K-State falls out of poll after 3rd straight loss

Updated: October 12, 2003, 7:49 PM ET

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Ell Roberson had a career day passing, Darren Sproles was darting and juking around defenders as usual and the Kansas State defense kept Rashaun Woods out of the end zone.

It still wasn't enough.

K-State dropped its third straight, a 38-34 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday that completed the Wildcats' precipitous drop down and out of the Top 25 poll.

What promised to be the best season in school history has instead become one of the most disappointing years in K-State's long history of gridiron futility.

"We don't seem to have the heart we used to have before," defensive end Thomas Houchin said. "When I wake up (Sunday), it will be the same feeling I have right now. Gutless. It feels like your stomach dropped out. We've got to do something about this."

Oklahoma State (5-1, 1-1 Big 12) moved into the poll at No. 23 after its fifth straight win, keeping alive its chance to advance to the Big 12 championship game.

Since a deflating loss at Nebraska in the season-opener, the Cowboys have rolled past their last five opponents by a combined score of 236-70. Oklahoma State is off to its best start since 1997.

"It gives us a lot more confidence going into the Big 12 knowing we can play with any team," said defensive end Khreem Smith.

The question is: what Kansas State (4-3, 0-2) team did they beat?

Was it the Wildcats that had been ranked sixth in mid-September, were the preseason favorite in the Big 12 North and seemed primed for a national title run?

Or was it the Wildcats that lost to Marshall, Texas and Oklahoma State in consecutive games, a team plagued by turnovers, a sporadic offense and a defense that can't make key stops late in games?

Roberson's erratic performance was typical of the reeling Wildcats.

The usually scatter-armed senior quarterback had a career day passing against Oklahoma State, throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns. He also had three interceptions.

Darrent Williams returned one of those errant throws 63 yards for a score in the second quarter to give Oklahoma State a 14-7 lead.

"We've got some issues as far as turnovers, interceptions," said K-State coach Bill Snyder. "Obviously that was a factor, and it's not always the quarterback's fault. I think he's better this week than he was last week, but I still think he's making enough mistakes that he can get you in trouble."

Then there was the defense that "held" Woods to six catches and 118 yards and no touchdowns, but allowed Tatum Bell to rush for 143 yards and two scores on 28 carries.

Bell, benched in the first quarter of last week's romp over Louisiana-Lafayette after a fumble, rebounded in a big way as he repeatedly found holes in a Kansas State defense that had held 11 of its last 14 opponents under 100 yards rushing

"We got caught in trying to do some things with Rashaun Woods," Snyder said. "Sometimes it hit, sometimes it didn't, and sometimes it hurt us in some other areas."

The defeats may cause some to wonder if K-State was ever worthy of its lofty ranking.

The Wildcats, long criticized for a soft non-conference schedule, feasted on Division I-AA foes such as McNeese State and Massachusetts early in the season then lost when finally challenged by comparably talented teams.

Snyder hopes his deflated team can rebound before the downward spiral sinks any further.

"I don't know, it's a relatively quiet locker room at this point in time," he said. "I'd like to believe that we've got a room full of guys that have tremendous character, have a great deal of heart, that care about each other, that believe in the program and are not about to give themselves up."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index