No. 2 Kansas State has been criticized this season for being a team with one good player, senior quarterback Collin Klein. Saturday night against No. 24 Oklahoma State, Klein's teammates showed why they are far from pushovers.
The Wildcats (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) scored two non-offensive touchdowns, forced four turnovers and survived an injury from their Heisman candidate in the third quarter, beating the Cowboys 44-30 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"We had some guys who didn't do the things that they have been taught to do," Coach Bill Snyder said. "Overall, I can't say I was pleased with the way we played."
Klein went down with an unknown injury late in the third period, but his supporting cast was doing all the little things long before that. After a quick 52-yard touchdown put OSU in front 7-0 early, John Hubert punched in a 1-yard score to tie things up.
"We're a firm believer in the idea that mistakes can determine the outcome of a game," Snyder said. "Fortunately, we were able to hold on to the ball this evening. That made a difference."
Similar to last season's 52-45 shootout in Stillwater, things got strange in a hurry between the Wildcats and Cowboys this time around. K-State scored 17 straight to open a 17-7 lead, and after an OSU field goal, sophomore receiver Tyler Lockett returned the kickoff 100 yards for a score, his second return of that length in his career.
"We had a few returns that were very positive," Snyder said. "(Lockett) and Tramaine (Thompson) are both quality return men. It takes ten other guys to do it. I thought we had good protection on our returns when we had a chance to return them."
Lockett called the return "a pretty sweet play," but also noted its importance because it responded to an OSU score.
Lockett also caught five passes for 75 yards, including a 50-yard strike that set up Hubert's first score.
"We needed to keep fighting because you never know what can happen at the end," Lockett said. "I think we responded to some adversity."
K-State also got a big night from running back Angelo Pease, who collected 72 yards on just nine carries, many of which at crucial times after Klein's departure.
"He's a very fine young athlete," Snyder said. "I thought he did a wonderful job. He made a lot of positive things happen on his own. I'm proud of what he did."
Pease wanted to make the most of his opportunity.
"At any given time, you name can be called. You have to prepare for that moment," he said. "My moment was tonight. I was ready to step in."
The Wildcats led 31-17 at halftime, with the real turning point being a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown by Allen Chapman with 2:35 left in the second quarter. Chapman intercepted three passes on the night.
"He made some tremendous plays," Snyder said. "I was proud of the way he played for the most part. The turnovers were major in this ball game."
K-State linebacker Jarell Childs said the OSU offense was very dynamic, even after starting quarterback Wes Lunt left the game in the third quarter with concussion symptoms of his own.
"That's a great offense, but our defensive line did a great job," Childs said. "The turnovers were huge for us in this game."
The Cowboys finished the night with 504 total yards, but star running back Joseph Randle was held to just 43 yards on 15 carries.
"He's a great running back," Childs said. "He's one of the best that we've faced this year. Our coaches told us it would be important to take away his game tonight."
Klein exited the game with a respectable stat line: 16 of 22 passing for 245 yards, plus 17 rushes for 72 yards and a touchdown, his 50th career rushing score.
The Wildcats added two Anthony Cantle field goals in the fourth quarter to hold off OSU. Both drives were led by Sams, who ended his night 5 of 6 passing for 45 yards.
"I thought he did reasonably well," Snyder said of Sams. "He managed the game okay. He had a few mistakes here and there."
"I think we're a team that showed it can respond to some adversity," Lockett said. "We showed that even if something goes wrong, we're going to fight to the end."
K-State now turns its attention to a date with the TCU Horned Frogs next week in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU (6-3, 3-3 Big 12) knocked off No. 21 West Virginia in double-overtime on Saturday afternoon. The kickoff time has not yet been announced by the league.