No. 22 K-State, OSU hope to keep their Big 12 hopes alive

Updated: October 10, 2003, 3:24 AM ET

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Bourbon Street in January is now a pipe dream for Kansas State. There's still a chance for a trip to Kansas City in December, though.

Kansas State's hopes of playing in the Sugar Bowl for the national title have faded with two straight losses. Another defeat, and making the two-hour drive from its Manhattan, Kan., campus to the Big 12 championship game isn't likely either.

Oklahoma State, still smarting from an embarrassing loss at Kansas State last season, will try to slam the door shut on those goals and keep theirs alive during Saturday's pivotal conference showdown.

"We did not make a great showing for ourselves a year ago against this team," Cowboys coach Les Miles said. "We have not forgotten that ... we look forward to getting them in this stadium and playing our best football."

Oklahoma State (4-1, 0-1 Big 12) enters the game with four consecutive lopsided victories -- by a combined score of 198-36 -- that have rekindled some of the enthusiasm that was lost after a 17-7 defeat at Nebraska in the season opener.

The Cowboys are now poised to re-enter the Top 25 and climb back into the Big 12 title race with a win over reeling Kansas State, which slipped 16 spots to No. 22 after losing to Marshall and Texas.

Easier said than done.

The Wildcats (4-2, 0-1) haven't lost to Oklahoma State since 1989, Bill Snyder's first year in charge of what was then one of the nation's worst programs. Kansas State has since won nine straight in the series.

The defeat that's remembered most in Stillwater, however, is last year's 44-9 rout.

In that game, the Wildcats rolled up 499 yards and held Oklahoma State to season lows for total yards (188) and first downs (14), sacked quarterback Josh Fields three times and forced five turnovers.

"That game eats at us," Oklahoma State linebacker Paul Duren said. "It's those kind of games that stick in your mind. We need to come out and take it to them. We want to be physical just like they're physical."

Kansas State comes into Saturday's game trying to figure out how its season of promise turned into such a disappointment. The quick fall from national title contender to nearly out of the Top 25 has been tough for the Wildcats to handle.

"It just proves that we can't take another loss," defensive end Andrew Shull said. "(The Texas) loss hurt ... we will learn from it, and it will just make us stronger as a team."

Tailback Darren Sproles and quarterback Ell Roberson give the Wildcats a dynamic 1-2 rushing tandem that gave Oklahoma State fits last season.

The shifty Sproles is the nation's 11th-ranked rusher (113.7 yards a game) and Roberson is equally dangerous at the run and the pass -- in last season's game against Oklahoma State he completed nine passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns.

"Roberson is a great player. We can't get frustrated on what he does," Oklahoma State defensive tackle Clay Coe said. "We have to take it one play at a time and not let it affect the next play. You have to wrap him up and you have to gang-tackle him."

Oklahoma State has a few guys that can cause problems as well.

The Cowboys boast the Big 12's third-leading rusher, Tatum Bell, and a passing attack that features receiver Rashaun Woods, who set a Division I-A record with seven touchdown catches against Southern Methodist two weeks ago.

There's also Darrent Williams, who scored on two punt returns in last week's 56-3 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

All that firepower has given Oklahoma State hope, something that's in short supply right now for Kansas State.

"Last year they wanted to not just beat us, they wanted to take out our hearts," OSU offensive tackle Sam Mayes said. "Let's just see what happens this time when they come to our house."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index