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Kansas State Has Problems Punting

December 3, 2000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ This should tell you just how bad No. 8 Kansas State’s punting was in the Big 12 championship game:

The Wildcats’ best kick in Saturday night’s 27-24 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma came from their quarterback, Jonathan Beasley.

Kansas State, one of the most dangerous return teams in the nation, lived up to that reputation with Aaron Lockett’s 58-yard runback for a game-tying touchdown in the third quarter. But with the exception of Beasley’s surprise pooch punt to the Sooners’ 3 in the first quarter, the Wildcats’ punting game was woeful _ as it has been through the latter part of the season.

In the second quarter, with Kansas State leading 10-3, Oklahoma’s Josh Norman blocked Travis Brown’s punt and returned it to the Wildcats’ 17. Three plays later, Josh Heupel threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Trent Smith to tie the game at 10.

``That blocked punt just killed us,″ said Phil Bennett, Kansas State’s defensive coordinator. ``That’s three straight games we’ve had a punt blocked, and we were lucky to win two of them. You get into the championship game, and you’re not going to win it giving up a blocked punt.″

Actually, it was worse than Bennett said. The Wildcats have had punts blocked in their last four games, a fact coach Bill Snyder noted.

``Obviously, we’ve had some problems there,″ Snyder said.

Brown dropped Neil Gosch’s errant snap the next time Kansas State lined up to punt, but Oklahoma elected to have Tim Duncan punt out of field goal formation rather than try a 50-yarder.

Brown averaged only 32.4 yards on five punts before being replaced in the fourth quarter by freshman Jared Brite, who shanked both of his kicks and averaged just 31 yards.

Beasley said the offense had to share some of the blame, however.

``Whether it’s our punt team or our defense, we need to keep them off the field,″ said Beasley, who ran for one touchdown and threw for another. ``We didn’t do that today. Oklahoma did a great job of getting the job done.″

The Wildcats’ punt-return unit had its own troubles. Before Lockett’s long return tied the game at 17 with 3:29 left in the third, a holding penalty wiped out his 35-yard return to the 50-yard line.

Instead, Kansas State started at its own 15 _ meaning that a 30-yard drive got the Wildcats only to their own 45, instead of the Sooners’ 20, where they would have been well within Jamie Rheem’s field goal range.

``Penalties are going to be the demise of any special team,″ Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. ``We had some decent returns, and that was going to be one of them, but then there was that penalty. I assume it was the proper call.″

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