Big 12: Allen Chapman
2012 Big 12 record: 8-1
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 1; kicker/punter: 0
Top returners: RB John Hubert, LB Tre Walker, S Ty Zimmerman, WR Tyler Lockett, OL B.J. Finney, WR Tramaine Thompson, OL Cornelius Lucas
Key losses: QB Collin Klein, LB Arthur Brown, WR Chris Harper, DE Meshak Williams, LB Justin Tuggle, CB Nigel Malone, CB Allen Chapman, DE Adam Davis
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Passing: Collin Klein (2,641 yards)
Rushing: John Hubert* (947 yards)
Receiving: Chris Harper (857 yards)
Tackles: Arthur Brown (100)
Sacks: Meshak Williams (10.5)
Interceptions: Ty Zimmerman*, Nigel Malone, Allen Chapman (5)
1. Emerging talents up front. K-State's defense lost all four starters from its defensive line last year, but don't be surprised if the dropoff is minimal next season. Travis Britz, Chaquil Reed, Matt Seiwert and Demonte Hood all stood out with nice springs for the Cats. Stopping the run and a good pass rush is a great start to developing a great defense.
2. The new QBs can definitely play. Neither Jake Waters or Daniel Sams are Collin Klein, but they both look capable of being very good quarterbacks in Big 12 play. You can't take much from their eye-popping stats against second-teamers in K-State's spring game, the lone open practice for fans and media in Manhattan, but you can buy into Bill Snyder's encouraging reports on the duo and how they looked while shredding those defenses.
3. Receivers ready to step up. Chris Harper is gone, but K-State's receiving corps is in good hands. Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett impressive this spring, and Lockett even earned the distinction of being a team captain. They've both been productive with limited opportunity in K-State's run-heavy offense, but both guys are capable of being serviceable No. 1 receivers in the Big 12.
1. Who's the quarterback? Sams and Waters can both play, but which will actually do the playing? Is a two-quarterback system still a possibility? Waters can move, but he can't move like Sams, who's first step into a hole is lightning quick and good enough to give any defenses some major issues. The spring ended with this race tied, but Snyder has to pick one of them eventually.
2. Can K-State sustain its success? Is there still magic in Manhattan? On paper, the returning talent in Manhattan isn't title-worthy, and there will be tons of inexperience, but simply looking like a Top 25 team or finishing in the top half of the Big 12 would be a big-time accomplishment for a team that returns fewer starters than only a handful of teams in college football. Oklahoma State won its first Big 12 title and bounced back with eight wins. Can K-State do something similar this year?
3. Will the defense bounce back? Just two starters return from one of the Big 12's best defenses. The defensive line had some standouts, but replacing guys like linebacker Arthur Brown and both cornerbacks Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman won't be easy. Juco transfer Nate Jackson should earn a starting spot, but the entire unit has a ton to prove in 2013. Inexperience is always hard to overcome in a Big 12 constantly full of high-powered offenses.
Baylor LB Bryce Hager vs. Kansas State: Hager was everywhere for Baylor's defense in the Bears' breakout game. Every snap it seemed like he was in Collin Klein's face, even though a lot of his play didn't show up in the stat sheet. He made 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. He's on this list for his disruption, though. He's a huge reason why K-State's offense had its worst outing of the year in this game.
Texas Tech QB Seth Doege vs. TCU: Doege was on the money against the Big 12's best defense, throwing for 318 yards and seven touchdowns on 30-of-42 passing, helping the Red Raiders knock off the Frogs, 56-53, in triple overtime. His toss to Alex Torres won the game, but he was on the money in the three overtimes, and helped Tech score 15 more points on TCU than any team this season.
Baylor QB Nick Florence vs. West Virginia: Florence is yet another strong performance in a legendary Big 12 debut from West Virginia. It was in a losing effort, but you can't just shrug at 581 passing yards and five touchdowns on 29-of-47 passing yards.
