Courtesy of K-State Athletics
COLUMBIA, Mo. – A game that featured three ties and seven lead changes ended on the final play when Missouri’s Harrison Mevis booted an SEC record 61-yard field goal to sink No. 15 Kansas State, 30-27, in front of a sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri.
K-State took a 24-17 lead when Will Howard found Ben Sinnott with a jump pass in the end zone with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but the Tigers outscored the Wildcats, 13-3, the rest of the way in the 99th matchup between the two former Big Eight/12 foes.
“We had opportunities on offense, defense and on special teams, and this is what you’re going to get in Big 12 play,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said. “You’re going to have one-score games and have to make plays down the stretch. They made another play than we did down the stretch and their kid makes a 61-yard field goal as time expires. That’s part of the game of football.
“You’ve got to be able to finish plays and drives, and we had some opportunities but just didn’t capitalize.”
Will Howard, playing a majority of the second half with a noticeable limp, completed 25-of-39 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns and one interception for the Wildcats, 2-1, who trailed 17-14 at halftime, and never could shake the tough Tigers, 2-1, who used a bevy of long plays to down the defending Big 12 Champions — including the very last play.
“(Howard) was a warrior,” Klieman said. “He was banged up. Will played well, made one poor decision in the first half, but he threw the ball really well and under a lot of duress. They were going to lay their ears back and blitz. We made them pay a number of times, and we have to continue to do that because I think people are going to continue to pressure us.”
Howard utilized All-Big 12 tight end Ben Sinnott, running back Treshaun Ward and wide receiver Phillip Brooks in the passing game. Sinnott had five catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns, Ward and five catches for 61 yards, and Brooks had five catches for 50 yards and a 10-yard touchdown reception for the first score of the game. Jadon Jackson also had four receptions.
Brady Cook completed 23-of-35 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns and relied upon the dangerous arms and legs of Luther Burden, Theo Wease and Mookie Cooper to gain a bulk of the Tigers’ yardage. Burden had seven catches for 114 yards and touchdowns of 47 and 26 yards, Wease had six catches for 72 yards, and Cooper had four catches for 79 yards.
“Without question, we gave up the explosive play way too much on defense,” Klieman said, “and we missed some opportunities on offense for sure.”
Missouri out-gained K-State 430-408 in total offense and overcame a 3-for-13 effort on third downs. K-State out-gained the Tigers on the ground, 138-74. K-State was better at 8-for-17 on third downs but committed a season-high seven penalties.
The loss was the first by K-State in a regular-season game since a 34-27 loss against Texas on November 5, 2022 while Missouri has won 15 straight non-conference games at Memorial Stadium.
Trailing 17-14, K-State came out of the locker room and six plays produced a 46-yard field goal from Chris Tennant.
After the Wildcats’ defense forced the Tigers backward, Howard marched the offense on a 12-play, 75-yard jaunt that featured an eight-yard rush by quarterback Avery Johnson and a 19-yard catch by Brooks in tight coverage across the middle to set up a three-yard jump pass from Howard to Sinnott in the end zone.
The Wildcats’ 24-17 advantage appeared to be in jeopardy as Cook continued to showcase the long ball with a 26-yard completion to Wease and a 42-yard completion to Marquis Johnson to get the Tigers into the red zone. But K-State stiffened and Will Lee III broke up a pass near the end zone to force a 25-yard field goal from Mevis.
After K-State was unable to move the ball, Cook got another chance. But the Tigers, who converted on third down on a 14-yard catch by Weese, fell short when Jacob Parrish knocked away a pass to Burden to force a punt.
The Tigers came roaring back after another K-State punt. This time Cody Schrader dashed 36 yards and VJ Payne was called for a facemask, which moved the ball to the K-State 26. On the very next play, Cook found Burden, who caught the ball at the K-State 34 and raced into the end zone.
Suddenly, the Wildcats found themselves facing a 27-24 deficit.
K-State tried to answer the call when Howard found Ward across the middle for 33 yards and Ward rushed 14 yards down the middle. Inside the red zone, Johnson carried it six yards to the 3. But K-State was whistled for a delay-of-game and Howard was forced into an incompletion to avoid a sack. That led to a 26-yard field goal from Tennant to tie it 27-27 with 5:25 left in the game.
“Chris was good and playing with a lot of confidence and playing well, but we talked about it before the game that we had to get touchdowns in the red zone and not come away with three,” Klieman said. “A couple times we didn’t do that.”
Neither team could move the ball down the stretch until Missouri’s final game-winning drive — a 10-play, 38-yard heartbreaker that ended with Mevis’ field goal.
“We had plenty of opportunities in all three phases of the game,” Klieman said. “This is what Big 12 football is going to be like starting next week, so you better get used to tight ballgames and you better find ways to win.”
It was a battle from the start.
In the beginning, it seemed like K-State had picked up where it left off from its previous two non-conference wins against Southeast Missouri and Troy. After winning the coin toss and taking the ball, Brooks ended the 11-play, 75-yard drive with an acrobatic 10-yard catch off a deflection in the end zone.
But Missouri handed the Wildcats their first deficit of the season. First, Cook hit a wide-open Burden with a 47-yard scoring strike over the middle of the field. It was the longest play from scrimmage allowed by the Wildcats this season. Then the Tigers converted a Howard interception into a 30-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.
K-State jumped back on top. Jackson converted a third-and-6 play with a 21-yard catch to the Missouri 3-yard line. Three plays later, Howard hit Sinnott in the end zone to retake the lead, 14-10. It marked Sinnott’s first touchdown of the season.
Missouri manufactured the fourth lead change, as Cook found his groove through the air — finding Cooper for 41 yards and Brett Norfleet for 27 — before pounding the ball inside. Cook skated through the middle for a 1-yard keeper on fourth down.
K-State tried to tie it up, but couldn’t capitalize on a Sinnott 34-yard reception that got the Wildcats into Missouri territory. Tennant fell just short on a 55-yard field goal.
It appeared that Missouri suffered a blow when Cook limped on the sideline with 4:04 left in the second quarter after Kobe Savage tackled him following a 7-yard run. But Cook returned to the field two plays later. Jevon Banks took care of any questions whether the Tigers might stage another scoring drive when he sacked Cook on third-and-long, forcing a punt.
K-State’s final chance to head into halftime with a lead ended when the Wildcats were able to put together a drive from their own 20.