September 28, 2008

Defense finally delivered at game's end

They thought they had this thing licked. Coming off a nine-point loss at Louisville and the marathon of early-morning wind sprints, Kansas State defensive players believed they had passed their lowest low of the non-conference season. So then why did defensive captain Ian Campbell, in his best game of the season, gather his troops on the sideline for a little soul searching in the final moments of the Wildcats' 45-37 escape of Louisiana on Saturday?

K-State was in the midst of its final 17-play, 73-yard march in the final eight minutes of the game. Of course, nobody knew at the time that Tysyn Hartman would gain four yards on a fake punt near midfield to give his team's powerful offense new life. Of the announced crowd of 45,558 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, about 30,000 remained in their seats.

They were eerily quiet. Fans sitting in the good seats were even more so, including some that observed the sight of the two-time first-team All-Big 12 defensive end, standing and fuming to his seated defensive teammates near the end of the bench.

"Victory at all costs!" Campbell yelled, his eyes bouncing around each player. "Did you not see what the (explicative) he wrote down on the board?"

With that, Campbell grabbed his helmet and toed the sideline. Moments later, quarterback Josh Freeman patted the shoulder pads of defensive teammates as a 26-yard field goal by Brooks Rossman sailed through the uprights to give the Wildcats their eight-point margin for the last 1 minute, 37 seconds of regulation.

Of course, most know how it turned out. The defense came alive, the run-first Louisiana offense panicked with 79 yards to go in 75 seconds and the Wildcats got to dual-threat quarterback Michael Desormeaux twice. On first down, Brandon Harold, who enters this week ranked No. 3 nationally with 2.13 tackles for a loss, collected his second sack of the game. Then on a third-and-13 play, strong safety Courtney Herndon slithered through the left side and combined with Campbell for another sack.

When Desormeaux's heave on fourth down fell incomplete as time expired, K-State could finally breath. The sigh, however, was one of statistical disappointment even in a win that improved K-State to 3-1 as it prepares to try and handle undefeated and seventh-ranked Texas Tech on Saturday.

"Seeing 37 points scored on us makes us feel bad," said Herndon, who had a career-high 10 tackles. "Seeing 500-and-some yards makes us feel bad."

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