Kansas State CB Allen Chapman vs. Oklahoma State: Chapman was one of three K-State defenders to log five interceptions last season, but he nabbed three of them in a 44-30 win over Oklahoma State. Better yet, he returned one off of Wes Lunt 29 yards for a touchdown. He also had two pass breakups in the game, along with five tackles.
Baylor LB Eddie Lackey vs. Texas Tech: I love guys with a knack for big plays, and Lackey showed the potential in a huge spot for the Bears. Lackey made just five tackles, but he gave Baylor its first lead of the game on a 55-yard interception returned for a touchdown in the eventual shootout win in Cowboys Stadium. He hopped on a fumble in the red zone earlier in the game and ended Tech's comeback attempt by sealing the game with a second interception off Doege.
Iowa State LB Jake Knott vs. Baylor: This game goes on the list because of the pure guts from Knott, and performance in a tough spot. It doesn't hurt that the win over the Bears all but clinched a bowl berth for the Cyclones. Knott knew it would be the last game of his career, and he badly needed shoulder surgery, but he convinced trainers to let him suit up one last time. He made 11 stops and forced a fumble while Iowa State's defense stymied Baylor's offense, holding the Bears to just 21 points. When I think back on Knott's career, this game might be the one I remember most.
1. Fill in the secondary. Three starters in the secondary are gone, and cornerback Nigel Malone will be the toughest guy to replace. Safety Jarard Milo and cornerback Allen Chapman were solid talents as well. The Wildcats will have a lot of work to do in the spring to figure out who'll be jumping into the starting lineup to replace the trio. Ty Zimmerman will be healthy, and true freshman safety Dante Barnett showed some promise in replacing Zimmerman after he suffered a leg injury. Randall Evans is a playmaker at corner, and Carl Miles backed up Chapman. Does K-State move them up, or fill their spots with incoming jucos?
2. Sort out the quarterback competition. Collin Klein is gone, and somebody has to be next in line. It sounds as if spring in Manhattan will feature a very open competition between sophomore Daniel Sams, who showcased his legs all of last season and got over a half of experience in K-State's 44-30 win over Oklahoma State at home this season. He's probably the league's fastest quarterback, but expect him to be pushed by newcomer Jake Waters, one of the top juco quarterbacks in the country who broke Cam Newton's completion percentage record last season. This one should be interesting.
3. Develop the defensive line. This defensive line was one of the most underrated in the country, highlighted by Meshak Williams, Adam Davis and Vai Lutui, as well as John Sua and Javonta Boyd. The bad news? All of them are gone, and K-State is forced to replace them. The Wildcats are losing 10 starters on defense. Ryan Mueller showed some promise this year, but K-State's facing a similar problem on the D-line as it is in the secondary. Replacing these guys is just as important, and if K-State can do it, the 2013 season could be a promising one.
More offseason to-do lists:
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Did you know...
- Kansas State now officially ranks first or tied for first in FBS in penalties per game, turnover margin, points off turnovers and average starting field position.
- The Wildcats have scored 111 points off turnovers and surrendered zero.
- TCU ranks second nationally in average starting position. Its drives start at an average of its own 38-yard line.
- Kansas State ranks in the top three in FBS in both kick-return average (30.0 yards per return) and punt-return average (24.9).
- TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is 11-of-33 on throws longer than 20 yards since becoming the team's starter.
- Boykin hasn't completed more than 50 percent of those throws in any game this season.
- Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein has completed more than 50 percent of his throws longer than 20 yards in four consecutive games this season, and six overall.
- Before leaving the team, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall was 9-of-14 on throws longer than 20 yards.
- Klein averaged 24.4 carries a game last year. This year, he's down to 15.4 carries a game.
- Klein is averaging more than a full yard more per carry than he did last year. He's averaging 5.0 yards a carry this year, vs. 3.6 in 2011.
- Klein has accounted for 65.1 percent of Kansas State's offense this season.
- Klein has run the ball 66 times the past season and a half in goal-to-go situations. He's scored touchdowns on 33 of those carries, the best mark in the FBS.
