Cats Come up Short in Lincoln, 17-3

LINCOLN, Neb.  -   Despite out-gaining Nebraska, 293-267, Kansas State came up short in its bid to win the Big 12 North as the No. 25 Huskers defeated the Wildcats, 17-3, Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

With the loss, the Wildcats' season ends at 6-6, while Nebraska will represent the North division in the Big 12 Championship game on December 5. The season was the first non-losing year for Kansas State since 2006 as the Wildcats will now look to the 2010 campaign beginning with spring practice in April.

But, Kansas State was not without its chances on Saturday as the Wildcats had five offensive drives that advanced inside the Husker 35-yard line but came away with just three points.

Daniel Thomas, the frontrunner for Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year, had a workman-like night against a stout Nebraska defense and finished with 99 rushing yards on 19 carries. Thomas finished the season with the fourth-most rushing yards in a single-season with 1,265, behind only Darren Sproles' top three marks.

The Wildcats drove 58 yards down the field following the opening kickoff and turned it into three points as Josh Cherry nailed a 44-yard field goal to give K-State a 3-0 advantage in the game.

The Huskers then answered with 10 points on their first two possessions of the game, highlighted by a second-quarter Mike McNeill 17-yard touchdown reception, to take a 10-3 lead.

With Nebraska going in for another score before half, Tysyn Hartman's interception on third and goal at the 3:13 mark of the second quarter halted a Nebraska scoring threat. The Huskers had second and goal from the K-State 5-yard line when Jeffrey Fitzgerald sacked Zac Lee for a 14-yard loss. On the following play, Hartman picked off Lee's pass at the goal line and returned it 42 yards; but K-State was not able to turn it into points.

The Wildcats had another opportunity to cut into the Nebraska lead at the end of the first half as a 24-yard burst by Thomas and 13-yard run from Gregory set up Cherry for a 51-yard attempt as time expired in the first half. The attempt fell just a few feet short to keep the deficit at seven points.

Penalties also hurt the Wildcats in the first half as they were flagged six times for 54 yards.

Nebraska opened the second half with a 70-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a 47-yard pass completion on third and one and a 14-yard touchdown run from 14 yards, to take a 17-3 lead.

But, K-State mounted a drive of its own and threatened to close to within 17-10. Keithen Valentine hauled in a 12-yard pass from Gregory on third-and-nine and appeared to head for the endzone but safety Larry Asante jolted the ball loose with the Huskers recovering at the five yard line. Following a defensive stand, the Wildcats squandered another chance to close the gap when Cherry missed a 32-yard field goal after the Cats drove to the Husker 15-yard line.

Ulla Pomele led the defense with 15 tackles, while K-State collected 10.0 tackles for loss on the night. The Wildcat defense surrendered just 267 total yards on the night, including holding the Huskers to just 121 yards in the second half.