MANHATTAN, Kan. – Mike Gundy summed up his team's special teams performance at Kansas State simply and succinctly:
The No. 2 Wildcats are good on offense and good on defense.
And perhaps great in the kicking game, which showed again in their 44-30 win Saturday night, with kickoff returns a killer to the Cowboys' hopes.
OSU likes to consider itself great, too, on special teams, with kicker Quinn Sharp among the best three-pronged threats in the college game.
Head-to-head Saturday night, the Cowboys were KO'd.
Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson – two Oklahoma kids, to make matters worse – combined for 187 return yards on three kickoffs, with Lockett taking one 100 yards for a touchdown.
Thompson's 60-yard kickoff return, which came after OSU had rallied to within 41-27, led to a K-State field goal that expanded the lead to three scores.
“We were terrible. Too many yards,” Gundy said. “You don't give yourself a chance.”
The Cowboys tried things, too, in an attempt to slow down the Wildcat jail-breaks. They kicked it deep. They kicked it short. They squib kicked.
Too often, Sharp kicked off then found himself as the last man standing for OSU.
Or the last man chasing.
“We did not cover well at all,” Sharp said. “I don't know what happened, whether they had a good scheme or it was the way we got blocked, but we weren't running down proper lanes and we were making mistakes.
“And they gashed us a couple of times. We tried to change some stuff. I don't know what happened. We'll have to go back and look at the film and make corrections for next week.”
Overall, the Wildcats returned four kickoffs for 199 yards and also had a 39-yard punt return. Three of the big returns led to K-State points.
It's not like the 'Cats caught OSU by surprise. They've torched other teams. Now they've burned the Cowboys, too.
“We knew how good they were coming into the game,” Sharp said. “We knew that last year, too. With Lockett and Thompson back there, they're both very powerful and very explosive guys.
“You get guys like that in space, they're going to make some plays.”
On Lockett's touchdown return, Sharp found himself in that space, only to have Lockett race right past him. Later he forced Lockett out of bounds, earning a spot on the tackle chart, which is always a bad thing.
“Normally, I'll put my head in there and make a play,” Sharp said. “The last one, I did, even though Lockett was still on me, I tried to push him to the sideline as hard as I could.
“The other ones, they had three or four guys coming through the hole at the same time. There was nowhere I could go. I don't know if I could have even gotten there with the angle I had.”
The Cowboys left Manhattan with plenty of mistakes and regrets, losing five turnovers and claiming none.
But they like to count on special teams, and usually do.
Not Saturday night, not even with Desmond Roland's 80-yard kickoff return for a score.
“We challenged ourselves,” Sharp said. “I challenged the guys. We just didn't step up to the plate tonight.”