- Baylor receiver Terrance Williams leads the nation with 24 catches longer than 20 yards this season, and 10 catches longer than 40 yards.
- Baylor WR Tevin Reese is fourth nationally with seven catches of at least 40 yards.
- Against Iowa State, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones completed six passes longer than 20 yards, and four for touchdowns. Both of those were career highs.
- Before that game, Jones had just 10 such completions for two touchdowns all season.
- In the past two seasons, Jones has ranked in the FBS top five in completions longer than 30 yards.
- This season, Jones has 12 completions longer than 30 yards -- 49th in the FBS.
- Texas has scored 46 touchdowns on offense in nine games this year. It scored 40 in 2011.
- Texas' 91 missed tackles are now 18 more than any other Big 12 team.
- Kansas has 13 drives this season with at least 10 plays that did not result in points. No other FBS team has more.
- Texas Tech has 1,537 yards after catch, third most among AQ schools.
- Seth Doege has 21 touchdowns inside the red zone, the most in FBS.
- Oklahoma State has a touchdown drive of 2 minutes or less in 35 consecutive games.
- The Big 12's cumulative averages for punt returns (12.95) and kick returns (22.94) lead the nation.
- 35.8 percent of the Big 12's touchdown drives this season have taken five plays or fewer and covered at least 50 yards.
- Iowa State has only lost three games under Paul Rhoads when it wins the turnover battle. Oklahoma has two of those wins.
- Chris Canty against Akron in 1995 was the last K-State cornerback with three interceptions in a single game until Allen Chapman duplicated the feat against Oklahoma State last week.
- Bob Stoops can pass Bud Wilkinson on the all-time wins list this week. He's 12 wins short of tying Barry Switzer for the school record.
- Since 2004, Oklahoma is 20-0 following a loss.
- Oklahoma State receiver Charlie Moore has caught a touchdown in four consecutive games.
- TCU cornerback Jason Verrett already has five interceptions this season. No TCU player has done that since 2005.
- Texas Tech has played five consecutive ranked opponents. This week, it gets Kansas.
- West Virginia's last overtime game before last week came against Connecticut on Oct. 29, 2010. It lost, 16-13.
Wildcats defensive back Allen Chapman wasn't having it, and made it clear that he'd be making the only big plays that would change the game on this night.
Before Klein's injury, Chapman stepped in front of an ill-advised Wes Lunt throw for his first interception of the night, returning it 29 yards for a touchdown and a 31-17 halftime lead that gave the Wildcats some breathing room.
He played thief early in the second half with his second pick along the sideline on another poor Lunt decision, but his final interception satisfied a nervous crowd in The Little Apple that's had its heart broken one too many times.
K-State's offense had done little to nothing in the second half and the Wildcats had been outgained, but Chapman picked off Clint Chelf in the end zone to seal the win and get K-State one step closer to the glory that eluded the program in 1998.
For his efforts, he's the first defensive player all season to win the player of the week honors in the Big 12.
Only seven Big 12 players have had three interceptions all season long. Chapman did it in one night, and broke up two more passes for good measure.
K-State needed its special teams and defense to step up on a night when the offense wasn't itself in the second half. Chapman produced seven points in the first half when Klein was still playing, and prevented seven more late when Klein wasn't.
Those are the kinds of plays that win you games, and Chapman deserves recognition.
The senior juco transfer is often overshadowed by his teammate, Nigel Malone, at the position, but on this night the spotlight shone on Chapman. He delivered quite the performance. Between Malone and OSU corners Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown, there was a lot of NFL talent at the position on the field on Saturday night.
Chapman was better than all of them. Nobody's more deserving of the award this week.
- Texas CB Carrington Byndom is bouncing back from a rough start to the season, writes Mark Rosner of the Austin American-Statesman. The Longhorns defense is finally stepping up. Has Mack Brown ever been happier?
- Old friends are on their way to Stillwater this week from Morgantown, writes John Helsley of The Oklahoman.
- Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle looks back on Saturday's game vs. Oklahoma State in his weekly rewind. Always interesting.
