No. 21 Kansas State experts at closing out games
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — One week after piling up a school-record 35 fourth-quarter points, No. 21 Kansas State is preparing for a rematch of the game where it first earned a reputation for winning late.
Miami is coming to town on Saturday.
Wildcats coach Bill Snyder refuses to give the Hurricanes the distinction of a turning point last season, but linebacker Arthur Brown is much more convinced that a dramatic goal-line stand — and an assist from a video review — changed the entire mentality of the team.
Kansas State wound up winning that game 28-24 in Miami and parlayed the mental toughness that it earned on the road into a 10-win season and a trip to the Cotton Bowl.
"That established who we were as a defense," said Brown, one of the Wildcats' captains. "It really helped build our confidence not only as a defense, but as a team, that we could play with anyone in the country, so I really think that was the defining moment not only for that time, or for that game, but for the whole season."
Along with a narrow win over Eastern Kentucky to start the season, Kansas State's triumph against Miami started a trend. The Wildcats went 8-1 in games that came down to one touchdown or less — the most amassed by a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision in more than a decade.
The last team to come close was Washington, which won seven by that margin in 2000.
Kansas State's late-game success in 2011 stood in stark contrast to the previous year, when the team went 4-5 in games decided by fewer than 10 points.
"When Coach first got here, that was his big thing: 'Finish, finish, finish,'" tight end Travis Tannahill said. "We couldn't finish any games."
It was not as if the Wildcats did not position themselves for success.
In 2010, Kansas State outscored its opponents in the fourth quarter seven times, going 3-4 in such contests. All four of those losses — to Baylor, Syracuse and former Big 12 members Missouri and Colorado — were by 10 points or fewer.
Perhaps that is why Snyder spent so much time during spring drills, fall camp and throughout the season trying to get the message of finishing strong through to his team.
"We got that under control last year," Tannahill said. "I think we proved that."
No doubt: The Wildcats were perfect in eight games last season where they scored at least as many points in the final quarter as their opponent.
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