October 8, 2006

Freeman leads furious Wildcat rally

The play called for a pass. Quarterback Josh Freeman, one of seven players and one of two true freshmen to make his first career start, didn't see an open receiver, but spotted plenty of open pasture. So, the 6-foot-6, 238-pounder embarked on a fateful gallop, wrote a scintillating ending in part one of this new season and gave Kansas State new life one week before a key matchup against Nebraska.

Yes, 18-year-old Freeman, who arrived in Manhattan in January as a mid-year high school graduate from Grandview (Mo.) High School confident to tackle challenges just like this, tucked the ball, found a block behind senior wide receiver Jermaine Moreira, and darted 21 yards before he plunged into the end zone. It would become the winning score in an improbable 31-27 win over Oklahoma State, capping a crucial week in which challenge upon challenge was thrust upon the Wildcats after they seemed to be a team in a fragile state.

One week before, K-State became the first team in a Big 12 Conference game to fail to score a touchdown on Baylor in a 17-3 loss on the road. The offense that mustered one touchdown, one field goal and seven turnovers in its previous 31 possessions, was in turmoil and mounting frustration filled a defense that allowed an average of just two touchdowns, but decided holding opponents to fewer and fewer points was the only way to go.

First-year head coach Ron Prince decided something needed to change. The most important decision of his young career came in the fashion of new personnel and an expert game plan against a big-play Oklahoma State team that entered averaging 40.0 points, seventh highest in the nation. K-State rushed the ball a season-high 36 times - "We wanted to run the ball and bore everybody to death," Prince said - and Freeman took care of the rest with an explosive run of his own that marked the first touchdown on offense in 130 minutes, 18 seconds of playing time. Afterward, Freeman admitted was so easy that "anybody could have scored."

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