- An entire Texas Tech senior class leaves Lubbock 0-4 against Texas, and now the Red Raiders' bowl prospects are limited, writes Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- Lache Seastrunk is providing a spark for the Baylor offense, writes Joshua Friemel of the Dallas Morning News.
- Chuck McGill of the Charleston Daily Mail breaks down the ugly numbers from West Virginia's three-game losing streak.
- If you missed it, K-State CB Allen Chapman was the national player of the week.
- This is the Texas team everyone thought it would see. Will this same team show up over the final three games? Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman asks. He also says a Big 12 administrator told him Louisville is pushing hard to join the Big 12, and their advances are being rebuffed.
- Kansas has struggled in the passing game, but the fault is equal parts quarterbacks and receivers, writes Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World.
- Gina Mizell of The Oklahoman tackles the big questions for Oklahoma State at quarterback.
- TCU didn't celebrate the win over West Virginia for long, and it's changing up its defensive scheme a little bit, reports Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Baylor's defense finally showed some signs of life while beating Kansas, writes John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald. West Virginia's did too, but the Mountaineers lost with a late mistake.
Josh Boyce, WR, TCU: Boyce caught six passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's 39-38 road win against West Virginia in double overtime. He tied the game with 1:28 to play with a 94-yard touchdown catch and his other score came from 31 yards out. His 94-yard catch was the third-longest play in school history and his 180 yards were the sixth-best single-game total in TCU history.
Allen Chapman, CB, Kansas State: Chapman intercepted three passes and returned one 29 yards for a touchdown just before halftime in K-State's 44-30 win over Oklahoma State. His final interception of the night came in the end zone and sealed the victory. He also broke up two more passes and made five tackles. Only six other players in college football have three interceptions in one game this season and no K-State player had done it since 1995. He earned the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week award for his efforts, too.
Tyler Lockett, KR, Kansas State: Lockett returned a kick 100 yards for a score in the second quarter and added a 27-yard return as well in K-State's win over Oklahoma State. It was his second of the season and fourth career touchdown return, tied for fourth in Big 12 history.
Best offensive performance: Brennan Clay, RB, Oklahoma. No huge standouts this week, but I'm going with Clay narrowly ahead of a few other deserving folks. Iowa State has a pretty good defense, but Clay nearly topped his career high by more than 100 yards. Clay carried the ball 24 times for 157 yards and a touchdown, easily surpassing his previous career high of 64 yards.
Best defensive performance: Allen Chapman, CB, Kansas State. Only seven Big 12 players had at least three interceptions all season. Chapman nabbed three from two different quarterbacks in one game on Saturday night. He returned one 29 yards for a score and sealed the win with his final pick of the night. He also added five tackles and two pass breakups.
Best team performance: Texas. Tough pick here, but I'll go with the Longhorns, who went on the road and soundly beat a ranked Texas Tech team badly in need of a win. Texas asserted some dominance and grabbed the inside track to a Cotton Bowl berth in the process.
Best play: WR Brandon Carter and TE Corey Fuller, TCU. Carter, a former high school quarterback, took a pitch on the reverse and hit a wide-open Fuller who had sneaked out behind the WVU defense and caught the ball for a 25-yard touchdown on the first play of double overtime. That's a play Fuller, a senior, will never forget. The senior tight end had two catches for 1 yard this season entering Saturday's game.
Second-best play: Tavon Austin, PR, West Virginia. Austin's 76-yard return should have been enough and should have won the game for West Virginia. Alas, a good day for the defense came crashing down with a few late mistakes. After breaking loose and setting the crowd off on what seemed to be the game winner, the defense let TCU get back in the game with a costly mistake. Which brings me to the next award ...
Worst play: West Virginia's defense. I was in awe of this one. West Virginia got a huge sack and pinned TCU on its own 6-yard line with under two minutes to play and a seven-point lead. It should be a simple task for the safeties, regardless of the coverage: Stay deeper than the deepest. Do not get beat over the top. WVU lost track of Josh Boyce, TCU's best receiver, and let him get -- you guessed it -- over the top for a 94-yard score on a broken play.
