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September 15, 2012For the second time in three weeks, it took two quarters for Kansas State to find a rhythm against a seemingly inferior opponent. And for the second time in three weeks, a dominant second half erased any possibility of a shocking upset.
Collin Klein had one of his best passing performances as a Wildcat, Chris Harper and Tramaine Thompson established themselves as dependable receivers and the No. 14 Wildcats overcame a questionable outing on defense (with the exception of Arthur Brown's play) to beat North Texas 35-21 on Saturday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"Across the board, I don't think we played the way we are capable of playing," Coach Bill Snyder said. "When you don't prepare yourself well, anything can happen. We were not very well-prepared."
Similar to the season-opening win over Missouri State, the Wildcats failed to establish any dominance early. North Texas took a 7-0 lead with 4 minutes left in the first quarter on a 6-yard run by Brelan Chancellor.
"We didn't come out and execute. We weren't as sharp as we needed to be," Klein said.
The Wildcats immediately responded to their deficit with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Tyler Lockett, the third of his career.
"It was a big swing," Lockett said. "We needed a spark to inspire the team a bit."
The score brought a crowd of 50,290 to life after it watched the offense sputter. K-State ran just six plays in the first quarter for negative-1 yard.
"It was major," Snyder said of the return. "That was probably the difference in the ball game at the end of the day. Special teams saved us. I thought we played extremely well in special teams, which was a big factor in the ballgame."
The Mean Green kept things close throughout the contest by dictating the pace of the game. North Texas dominated time of possession, ran more plays and kept the K-State defense guessing, something the Wildcats are used to doing to other teams.
K-State ran only six plays in the first quarter, and North Texas had the ball for more two-thirds of the first half.
"Give credit to them," Klein said. "We didn't help our defense with two three-and-outs. When you only run six plays in the first quarter, we didn't give ourselves the opportunity to get in a rhythm."
The tide started to change on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Klein to Thompson with 2:24 left in the first half. The score, which was originally called an incompletion and was later overturned, gave K-State a lead it wouldn't give up the rest of the way.
"Any time you can make big plays for your team, it makes you feel good," Thompson said. "I like feeling like I was a part of a win."
Thompson finished with five catches for 102 yards and two scores, becoming the first Wildcat receiver to top the century mark in yards in 2012.
"You always want to prepare like you're going to be the go-to guy. This week, it happened to be me," he said.
Harper added five catches of his own for 78 yards, as Klein finished the day 15 of 20 passing for 230 yards, two scores and a third-quarter interception.
Once K-State's offense started to roll, the defense slowly improved as well. North Texas only accumulated 70 yards in the fourth quarter while touchdown rushes by Klein and John Hubert gave Snyder the cushion his team needed to secure a 3-0 non-conference record for the second straight season.
Still, there is plenty of work to be done defensively for the Wildcats. North Texas finished the night with 353 yards and 21 first downs, converting on 7 of 15 third downs.
"Last week we tackled well, this week we didn't," Snyder said. "Last week we lined up reasonably well, this week we didn't. Last week we communicated well, this week we didn't. There probably isn't anything that we don't need vast improvement on."
Brown led the way from his middle linebacker position by racking up a career-high 13 tackles despite playing on a severely sprained right ankle.
That improvement will need to come quickly, as K-State faces Oklahoma next Saturday night in Norman, Okla. The 6 p.m. kick against the preseason favorites to win the Big 12 Conference will be televised nationally on Fox.
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