, followed by another one for 26 yards, then a 16-yard rush by Jeremy Smith, and then another 15-yard pass to the Wildcats’ 6-yard line. One play later the Cowboys were leading 30-29 with 1:56 remaining.
“When they get you on the move, the better they go, the faster they go,” Snyder said of the Cowboys’ offense.
The Wildcats allowed 330 yards of total offense, but just 101 in the second half. Despite the fourth-quarter touchdown, Snyder was pleased with his defense’s second-half performance.
“I thought that early in the ballgame, we had some real issues,” he said. “But they got them corrected. Some of the things that hurt us in the first half of the game, we were able to better defend in the second half.”
K-State’s first shot at winning the game came with 4:13 to go, but it was short-lived as Sams threw a deep ball that was intercepted at the Wildcats’ 41-yard line and returned to the 17. That set up Ben Grogan’s third field goal of the game — a 28-yarder to extend the Cowboys’ lead to 33-29.
Still with time on the clock, the Wildcats found themselves in another position to win the game, but with Waters back under center. He completed one pass for no gain, was incomplete on his second attempt and then found Hubert for a 7-yard gain. Then he was replaced by Sams, who connected with Curry Sexton for a 5-yard pass to move it to the Wildcats’ 36. Sams then broke free for a 19-yard carry into Oklahoma State territory. He followed that with a short 1-yard run and an incomplete pass on second down.
Then, facing a third-and-9 from the OSU 44, Sams took another shot deep, but was intercepted for the third time, as the Cowboys returned the pick 72 yards to the KSU 7, essentially ending the game.
“I think we played well at times, but we made too many mistakes across the board,” said Sexton, who caught six passes for 43 yards. “Anytime you turn the ball over five times you aren’t going to win. Obviously, you saw when we put a drive up there without a turnover or penalties we were able to move the ball down the field.
“It stings because you realize we were able to do that, but we kept killing ourselves.”