Best decision: Gary Patterson, TCU. Patterson had been there before, and decided to go back to the well. "I'm one of those people who believes when you play someone on the road, you have to go take ballgames," Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. TCU scored on a reverse pass from Brandon Carter to Corey Fuller to get within 38-37, and like he did against Boise State last year on the road, Patterson went for two. The Frogs ran the exact same play and it worked. Welcome to bowl eligibility in Year 1 of the Big 12, Frogs.
Best quote: Boyce, on going for two to win the game. "I already knew what the play was going to be," he said. Awesome.
Gary Patterson, coach, TCU: Hey, the players are the ones who do it on the field, but Patterson went with a pair of gutsy gambles in double overtime to help the Frogs rally for a 39-38 victory at West Virginia. TCU got a touchdown on a reverse pass from Brandon Carter to Corey Fuller, and got the two-point conversion on a rollout play that was a mirror of the play that beat Boise State last season. Patterson doesn't necessarily call those plays, but he had the guts to sign off on them. Few other coaches would. Those were game-changing decisions and now TCU is bowl-eligible, despite a mountain of losses.
Allen Chapman, CB, Kansas State: What a night for the senior cornerback. He got it off to a great start when he returned his first interception 29 yards for a touchdown late in the first half of Kansas State's 44-30 win over Oklahoma State. He picked off another late on a play in which Cowboys quarterback Wes Lunt suffered an apparent head injury, and his final pick of the night sealed the game for the Wildcats and allowed the K-State faithful to breathe a sigh of relief when he came up with the ball in the end zone on a Clint Chelf toss that would have made the game very, very interesting. He finished with five tackles, three picks and two pass breakups. My hat is off, sir.
Brennan Clay, RB, Oklahoma: Landry Jones is a strong candidate here, but I'm going with Clay because of Jones' two interceptions in the second quarter. Clay's previous career high was just 64 yards rushing, but with injuries to the Sooners' backs, Clay came up big in relief of Damien Williams. He carried the ball 24 times for 157 yards and broke an impressive 18-yard touchdown run for his only score of the day as Oklahoma beat Iowa State 35-20. He also caught a pair of passes for 12 yards.
Mike Davis, WR, Texas: "Magic Mike" was money on Saturday for the Horns. He only caught four passes, but he made 'em count in the Longhorns' 31-22 win over Texas Tech. He caught touchdowns of 75 and 25 yards from David Ash and finished with four grabs for 165 yards. The Horns needed some explosiveness on offense. Davis provided it.
Baylor's offensive line: Can't hand it to just one guy here, but the big uglies up front got it done against the Jayhawks. Baylor's Nick Florence wasn't sacked and threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns in a much-needed, turnover-free performance. Meanwhile, running backs Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk combined for 260 yards on just 28 carries, an average of 9.3 yards a carry, in the 41-14 romp. Big time.
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- There would be no Optimus Klein to save Kansas State if the defense faltered this time.
With Heisman front-runner Collin Klein in the lineup, Kansas State racked up 38 points in just more than 35 minutes in its 44-30 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday night.
With Klein on the sideline and his helmet nowhere in sight after suffering an apparent head injury, the K-State offense managed just six points over the game's final 25 minutes.
Oklahoma State threatened to turn a 21-point game into a seven-point game in the final minutes, as Cowboys backup QB Clint Chelf (starter Wes Lunt was dealing with an apparent head injury of his own) looked to the back of the end zone.
But K-State cornerback Allen Chapman wouldn't let it happen. The 50,781 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium breathed a sigh of relief after Chapman picked off Chelf to seal the Wildcats' ninth win in nine games in 2012.
"Collin's a great asset for our team. We just knew we had to continue to control the game on our side of the ball to maintain the victory," linebacker Arthur Brown said.
Kansas State did just that. The defense had coach Bill Snyder a little grumpy after giving up more than 400 yards passing, a 41-yard kick return that could have gone for a score and another 80-yard return on a pooch kick that did.
