September 19, 2008

Banks provides a small bright spot

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Superman cape collectively disappeared soon after kickoff among a Kansas State team that bore little resemblance to steel. But then there was Brandon Banks. And thank goodness. During the Wildcats' 38-29 loss to Louisville on Wednesday, the junior wide receiver wasn't a shadow of himself. The 5-foot-7, 142-pounder continued to prove himself as a dangerous pass-catching weapon, skating past defenders as if he were shot out of a revolver in front of a national audience at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

In his national debut and just his third contest in a Football Bowl Subdivision uniform, Banks had his best performance yet with seven catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns -- one from 45 yards out for the first points by either team late in the first quarter, then a 59-yarder in the final minutes that kept the final margin within single digits during an otherwise lopsided contest.

The junior college transfer from Bakersfield (Calif.) College knew his old teammates watched him outrace defenders into the end zone in the only game in town. He knew family back in North Carolina was tuned into the game, too. The same friends in Georgia uniforms that he watched play on TV last weekend were probably hootin' and hollerin' as Banks, once again, answered questions about his size.

But as he stood in a makeshift visitor's interview room deep inside the bowels of Cardinal Stadium, wearing a black blazer, gray slacks and a frown, Banks wouldn't have any of it. All he could think about was his final glance at the scoreboard as K-State dropped to 2-1 and next faces Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 27. Plays and regrets and what-ifs whizzed through his head.

"I played pretty well but stats don't matter when you lose," Banks began quietly. "I didn't do a good enough job for us to win, so the stats mean nothing."

He thought about his dropped pass across the middle on a 20-yard route, the first time he touched the ball.

"It wasn't butterflies," he said. "It was just execution."

But he was reminded that he redeemed himself beautifully three plays later, when he found himself untouched in the secondary and caught a perfectly-placed ball from Josh Freeman on play action and pulled away from free safety Bobby Buchanan, running with the ball for the final 23 yards of the 45-yard scoring toss with 21 seconds left in the first quarter.

"A seam route," he said. "We got the defense that we wanted, a cover-2 and I knotted (Buchanan) and Josh found me over the middle. But the first (drop) was on a dig (an intentionally-thrown low pass) but it was still a pretty good pass and I was supposed to catch it. But unfortunately, I didn't make the catch."

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