McNeese State 14

(1-1, 0-1 away)

(7) Kansas State 55

(3-0, 3-0 home)

7:10 PM ET, September 6, 2003

Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS

1 2 3 4 T
MCNS 0 7 7 014
#7KSU 24 7 7 1755

Victory tainted by injuries, sluggish offense

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- Rashad Washington's expression -- alternately smiling and sober -- told the whole story.

On the one hand, Kansas State's free safety had two interceptions, returning one 45 yards for a touchdown, and blocked a punt to set up another score as the seventh-ranked Wildcats beat McNeese State 55-14 Saturday night.

But on the other ...

"We didn't have the kind of game we wanted to have tonight," Washington said. "There's no way we should be giving up 14 points and 200-something yards (267, officially) to a Division I-AA team."

The offensive results were also mixed for Kansas State, which saw one of its stars leave early for a second straight week.

Darren Sproles made a strong return to form a week after being injured, running for 101 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries for the Wildcats.

Ell Roberson threw his fifth touchdown pass of the year for Kansas State but left holding the wrist on his left, nonthrowing hand after being knocked down midway through the second quarter.

He did not return and was off-limits to the media afterward.

"I didn't want to put him in the position of having to come back into the game," coach Bill Snyder said. He said Roberson would be evaluated Saturday night, but Kansas State does not discuss injuries in detail.

Each of Roberson's backups, Jeff Schwinn and Dylan Meier, ran for one score.

Kansas State (3-0) blocked two punts, converting one into a touchdown for the second straight week.

The Cowboys, ranked No. 1 in Division I-AA, fell to 1-1.

The Wildcats scored three touchdowns -- one each on offense, defense and special teams -- over a span of 2 minutes, 5 seconds in the late first quarter and early second.

"Every time I turned around, I was having to run back out there and kick another extra point," kicker Joe Rheem said. "I didn't mind, though. That was a lot of fun."

Sproles, who left in the second quarter of last week's 41-5 win over Troy State with a leg injury, played only the first half against McNeese State. He started the quick scoring burst with a 34-yard touchdown run that gave the Wildcats a 17-0 lead with 1:20 left in the first quarter.

Two plays -- and just 22 seconds -- later, Washington intercepted Scott Pendarvis' pass and took it all the way back to make it 24-0.

"I got the ball in my hands, and I started feeling like a running back," said Washington, who also ran an interception back for a score against Eastern Illinois last year. "I made a few running-back moves, and I got into the end zone."

Then, on the second play of the second quarter, Maurice Thurmond blocked Jason Cook's punt at the Cowboys' 15-yard line. It rolled into the end zone, where David Rose fell on it to put Kansas State up 31-0 with 14:15 still left in the half.

"There were times in the first half when we played very well in spurts," Snyder said. "That's one consistency that we have. That's the way it was in each of the other two ballgames."

Washington's block, recovered just outside the end zone by Brandon Archer, set up a 1-yard TD plunge by Schwinn. That gave Kansas State a 38-7 lead midway through the third quarter.

Meier, who replaced Schwinn in the fourth quarter, ran 15 yards for a 48-14 lead with just over 4 minutes to go. After Scott Edmonds recovered Chris Thomas' fumble three plays later, Donnie Anders ran 11 yards for the game's final score.

After Rheem's 40-yard field goal on Kansas State's opening drive, the Wildcats' next possession lasted just one play -- long enough for Roberson to throw 43 yards to James Terry for a 10-0 lead.

Terry finished with 112 yards on four receptions. Roberson was 3-for-6 passing for 63 yards and ran for 37 yards on five carries.

Pendarvis was 8-for-22 for 129 yards and two scores. He was sacked twice and intercepted once.

"I didn't have a good game, and I think a lot of that blame comes to me," Pendarvis said. "I didn't play a good game, and I know I needed to to give us a chance."

After he was briefly replaced by Ryan Corcoran in the second quarter, Pendarvis returned to throw a 7-yard TD pass that cut Kansas State's lead to 31-7 with just over a minute left in the half.

His 37-yard touchdown pass to B.J. Sams made it 38-14 late in the third quarter.

Corcoran, who traded duties with Pendarvis in the second half, was 3-for-9 for 16 yards with an interception and was sacked once.

Rheem hit a career-long 44-yarder in the fourth quarter to put Kansas State up 41-14.