His frank assessment of the game?
"Not very good," he said.
The Wildcats were outgained in total yards 504-481, but that defense -- and Chapman, especially -- were the reason Saturday's win was a win. Klein's absence is a lot easier to stomach when you win the turnover battle 5-0, as K-State did on Saturday, highlighted by Chapman's three interceptions.
The final one sealed the win and he returned his first 29 yards for a touchdown late in the first half to give K-State a 31-17 lead at the break.
"He made some tremendous plays. I was proud of the way he played," Snyder said. "The turnovers were major in the ballgame. It was quite obvious, and they came at appropriate times."
That's the way it's been all season for Kansas State, which has forced 24 turnovers and turned the ball over just four times.
What might have been a dramatic win turned into a rather comfortable win despite Snyder's postgame harumphing at his team's sometimes costly mistakes.
"That's just part of the nature of our football team and our program. We're firm believers that mistakes make a major difference in the outcome of our success, and anyone else's for that matter," Snyder said.
If you're counting, "Eliminate Mistakes" is No. 9 on Snyder's 16 Goals for Success, the blueprint upon which his program is founded. "Don't beat yourself," the mantra proclaims.
Kansas State didn't. Oklahoma State did.
"We work diligently to protect the football as well as we can, and fortunately, we were able to do that this evening," Snyder said.
Daniel Sams finished with 45 yards passing on 4-of-5 attempts and 20 yards on seven carries, compared to 245 yards on 16-of-22 passing and 64 yards and a score on 17 carries for Klein. Still, to Sams' credit, he didn't make any mistakes and steered the ship with Klein on the sideline.
"Collin was still a leader, he was on the sideline getting us going, especially when things weren't going our way. That's the thing I like about him. On and off the field, he's always a leader," said receiver Tyler Lockett, a Tulsa, Okla., native who returned a kick 100 yards for a score and caught a 50-yard bomb from Klein as part of his five-catch, 75-yard night. "Collin is somebody you can look up to and got D-Sams into the position he needed to be in, and D-Sams did his job."
Klein has carried the ball almost 500 times since the beginning of last season, but Snyder shook off a question about his need to protect the man who might become Manhattan's first Heisman winner.
"Well, he got hurt on a pass, so if you can't run it and you can't throw it, well, you don't have much left," Snyder said.
Still, defensive miscues and Klein injury aside, a chilly November night in The Little Apple ended with Kansas State at 9-0 and continuing its march to what it hopes is its first undefeated season and second conference title since 1934.
Next week, it's TCU.
"It feels good, but it's not good enough. We've got three games left," Lockett said. "We haven't proved anything."
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- There was a noticeable lack of Collin Klein in the fourth quarter, but Kansas State survived a meeting with another Big 12 title suitor and top-25 opponent, dispatching Oklahoma State 44-30.
Klein was on the sideline without a helmet for much of the second half, and his Cowboys counterpart, Wes Lunt, reportedly suffered from concussion-like symptoms. He was sidelined after taking a big hit on his third interception of the night.
It was a rough night for quarterbacks but a good night for the BCS title contender. Kansas State took care of business against a pretty good Oklahoma State team. Let's take a closer look with some instant analysis:
It was over when: Allen Chapman intercepted Clint Chelf in the end zone with 2 minutes, 6 seconds remaining, ending a drive that featured a pair of fourth-down conversions.
Game ball goes to: Klein. He sat for much of the second half but was key as Kansas State took advantage of the Oklahoma State turnovers -- and had a vintage Klein game, despite the injury. In less than three quarters, he had 245 yards on 16-of-22 passing and 64 yards and a score on 17 carries.
Second game ball goes to: Chapman. Chapman had three interceptions on two quarterbacks, including the pick that sealed the game.
Stat of the game: Kansas State won the turnover battle 5-0. The yardage battle was fairly even, but you can't turn the ball over like that on the road and expect to win. K-State is plus-20 on the season in turnover margin. Entering this week, no team in the nation was better than plus-19.
