MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is never going to second-guess Kansas State counterpart Bill Snyder.
There will be plenty of others who do.
The No. 22 Cowboys took advantage when Snyder elected to punt near midfield on fourth-and-inches in the fourth quarter, and rallied for a 43-37 victory Saturday that was only secured when the Wildcats’ pass to the end zone was picked off on the final play.
“I know in the past he’s played the percentages,” Gundy said about the decision to punt, which gave his team the ball back trailing 37-28 with about 8 minutes left. “He’s somewhat a genius when it comes to that.”
This time, it helped the Cowboys (7-2, 5-1, No. 18 CFP) keep their Big 12 title hopes alive.
Mason Rudolph connected with James Washington on an 82-yard touchdown passes two plays later, and after a three-and-out, Chris Carson capped a go-ahead drive with a 17-yard TD run to give Oklahoma State the lead.
“I joked with the guys that I told Carson to slide if he gets in the open,” Gundy said.
Instead, Kansas State (5-4, 3-3) got the ball back with 1:39 left. After quickly marching downfield, and converting fourth-and-5 to remain alive, an offensive pass interference penalty in the end zone with 10 seconds left pushed them back to the Oklahoma State 13 with 4 seconds to go.
Ertz’s wobbler to the end zone was intercepted by Jordan Sterns to end the game.
“We were inconsistent in the second half of that ball game,” Snyder said. “Some good things, some not-so-good things, but a lot of that was Oklahoma State.”
Rudolph finished with 457 yards and five touchdowns through the air, though he also threw two picks — one returned by Duke Shelley for a score. Washington had seven catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
Ertz ran for 153 yards and three scores for Kansas State, but he was just 12 of 18 for 87 yards through the air, as the Wildcats finished with 345 yards rushing in a woefully imbalanced attack.
The ground game allowed Kansas State to control the game early, marching on back-to-back long touchdown drives to take a 13-0 lead. But the Cowboys answered with back-to-back touchdown passes from Rudolph, and that began an entertaining back-and-forth matchup of vastly differing styles.
The Wildcats stuck to the ground, bulldozing their way through a defense unable to stop them.
The Cowboys kept shredding through the air a defense that couldn’t keep pace.
“You can’t let them have that deep ball,” Kansas State’s Elijah Lee said. “That’s what they live for.”
Oklahoma State led 23-21 at halftime before an atrocious third quarter that included a muffed punt return, a blocked punt and two crucial penalties allowed the Wildcats to seize a 30-21 advantage.
The teams kept trading blows all the way to the final second.
“If we lose that game, this press conference is about being poor in special teams, you turn the ball over and can’t stop the run then it’s hard to win a football game,” Gundy said. “I told our team earlier that it’s a great accomplishment to win up here.”
The Cowboys won their fifth straight Big 12 game by snapping a two-game skid in Manhattan. It was the first time in six meetings that the home team did not with the matchup.
Kansas State broke from tradition and wore silver camouflage helmets in a nod to the military on Fort Riley Day. Snyder has generally avoided the trend toward several uniform combinations.
Oklahoma State: Despite throwing two picks, the first ending a streak of 163 attempts without one, Rudolph was calm when it mattered the most. He engineered two scoring drives down the stretch when Oklahoma State’s Big 12 title hopes hung in the balance.
Kansas State: It was another oh-so-close loss for the Wildcats, who dropped a similar nail-biter to West Virginia. Their failure to convert on third-and-inches in the fourth quarter, and then punting rather than going for it on fourth down, may have cost them the game.
QUOTEABLE: “We need to improve our defense against the pass,” said Snyder, whose team has given up at least 300 yards through the air four of the past five games. “My 9-year-old granddaughter knows that. And I don’t have a 9-year-old granddaughter.”
Oklahoma State plays its home finale against Texas Tech on Saturday.
Kansas State has a week off before visiting No. 13 Baylor.