Five takeaways from Kansas State’s last-second road loss against the Missouri Tigers

It was the type of ending that makes college football such a popular sport.

With only three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis improbably made a 61-yard field goal to lift the Tigers to a 30-27 victory over Kansas State on Saturday at Faurot Field.

“You have got to give credit to that kid,” K-State quarterback Will Howard said afterward. “He made a freaking 61-yard kick. That is a long ways. In my head I was thinking we were going to return that kick or take it to overtime.”

Turns out he won the game instead.

Pandemonium ensued.

As soon as the extremely long kick crossed through the uprights, a sellout crowd of 62,621 rushed the field to celebrate an exciting win that may validate the work that Eli Drinkwitz is putting in for the Tigers (3-0) and will certainly raise questions about what is to come for the No. 15 Wildcats (2-1).

Under Klieman, K-State typically loses one game that few see coming each season. Is that what happened here? Are the Wildcats poised for a quick turnaround after a hiccup? Or was this a sign of bigger problems?

“I’m just so upset,” K-State tight end Ben Sinnott said. “I can’t believe that. I don’t even think it’s real. There were a bunch of plays that we left out there. They just made the last one when it mattered.”

Missouri will next play Memphis at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. K-State will begin Big 12 play next week against UCF at home.

Until then, here are five takeaways on the action:

This was a fun quarterback battle

It was apparent early on that this battle of former conference rivals was going to be a shootout.

Will Howard quickly led K-State down field for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. Then Brady Cook answered immediately with a 47-yard strike to Luther Burden for a Missouri touchdown.

Both teams went on to combine for 838 yards with the Tigers putting up 430 of them and the Wildcats settling for 408. Each quarterback had plenty to do with that.

Howard connected on 25 of 39 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. He was sharp with his most of his throws and could have eclipsed 300 yards if not for some late drops from his receivers.

Cook completed 23 of 35 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers were really rolling with him under center until he suffered a knee injury in the second quarter. It took him a little while to get back in a rhythm.

Unfortunately, both quarterbacks were hobbled with injuries in the second half. That limited their mobility and made it difficult for both of them to maneuver outside of the pocket.

Klieman said Howard was dealing with “quite a bit” of pain.

“We couldn’t run him,” Klieman said. “I don’t know exactly what the injury is. We will have a better idea when we get back (home), but there was something in his leg that didn’t enable him to run. But, man, the kid is a really good football player and hung in there and threw some strikes.”

Still, this was the type of game where it felt like whichever team had the ball last was going to win. That is exactly what happened.

Kansas State’s secondary struggled against the deep ball

The Wildcats were barely challenged on defense in their first two games. That changed when the Tigers came out aggressively throwing the ball.

Cook caused problems for K-State by getting the ball downfield to his receivers for several explosive plays on his way to 356 yards and two touchdowns (plus one rushing TD).

Cook spread the ball around so efficiently that five Mizzou receivers caught a pass of at least 25 yards. That was a big change from K-State’s first two games of the season, when Cats barely surrendered any long gains.

The Tigers got started when Cook threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Burden on a play in which the Wildcats inexplicably failed to cover him as he sprinted toward the end zone.

Cook later connected with Mookie Cooper for a gain of 41 yards. With those big gains, the Tigers were able to take a 17-14 lead at halftime.

But they connected on more big plays in the second half with Theo Wease, Marquis Johnson and Brett Norfleet all moving the chains through the air.

Burden also came through with a 26-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter that gave Missouri a 27-24 lead. K-State was not properly prepared to defend him.

“I saw more panic than I did confusion,” Klieman said. “We struggled to settle in. We have got to go back and look and see why that was. Some of it was they had a couple good schemes that we didn’t prepare for and I hadn’t seen. You have to apply rules and principles against those and do a great job of that. Some of that is us just settling down and communicating better.”

The Wildcats will have much to work on when it comes to defending the pass as they turn their attention to Big 12 play.

Ben Sinnott was a highlight machine

Every time the Wildcats needed a big play they seemed to turn to their tight end.

Ben Sinnott had a terrific game as both a blocker and a pass-catcher. Howard found him for five catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns.

He also added a pair of highlight moves in the open field while Missouri defenders were trying to bring him down after the catch. He broke away from tackles, made some nimble moves near the sideline and moved the chains at important times.

K-State also relied on him twice in the red zone, as Howard found him on a crossing route for a score and on a jump pass.

This was the type of game that could make him an All-Big 12 tight end.

Unfortunately, he failed to haul in a pair of balls that were thrown his way in the fourth quarter. Neither one was an easy catch, but he got his hands on both of them. Had he secured both catches, it would have been a monster day for him ... and the Wildcats may have won.

“It was tough with the amount of work we put in and all the preparation this week,” Sinnott said. “It was a big game on our schedule, so it was tough how it went down.”

Avery Johnson gets his own package

Chris Klieman decided to use more than one quarterback in K-State’s first road game of the season.

It was an interesting decision, to say the least. But it seemed to pay off.

The Wildcats sent freshman Avery Johnson onto the field at various times and shifted Howard out to receiver. On those plays, the Missouri defense had to stay on its toes and keep track of two K-State players who could throw the ball down field.

K-State didn’t ask Johnson to do much of anything with his arm, but he did get to show off his legs a few times. He turned four carries into 24 yards and even picked up an important first down in the second half.

Those plays could add a fascinating new wrinkle to the K-State offense this season if coordinator Collin Klein decides to stick with it.

Red zone penalties (mostly) didn’t hurt the Wildcats

K-State had to work much harder than usual to reach the end zone on a pair of drives against the Tigers.

On three separate occasions, K-State watched a touchdown get taken off the scoreboard because of penalties.

The first happened on the opening drive of the game, when a holding call on Sinnott negated a short touchdown run from Howard. But the Wildcats were fortunate to score a few moments later when Phillip Brooks caught a deflected pass in the end zone.

Later, in the third quarter, the Wildcats had even more penalty issues in the red zone. This time, a holding call on Will Swanson wiped away a touchdown run by Howard. Then a passing touchdown to Jadon Jackson was called back because of pass interference on Brooks.

Somehow, K-State once again overcame those errors and scored on a pass from Howard to Sinnott.

Those errors didn’t end up costing K-State for most of the day, but they eventually caught up to the Wildcats in the fourth quarter when a delay-of-game penalty at the 3 with 5 minutes, 54 seconds remaining ultimately led to a field goal instead of a touchdown.

K-State doesn’t want to make that a habit in future games.