Unsung hero of the game: Kansas State's kick-return team. Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson broke kick returns of 100 and 60 yards, respectively, and Lockett scored on his. K-State turned Thompson's return into just three points with Klein out, but combined with the turnovers, this paid off big.
What it means: Kansas State will spend the week worried about Klein's health but not the Big 12 race. With three games left, Kansas State is the clear front-runner and already beat the only team with one Big 12 loss (Oklahoma) on its home field.
Plenty more to come tonight ...
It was a painful night for Klein and his teammates, but a year later, Oklahoma State comes to Manhattan to face an undefeated K-State team. Without that night, this year's reprisal and role reversal might not have been possible.
"I think that showed us we can play with anyone on any given Saturday," receiver Curry Sexton told ESPN.com this week. "That just helped our confidence grow and showed us we can play with anyone. That was big for us through the end of that season and even going into this season. I think that’s probably the biggest thing we took out of that game."
"This team put everything we had in that game, and just having the offense inside the 5-yard line with zeros on the clock was the most disappointing thing about that loss. We were so close. You could see it right in front of you, but we didn’t go out and get it," Sexton said. "Even though we did lose, it helped us with the confidence in ourselves."
The Wildcats rallied from a 14-0 deficit to take a 24-14 lead on an Allen Chapman interception return. Klein grabbed the lead and later tied the score with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs, but one final drive simply ran out of time.
A year later, Kansas State has lost just once in 11 games since -- in the Cotton Bowl to an Arkansas team that still had Bobby Petrino. The Wildcats are all but done playing close games these days. Only two of K-State's eight wins this season have been by fewer than two touchdowns, and the Wildcats beat a pair of top-15 teams by 41 (West Virginia) and 31 (Texas Tech) points in consecutive weeks.
No top-15 teams remain on the schedule, but the task ahead will be convincing voters the Wildcats belong in the national title game.
Style points, though?
"I don’t even know what a style point is," coach Bill Snyder said. "I don’t have an attitude toward it. I just think you prepare and you go out and play as well as you can."
The Wildcats have Oklahoma State this week, their sixth consecutive team with zero or one loss in Big 12 play. Week after week, the Wildcats have had to fend off suitors for the Big 12 title, a trophy that has eluded the SnyderCats since 2003, their only Big 12 title.
Nobody on Snyder's staff studies the BCS formula and passes along any information. The task is the same every week: Win. How "stylish" that win is? Snyder apparently has racked up a whole bunch of style points already this season with wins the past two weeks and an earlier blowout at home against Miami without even trying.
"That’s not significant in my thinking at all. I don’t think anybody likes to run scores up," Snyder said. "I don’t think about those things."
This week, Oklahoma State comes with the intention of winning another game against the revived Cats and getting the inside track on a second consecutive Big 12 title. Just don't tell K-State.
"We don’t look at the standings. We don’t look at anything else. We just focus on Kansas State and getting better every week. I think that’s been big for us, because we don’t really look at the bigger picture," Sexton said. "We don’t look at the conference standings and stuff like that. We realize that if you start looking at that stuff, you slip up and lose and then all of a sudden none of that stuff matters anymore."
Stedman Bailey (ankle) is expected to play tonight, but how effective will he be? If he's clearly hobbled, you may see Kansas State's defense focus on Tavon Austin like Texas Tech did a week ago and have some success limiting the high-powered Mountaineers offense.
The task ahead of Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone is a tough one, but they'll get plenty of help from the offense. Kansas State is without a doubt going to win the battle of time of possession. How lopsided that battle is won should be a major indicator of whether or not Kansas State gets out of Mountaineer Field with a win and a comfy seat at the head of the Big 12 title table.
Juco running back Damien Williams has already made a big impact and a case as Oklahoma's best running back.
Freshman Trey Metoyer entered the season with plenty of folks (ahem) picking him to lead the Sooners in receiving.
So far, though? It's been all about the old guys in crimson and cream. Against Kansas State on Saturday, Oklahoma's Kenny Stills will transform and remind everyone why he's the elder statesman in the Sooner receiving corps.
