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November 13, 2010

Cats fumble opportunity at Mizzou

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Wide receiver Aubrey Quarles finished with nine catches for 133 yards, and freshman linebacker Tre Walker had a career-high 12 tackles, but Kansas State's 38-28 loss to Missouri was all about quarterbacks. The men who lined up under center in Saturday's contest combined for 230 yards rushing, another 443 through the air and five scores. Nearly every crucial play, both positive and negative, for either team hinged on the arms or legs of the men under center.

Carson Coffman, Collin Klein and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert each had his moment and each accounted for at least one score. At times, the effort was inspiring. At others, it was anything but. The trio of signal accounted for four of the game's six turnovers, three came off the hand of Coffman, whose muffed snap on the MU 1-yard line in the waning moments of the first half squandered an opportunity to draw even at the break.

"We were running an option to the left," Coffman said of the game-changing miscue. "It was there, I got excited and I pulled out a little early."

His second fumble of the game, which took place in the very next quarter, was just as costly, however, and probably left more of a mark.

When Missouri defensive end Alden Smith jarred the football loose with a shot to Coffman's blindside, the result was a defensive touchdown for junior Jacquies Smith, who scooped up the ball before taking a 53-yard, slow-paced jog to the end zone. In one play, a Tiger lead that was within inches of evaporating in the final moments of the first half had stretched itself to two scores. The deficit would never shrink beyond that point again.

"I think the turnovers directly resulted in 17 points," K-State head coach Bill Snyder, who saw his team fall to 3-4 in Big 12 play and 6-4 overall, said. "If you look at the scoreboard, that 17 points makes a big difference."

Following fumble No. 2, things spiraled downward, and the nose of spinning plane was driven by the play of quarterbacks. Snyder saw Coffman, who he left on the field for much of the second half, abused by the MU defensive front to the tune of four sacks. Trick plays blew up in the K-State coach's face, the momentum shifted abruptly, and shortly after fourth-quarter clock got started, Gary Pinkel's team tacked onto its lead.

This time, the home team's points came in the from of a 4-yard touchdown completion from Gabbert, who finished the day with 208 yards passing and another 89 on the ground, to T.J. Moe. The scoring strike gave Mizzou a 38-14 advantage early in the final quarter, and while the Wildcats were able to pull back to within 10 points on a Coffman touchdown pass in throw-away time, it was clear that the best quarterback that saw the field on Saturday wasn't wearing purple.

"He's a great athlete," K-State defensive back David Garrett said of Gabbert. "He's so mobile. He knows how to keep the play going. His scrambling killed us. We had his receivers locked down sometimes, and he'd scramble for positive yards."

Still, it wasn't a one-sided offensive onslaught, especially not at first. Using a two-quarterback system, the K-State offense also found success in the QB-run game, where Klein picked up exactly where he left off against Texas by running for 141 yards while orchestrating five rushes that went for 10 yards or more.

"I did some things this game that I haven't been good at in the past," Klein said. "I think I grew a little this game, but it stinks across the board. We came to get the a win, and didn't play well."

He chunked the Missouri defense for 18 yards the first time he touched the ball and followed that up with a 10 yard run on snap No. 2. In fact, for one half of the Wildcats' loss to the Tigers, last week's winning strategy was effective. Then came the turnovers and the resulting hole, forcing Snyder to call passes for Coffman, the player he views as his pest aerial threat, a worthwhile compliment to Klein's rushing prowess.

Following the game, the veteran head coach pointed out that, in an ideal situation, he'd line just one man up under center, but with his team sitting at 6-4 and still answering questions at the sport's most important position, it's clear to Snyder that nothing about where his team sits now is ideal.

"Both of them will continue to play, but to what degree remains to be seen," he said.

K-State and its two-quarterback system will return to action next Saturday when its set to travel to west for a meeting with Big 12 bottom-dweller Colorado.




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