Cat offense responds to CU challenge

BOULDER, Colo. — After leading 17-0 at the end of the first half, Kansas State staved off a Colorado comeback attempt when quarterback Josh Freeman threw a strike to Jordy Nelson for a short gain that the junior receiver turned into a 74-yard touchdown. The TD put the Cats up 27-14 with 11:55 remaining on their way to a 34-21 victory Saturday at Folsom Field.
For once, it was the offense saving the day for the Wildcats when the defense faltered. Colorado ran for 223 yards in the second half as the Buffaloes tried to climb back into the game, but Freeman led an offense with a spectacular showing.
Freeman finished the game completing 22 of his 26 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Freeman also threw a crucial block on a 30-yard Yamon Figurs touchdown run that capped K-State's scoring. K-State's offense amassed 439 yards in the game.
The win moves Ron Prince's Wildcats to 6-4 on the season, meaning they are now considered bowl eligible, and 3-3 in Big 12 play. A representative from the Insight Bowl attended Saturday's game to watch the Wildcats. CU is now 1-9 on the season and 1-5 in Big 12 play.
K-State ran for 188 yards against the Buffaloes, a group that was giving up about half that per game this season. Freshman running back Leon Patton picked up 96 yards on 12 carries, while James Johnson added 63 yards on 21 totes.
Down 17-0 at halftime, the Colorado Buffaloes wanted a prolonged scoring drive to open the second half. After 15 plays, 85 yards and seven minutes and 51 seconds and a valiant defensive stand by the Wildcats, the Buffaloes turned the ball over on downs at the KSU 1.
After K-State drove the ball out of the mouth of its end zone, a Tim Reyer punt gave the Buffaloes the ball back at the CU 36. A 40-yard run by Mell Holliday put CU at the 3 and then Buffalo quarterback Bernard Jackson dove in on third down to finally put CU on the board with 1:48 left in the third quarter.
Now ahead 17-7, K-State responded with a 27-yard Jeff Snodgrass field goal to go ahead 20-7 but then Jackson broke a 62-yard run to pull CU back into the game at 20-14 with 13:26 remaining.
Then came the touchdowns by Nelson and Figurs to put K-State up 34-14. Colorado responded with a 1-yard TD pass from Jackson to Tyson DeVree, but the game was all but over as the Wildcats recovered an onside kick and drove to the CU 3 to end the game.
After an initial scoring drive that bridged the first and second quarters put the Wildcats ahead 7-0 with 13:20 to go in the second quarter, a crucial Colorado fumble and a questionable decision by CU coach Dan Hawkins to go for a fourth-and-5 late in the first half led to 10 more K-State points.
Patton scored K-State's first touchdown on a 15-yard run, but the Wildcats didn't let up on the Buffaloes.
Colorado receiver Stephone Robinson mishandled a reverse pitch from running back Hugh Charles midway through the second quarter and K-State linebacker Justin McKinney pounced on the ball at the CU 16. Three plays later, Freeman hit Figurs on a 9-yard TD pass.
Late in the second quarter, Hawkins elected to try to convert a fourth-and-5 from the KSU 41, but Jackson horribly overthrew a pass. K-State took over at its 41 and covered 30 yards to set up a 46-yard Snodgrass field goal with one second remaining in the first half.
The two teams exchanged missed field goals in the first quarter. Snodgrass' attempt for the Wildcats missed from 47 yards when it hit the left upright.
Colorado took over at its 30 and picked up 32 yards on a pass from Jackson to Alvin Barnett, but the Buffaloes' Mason Crosby missed from 51 yards when K-State's Steve Cline burst up the middle and nearly blocked the kick.
The first quarter ended with both teams scoreless, but not before the Wildcats took over at their own 34 and went on the game's first scoring drive.
K-State went on a 10-play, 66-yard drive that chewed up four minutes and 44 seconds. Five of the drive's first six plays were throws picking up 34 yards, but then the ground game took over for the Wildcats. Johnson popped loose for a 16-yard dash and then after run of 6 and zero yards, the Cats were facing a third-and-4 from the 15.
The Wildcats loaded the right side of the line and ran a toss sweep to Patton, who found some room and dashed 15 yards into the end zone. Snodgrass added the extra point to put K-State up 7-0 with 13:20 on the second-quarter clock.
Freeman sparkled in the first half, completing 15 of 16 passes for 100 yards. The K-State running game, meanwhile, churned out 68 first-half yards on 22 carries against a CU defense surrendering only 97 rushing yards a game this season.
Jackson led the Buffaloes with 105 yards on 17 carries, and completed 10 of 18 passes for 145 yards.
K-State returns home next week to play host to fourth-ranked Texas. The kickoff of the game will either be at 2:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. ABC Sports is scheduled to announce the time of the game Sunday.