Along the way, Oklahoma will collect a win, thanks to another big game from Stills.
Much of the talk this season in Norman has centered around the Belldozer, or the struggles on the offensive line or discussing whether Landry Jones is a franchise quarterback.
Stills? All he's done is quietly rack up 241 yards receiving and a pair of scores. Somehow, his contributions have gone underappreciated.
Through two games, he's got 154 more receiving yards than any other Sooner and is third in the Big 12, behind only West Virginia's Stedman Bailey and Baylor's Terrance Williams.
He's got 120 yards in two consecutive games, something he's never done in an Oklahoma uniform. Saturday night, he'll make it three, the first time in his career he's notched three consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
Stills grabbed four balls for 101 yards against Kansas State last year, and on Saturday night, the Sooners will need him to stretch the field. Can K-State cornerbacks Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone run with him?
I'm betting no. It's going to get tough for Oklahoma on Saturday night, and Jones will look to his most familiar target. Jones is completing 76.2 percent of his pass attempts to Stills, and just 55.8 percent to the rest of the team's receivers, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Jones may not know the numbers, but you're crazy if you don't think he feels that familiarity. He'll fall back on Stills on Saturday, and Stills will be there for his quarterback, ready to transform Oklahoma back into the Big 12's best team.
2011 conference record: 7-2
Returning starters: Offense 9; defense 7; P/K (2)
QB Collin Klein, RB John Hubert, LB Arthur Brown, CB Nigel Malone, WR Tyler Lockett, LB Tre Walker, WR Chris Harper
CB David Garrett, LB Emmanuel Lamur, S Tysyn Hartman, DL Ray Kibble, DE Jordan Voelker
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Collin Klein* (1,141 yards)
Passing: Collin Klein* (1,918 yards)
Receiving: Chris Harper* (547 yards)
Tackles: Arthur Brown* (101)
Sacks: Meshak Williams* (7)
Interceptions: Nigel Malone* (7)
1. Filling the void left behind by Garrett: David Garrett was one of the biggest playmakers for the K-State defense, but Allen Chapman seems to have locked down the assignment of replacing him in 2012. The California juco transfer broke up four passes last year and returned his only interception 60 yards for a touchdown. K-State's secondary should be solid. Kip Daily will also help out at corner.
2. Collin Klein can chuck it: You have to take into account that Klein did it against second-teamers and that the quarterbacks have put up big numbers in spring games, but his 47-of-56, 480-yard performance is encouraging. He won't do that during the fall, but it's a good sign that Klein's improvement was obvious in the one practice fans or media were allowed to see.
3. Lockett returns: Tyler Lockett was the most explosive talent on an offense mostly devoid of home run threats, but a lacerated kidney ended his 2011 season early. Lockett returned and practiced this spring, but reportedly had another minor injury before the spring game, depriving us of a chance to see him back in action. Still, it sounds like he'll be back in the fall.
1. Can Kansas State validate its surprising 2011? The Wildcats memorably won eight games in 2011 by a touchdown or less, ascending to a second-place finish in the Big 12 after being picked to finish eighth. Advanced college football statistics suggest K-State is due for a regression in 2012, but this is Bill Snyder we're talking about. His team will be better in 2012. Can its record improve, too? Klein must remain healthy after leading the Big 12 in carries last season.
2. Who's filling in for Tysyn Hartman? Hartman had loads of experience and was one of the most intelligent players on the team. The Wildcats don't have many question marks, but who replaces Hartman is one. They'll still have competition between Thomas Ferguson, Randall Evans and Jarard Milo this fall to win the job.
3. What will the offensive line look like? Kansas State was the Big 12's most physical team in 2011 because of their strong offensive line. K-State loses three starters, and there's no doubt that if there's one thing that derails K-State in the fall, it's the new faces on the line. B.J. Finney is a stud at center, and Nick Puetz is solid, but the other three spots on the line didn't sound like they were sewn up by the end of spring.