BOULDER, Colo. -- With a defense searching for confidence and consistency, it seemed apparent that the Kansas State offense would have to put up plenty of points if the Wildcats wanted to leave Folsom Field with a victory over the Colorado Buffaloes.
Instead, it was the K-State offense that floundered and the ailing K-State defense that kept the Wildcats in a low-scoring grind-it-out 14-13 Colorado victory.
And the defense wasn't just solid in the second half, it was strong, holding the Buffaloes scoreless in the final two quarters.
Still, it wasn't enough for Coach Ron Prince's Wildcats. The offense scored one touchdown in the second half and settled for a pair of field goals in the first half as the Buffaloes escaped the game with a victory.
"We knew it would be a dogfight, we just couldn't pull out the win," K-State quarterback Josh Freeman said. "The game played out a lot like Coach Prince told us it would. We know who we are; we just wish we could have some plays back."
The difference in the game came down not only to two missed field goals by the usually reliable Brooks Rossman, but the decision by Prince not to attempt a two-point conversion when the Wildcats pulled within two off a Freeman touchdown early in the third quarter. Rossman kicked the extra point and K-State was done scoring for the night.
Prince was convinced the scoring was not done for the night with more than 25 minutes football still to be played.
"That's an easy one to second guess and I will take all the blame on that," Prince said. "I've been in a lot of games where you chase those two-point plays early and you end up needing a touchdown at the end instead of a field goal. The reality is we had plenty of chances in the fourth quarter to go down and get the points that we needed."
That does not mean the Wildcats did not have chances in the second half to pull out the victory.
With less than six minutes left in the game, the Cats were inside the CU 40 when tight end Brett Alstatt fumbled, giving the Buffaloes the ball back at their 34 with 5:17 remaining.
K-State's defense then gave up a first down on a third-and-16 situation with just under four minutes remaining, prolonging a CU drive that it would eventually stop at the 31 with 59 seconds left. A final drive attempt for Freeman and the offense proved futile.
"We'll look back at this one and say, 'What if? And woulda, coulda, shoulda, but the reality is we didn't," Prince said.
Colorado out-gained the Wildcats 353-349 in the game, but despite still having flashes of trouble defending the run, the Cats had 10 tackles for loss in the game. Cornerback Joshua Moore led the Wildcats with 13 tackles and had his first interception of the season. Junior linebacker Ulla Pomele added 10 tackles.
Colorado ran for 247 yards in the game with freshman Rodney Stewart picking up 141 yards on 29 carries and freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen adding 86 yards on 19 carries as he swapped time with junior starter Cody Hawkins. Hawkins and Hansen combined for just 106 yards passing.
Freeman completed 20 of 41 passes for 237 yards. Freeman ran for 42 yards on seven carries and Logan Dold ran for 47 yards on 13 carries.
After trailing 14-6 at halftime, the K-State defense set a new tone against CU on the Buffaloes' first possession of the second half and then the Wildcat offense cruised into the end zone.
K-State's defense opened the second half with a nice stand as the Buffaloes helped out with a series of penalties. CU punted and the Wildcats took over at the CU 46.
The scoring drive was quick and efficient as Freeman completed back-to-back 17-yard passes to Brandon Banks and Jeron Mastrud moving the ball to the 12. After a 5-yard penalty on the Wildcats, Freeman ran a perfectly executed quarterback draw and cruised 17 yards untouched into the end zone. Rossman added the extra point to pull K-State within one at 14-13 with 10:49 on the third quarter clock.
After showing signs of life in the first quarter, K-State's offense sputtered in the second quarter as Colorado took a 14-6 lead into the halftime locker room.
K-State held Colorado scoreless in the first quarter, but the Buffaloes were driving to end the quarter. CU started the second half at the 50 and it took just six plays to score with Hansen, who pulled off his redshirt to add a quarterback run game to the CU offense, riddling the K-State defense with runs, including a 24-yard scamper.
Stewart capped the drive with a 2-yard run into the end zone with 12:25 on the clock. The extra point by Aric Goodman put CU up 7-6.
K-State came right back and turned the ball over deep in its territory when on the second play of the drive Aubrey Quarles fumbled and CU recovered at the 24. The K-State defense drove the Buffaloes back and then Goodman's 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Ian Campbell. Ray Cheatham recovered at the KSU 41, but K-State's drive floundered.
Colorado started its next drive at its own 35 and cruised 65 yards in six plays aided by a pass interference penalty on Blair Irvin that bailed out the Buffs of a third-and-6 situation.
Hansen finished the drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Scotty McKnight that put the Buffaloes up 14-6 with 6:19 remaining in the first half.
K-State had three drives in the first quarter, but all three stalled in Colorado territory. Rossman kicked field goals of 37 and 53 yards on the Wildcats' first two drives, but Rossman missed a 47-yard attempt late in the opening quarter to leave the Wildcats up 6-0. Rossman also missed a 42-yard field goal late in the first half.
K-State celebrates Homecoming next Saturday in an 11:30 a.m. contest with the fifth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.