There was a moment during Missouri’s 30-27 victory over Kansas State that felt like a bad omen for the Wildcats.
K-State was leading by four points early in the fourth quarter, and it had just held Mizzou to a field goal. If the Wildcats were going to win on Saturday at Faurot Field, this was the time to do it. A touchdown drive could have crippled any hope of the Tigers mounting a comeback.
Last season, when Will Howard led K-State to a Big 12 championship, the Wildcats thrived in those situations. They showed no mercy to their opponents and pulled away. But that didn’t happen here. Instead, they went three-and-out and punted after Mizzou defender Ty’Ron Hopper broke up a pass intended for K-State tight end Ben Sinnott.
A defensive stop gave the Wildcats another shot to put this game on ice with 10 minutes, 46 seconds remaining. But instead of marching down field for a decisive score, they punted yet again after three plays. This time, they gained 8 yards on the ground and then Sinnott couldn’t haul in a pass with Daylan Carnell defending the play.
K-State was unable to move the chains yet again. Then Missouri responded with a 77-yard touchdown drive that lasted only two plays, with Luther Burden scoring on a 26-yard catch from Brady Cook.
All of a sudden, the Tigers were in control, up 27-24. They never trailed again.
“For us, it was a game of missed opportunities,” K-State football coach Chris Klieman said. “We probably missed some plays on offense that we’d like to have back. We struggled with the explosive play on defense. We shut it down for a while and then it came back to bite us again. You can’t give up explosive plays ... We have got to learn from it.”
The two drives mentioned above were far from the only reasons why K-State (2-1) suffered its first loss of the season against Missouri (3-0), but they certainly felt like a microcosm of the game.
K-State simply wasn’t sharp when it needed to be. The Wildcats committed seven penalties for 65 yards. Howard threw his third interception in as many games. When K-State tried to run the ball it only averaged 3.9 yards per attempt.
Sinnott, who is one of the best tight ends in the Big 12, hauled in five catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had some costly drops.
Perhaps those mistakes are why he took this loss hard.
“They always hurt,” Sinnott said, “and we have got to minimize that as much as we can.”
A number of errors in the red zone also made the Wildcats work harder than usual to score. Their most costly error, in that regard, came on a delay-of-game penalty in the fourth quarter that came at the Mizzou 3-yard line. That led to a game-tying field goal instead of a go-ahead touchdown.
“We have got a lot of trust in Will,” Klieman said. “Will said, ‘Coach, I thought I could get it off and I didn’t get it off.’ That was one situation. There were other times when Will put it on the money and we didn’t hang on to it. We dropped the opportunities. This was going to be a one-possession game and maybe who got the ball last was going to win.”
That team turned out to be Missouri and it took advantage with a 61-yard field goal on the final play of the afternoon.
“A lot of missed opportunities on offense and all across the board,” Howard said. “We have got to get back to the drawing board and learn from it.”