A 37-yard Ben Grogan field goal with only half a minute left in the game sent Kansas State to their first loss of the season, a 36-34 setback against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater.
The Wildcats led nearly throughout, taking an early advantage behind the magic of wide receiver Kody Cook, forced to take over at quarterback when Joe Hubener was knocked out of the game after what should have been a targeting call on Tre Flowers. But the defense let the Wildcats down in the second half, giving up 16 second-half points to surrender the lead and send Kansas State to its fifth consecutive loss in Stillwater, all by a touchdown or less.
Surprisingly, after surrendering the lead, K-State fought back. A touchdown run by Hubener, who re-entered the game after Cook was injured on his second 25-plus yard run of the day, put K-State back in front with three minutes to go. The two-point conversion failed, however, and for the second straight drive Oklahoma State was able to march unimpeded downfield, leading to the winning field goal.
Also of note, K-State got their first interception of the season, a deflected pass by Danzel McDaniel landing in Will Davis breadbasket. But then K-State also threw their first one of the year, Joe Hubener's last desperate heave on K-State's final drive.
So what did we learn?
1. Kody Cook is a baller
Cook was phenomenal today. The walk-on fifth-string quarterback was 10-16 for 122 yards, and ran for 87 yards -- not adjusted for sacks, and he got sacked a lot. He threw for two scores, ran for another, and twice set K-State's high mark for rushing yardage on a single play. He had a 27-yard run in the first half, then a 32-yard breakout in the fourth quarter. That play was fateful, however, as he was injured on the tackle. Hubener added 85 yards, but 72 of it was on one play and he was only 3-9.
2. The run defense is still pretty solid
What will be lost due to Mason Rudolph throwing for 441 yards and four touchdowns is that Oklahoma State ran the ball 27 times and only gained 49 yards.
3. The pass defense is execrable
Is it the talent or the scheme? Well, we got part of the answer. We hate calling a player out here, especially one who is a vital part of the package otherwise. But Morgan Burns was consistently abused on Oklahoma State's final two drives, and on the penultimate drive on which the Cowboys first took the lead he was absolutely horrible. He was beaten on three straight plays, the last of which resulted in a touchdown even though Burns committed pass interference on the play trying to salvage it. Was it just a bad game? Yes. Burns has the speed and savvy to actually cover his receiver; he wasn't beaten because he was outrun or shaken out of his cleats. He simply wasn't looking for the ball. That needs work.
4. Justin Silmon still needs the ball
Silmon only averaged 3.3 yards a carry, and only gained 50 yards. And yet giving him the ball rather than lining up four wide and trying to have Cook play the role of Collin Klein, draw play specialist, didn't work at all when it was really necessary. The key moment was a third-down play deep in Wildcat territory, following a K-State timeout. The Cats came out four-wide, Cook ran the ball on a draw, and was completely smothered. Oklahoma State was keyed on the exact play that the staff called, and that's inexcusable coming off a timeout.
5. Only the quarterback can throw the ball away
Yes, we learned this today, because Glenn Gronkowski ran out of the tackle box on a failed fullback pass play and threw the ball into the stands. Apparently, only the player who takes the snap can deliberately throw the ball away.
It's a deflating loss, one which breaks K-State's streak of games won when leading at the half. It exposed a lot of problems which make it clear that the Wildcats are probably not beating Baylor, or TCU, or Oklahoma, and maybe not even Texas Tech or West Virginia. The problem becomes even clearer when you consider the injuries; quarterback will be a desperate prayer through the rest of the season, and with injuries to both Cook and Dominique Heath receiver is now an even bigger concern than it has been. Right now, K-State is going to have to count on beating Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas to become bowl eligible.
If there's anything we can really take away from today it's that the first half was lots of fun. The second half was not.
We may want to get used to it.