MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- When Ron Prince benched seniors to start
freshmen, critics groused that Kansas State's first-year coach was
already giving up on this season and looking toward next year.
The moves paid off a little quicker than that.
Quarterback Josh Freeman and running back Leon Patton, two of
five freshmen starting on offense Saturday, didn't look much like
first-time starters in Saturday's 31-27 comeback victory over
Patton ran for 151 yards and one touchdown and returned a
kickoff 95 yards for another score, and Freeman got rolling late
and ran 21 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 1:11 left.
But if Prince was feeling vindicated, after being second-guessed
in columns and message boards all week, he didn't show it.
"There's no last laugh," he said. "This is just one game in
the season. Much to many of your chagrin, I don't read anything you
write -- so I don't have anything to hold against you."
Freeman, the first freshman to start for the Wildcats since
Duane Howard in 1976, was sacked four times and had just six
passing attempts going into the fourth quarter.
But in the last four minutes, he was spectacular.
His 43-yard completion to Jermaine Moreira set up Patton's
1-yard TD run with 3:04 left.
That score, which broke a seven-quarter stretch without an
offensive touchdown, got the Wildcats within 27-24. Oklahoma State
couldn't muster a clock-killing drive in response, and Freeman
needed only three plays to give Kansas State the lead.
"Adrenaline took over, and I just took off," said Freeman, who
finished the day 10-for-15 for 177 yards and did not throw an
interception. "It was a designed pass, and the line did a great
job of opening up the middle of the field for me. The pressure
came, the line spread it out and I just ran. Moreira made a great
Safety Marcus Watts also had a huge game for the Wildcats (4-2,
1-1 Big 12), who trailed 27-17 with just over three minutes left
before coming back to beat the Cowboys (3-2, 0-1) for the sixth
straight time in Manhattan and the 10th time in their last 11
Watts blocked a punt that Gonzalez returned 21 yards for Kansas
State's first score. In the closing seconds, Watts broke up what
would have been a game-winning catch by Adarius Bowman, then
intercepted Bobby Reid's tipped pass in the end zone as time ran
"I've got to tip my hat to the safety," Reid said. "He made a
good play. I thought [Bowman] had it. I thought he caught it for a
touchdown and it was over."
Watts left his designated area to make the play on Bowman,
smacking the receiver just as the ball arrived.
"They told us all week that their quarterback would stare down
his receivers," Watts said. "He was looking at him the whole
time, so I left my landmark and broke early on him. Luckily, I got
there at the same time as the ball -- and luckily, he couldn't hold
Reid threw two short scoring passes and Keith Toston ran for 109
yards and one touchdown for Oklahoma State. Toston's 11-yard TD
carry, on the first snap after Grant Jones' 89-yard kickoff return,
was the third score in a 53-second span in the third quarter.
The Cowboys went up 13-10 on Reid's 2-yard pass to Brandon
Pettigrew with 5:36 left in the third. But on the ensuing kickoff,
Patton's 95-yard return gave the Wildcats a 17-13 lead.
"I remember seeing a hole and coming through it," Patton said.
"Somebody grabbed onto my foot, but I knew our team needed to
score and so I tried my best to get free and get into the end
Jones responded with his own big return, and Toston's burst up
the middle put Oklahoma State ahead 20-17 with 4:43 left in the
third. Reid's second TD pass, a 1-yard toss to John Johnson, made
it 27-17 early in the fourth quarter before Freeman led Kansas
"I have to put that on myself," Oklahoma State defensive
coordinator Vance Bedford said. "I have to do a lot better job of
getting guys ready to get the job done."
The Wildcats threatened to break their offensive drought in the
first quarter, when Patton broke a 40-yard sweep to the Cowboys'
5-yard line. But on fourth-and-goal from the 1, linebacker Chris
Collins stuffed Patton for a 2-yard loss.
The Wildcats went up 7-0 early in the second quarter on
Gonzalez's return of Watts' punt block. Oklahoma State's Jason
Ricks and Kansas State's Jeff Snodgrass traded field goals later in
the second quarter, and Ricks' 38-yarder early in the third got the
Cowboys within 10-6.