It was the most un-Wildcat game in ages.
Had you been told that through three quarters, K-State would only allow Auburn's lightning-fast offense to score 10 points, you'd have happily taken it and rushed straight to the afterparty. But turnovers, mistakes, and a complete inability to capitalize on opportunities -- all of which are completely foreign concepts to a Bill Snyder team -- doomed the Wildcats to another heartbreak.
The Wildcats held Auburn to a three-and-out on the opening possession, but turned the ball over after picking up a first down on a Jake Waters fumble. The defense did its job, but Auburn converted on a 34-yard Daniel Carlson field goal to take the lead.
K-State drove in return, getting to the Auburn one-yard line. And then more disaster struck, as Waters hit Tyler Lockett right in the numbers... but the pass ricocheted straight up, and was intercepted by Jonathan Jones. The defense again held, forcing a punt, but the 'Cats were unable to tie the game; Jack Cantele missed a 41-yard field goal attempt, and the game remained hung up at 3-0.
The first half of the second quarter? Punt, punt, punt. K-State did make a play, Dakorey Johnson intercepting the second Nick Marshall pass that Travis Britz had batted down at the line, but were unable to capitalize. A possession later, however, Waters completed a pair of 20-plus yard passes, and the drive culminated in the first career touchdown for DeMarcus Robinson on a three-yard run.
Auburn answered immediately, scoring on a 40-yard catch-and-run from Marshall to Ricardo Louis. K-State, for the second week in a row, ran a great two-minute drill, but came up empty when Cantele missed again from 42. At the half, Auburn led 10-7.
The third quarter passed in a flash, each team only having two possessions. K-State's second ended with Cantele's third miss of the night, this one from 22, which followed a drop in the end zone by Curry Sexton (who otherwise had a splendid evening). But Auburn's second possession of the quarter ended two plays into the fourth, when Marshall hit D'haquille Williams from nine yards out to put Auburn up 17-7.
Waters got picked off. Auburn fumbled, but recovered; two plays later, Danzel McDaniel nearly intercepted Marshall. But the drive churned on, ending in a 25-yard field goal from Carlson to make it 20-7.
The Wildcat offense responded, with Waters-Sexton replacing the standard Waters-Lockett tandem. Sexton, who finished with 11 catches for 121 yards (both game highs), caught four passes on the ensuing drive, three for first downs, and Charles Jones capped the march with a one yard run out of the Wildcat to bring the 'Cats back within a touchdown.
And then, aided by McDaniel getting juked by Sammie Coates, Auburn converted on third down with just under two minutes and no K-State timeouts remaining to kill the clock.
The defense bears no blame for the result. Auburn's vaunted rushing attack was held to 128 yards, and held Auburn to 359 yards in all. The first quarter was the first quarter of the year in which Auburn was held without an offensive touchdown, a feat the Wildcat defense accomplished twice in 45 minutes. Twice in the first quarter, Auburn was forced three-and-out. No, the defense did all that was asked of them and -- based on most people's pre-game projections, including mine -- about 100% more in holding Auburn to 20. If there could be any more stirring endorsement, die-hard SEC MANBALL fans responded post-game with repeated comments about K-State's defense being legit.
Not "legit for a Big 12 team." Legit, full stop.
It was mistakes that did the Wildcats in, and maybe a little bad luck, a sentiment the Auburn gestalt grudgingly shares. The touchdown-turned-interception was a knife in the back. If Lockett catches that ball and Cantele just makes one of his three missed field goals, we're celebrating a Wildcat Victory tonight. But it wasn't meant to be, and now we sit back and embrace Furnace's eternal refrain:
Win the conference.
More later, including a full report tomorrow from Curtis Kitchen, who covered the game live, and we'll also have commentary from TB.