By DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports Writer
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Jason Taylor II returned a fumble 85 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, and Oklahoma State stopped Kansas State’s 2-point try that would have tied it with 2:08 to go, allowing the No. 14 Cowboys to escape with a 20-18 victory Saturday night.
The Cowboys’ Spencer Sanders was held to just 108 yards passing without dynamic wide receiver Tylan Wallace and with running back Chuba Hubbard slowed by an injury. LD Brown helped to pick up the load, running 15 times for 110 yards, as Oklahoma State (5-1, 4-1 Big 12) leaned on its defense to bounce back from an overtime loss to Texas.
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The Wildcats (4-3, 4-2) were forced to try for a 2-point conversion after Will Howard’s short TD run because of their odd decision to attempt a 2-point try to stretch a 12-0 lead in the first half. Howard was incomplete on that one, and he never got a pass off on the second — he fumbled the ball as the pocket collapsed around him.
Oklahoma State guided the ensuing onside kick out of bounds and ran some time off the clock before punting it back to the Wildcats, but Howard immediately threw an interception with 1:47 to go to seal their fate.
Howard finished with 143 yards passing and a touchdown and 125 yards rushing and another score, but most of the yards came on a couple of big plays. He was just 10 of 21 through the air and made several poor decisions in the running game.
Heading into the game, everything appeared to portend a big night for Oklahoma State’s offense: Hubbard ran for 296 yards against the Wildcats last season, Sanders threw for a career high 400 yards and four touchdowns last week against the Longhorns, and Kansas State was coming off a 37-10 shellacking at the hands of West Virginia.
So much for that.
The Wildcats dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half, forcing Sanders to continually throw away the ball when they weren’t putting him on his back, and the hobbled Hubbard had a mere three carries for 11 yards at the break.
Kansas State wasn’t exactly lighting it up, either. Blake Lynch kicked a pair of field goals, and it took Howard’s 69-yard run late in the first half to set up a touchdown with 37 seconds left — the score followed by their ill-fated 2-point conversion.
That wound up being a big point.
After six first-half punts, Oklahoma State finally got on the board with a field goal early in the second half. Then the Cowboys forced a three-and-out, and Brown ripped off a 50-yard run to set up Brennan Presley’s easy touchdown jaunt on a jet sweep. And when Alex Hale added another field goal, the Cowboys had a 13-12 lead, their first of the game.
Kansas State was marching for the go-ahead score when Howard had the ball punched out by Israel Antwine and right into Taylor’s waiting hands. The safety took off up the Kansas State sideline and was never touched on his TD return, which wound up being the decisive score in the game.
Oklahoma State won despite gaining just 261 yards on offense. and committing six penalties for 65 yards. Hubbard finished with six carries for 31 yards while Dillon Stoner had seven catches for 62 yards.
Kansas State could have used the steady hand of senior quarterback Skylar Thompson, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Howard started his fourth straight game but has failed to show much improvement.
NOT SO UNIFIED
Oklahoma State remained in the locker room during the Big 12’s pregame celebration of unity, leaving Kansas State to line up alone along its sideline. In fact, the Cowboys were so late exiting the locker room they barely got 11 players on the field to take the opening kickoff. They promptly went three-and-out on offense.
The Cowboys have a week off before heading to Norman for the Bedlam game against No. 19 Oklahoma on Nov. 21. Kansas State gets the week off before trying to snap its two-game skid at No. 17 Iowa State.