The Cougars got the ball back at their own 40 with five minutes remaining. Two quick completions to Chad Lewis and Kaipo McGuire gave the Cougs first down at the K-State 31. A three-yard scramble by Sarkisian and an incomplete pass to McGuire in which the Cougar receiver's helmet was knocked off by a vicious hit by safety Mario Smith and BYU was faced with a 3rd-and-7 at the 28.
Canty was still out with dehydration, however, and the Wildcats' other star cornerback Joe Gordon left the game after getting banged up. That left freshman corner Lamar Chapman in man-to-man coverage against BYU senior K.O. Kealaluhi.
It was a mismatch the Wildcats would pay dearly for. Kealaluhi headed inside and Chapman bit. When Kealaluhi cut back outside he was wide open in the end zone and Sarkisian hit him in stride for the 28-yard score, giving the Cougars the lead with 3:39 to play.
BYU wasn't out of the woods yet, however. The Wildcats moved the ball on a sustained drive for the first time all game in the final minutes. Twice Wildcat quarterback Brian Kavanagh completed fourth-down passes to All-American receiver Kevin Lockett to keep the chains moving. Lockett even hauled in a pass in the back of the end zone, but it was ruled incomplete because his foot was out of bounds when he landed.
With a 1st-and-10 at the 12, however, cornerback Omarr Morgan saved the day for the Cougars. He picked off a pass intended for Jimmy Dean at the three with just 55 seconds left.
"After I caught it," Morgan said, "I cradled it like a baby. I wasn't going to drop it. It was the greatest feeling of my life."
When Sarkisian finished putting his knee down for the third time and the clock read :00, the Cougars could start celebrating their second bowl win in three seasons.
There seemed to be some bad blood between the two teams before the game even started.
"They were disrespecting us at all the events not shaking our hands and stuff and we took it personally," said cornerback Tim McTyer, who had a first-quarter interception and six tackles on the afternoon.
Added Sarkisian, "At some bowls the teams hang out and are friendly to each other, but they didn't seem to want to be friends with us and I guess that's their business."
Sarkisian completed 21 of 36 passes for 291 yards and a pair of scores to earn co-outstanding offensive player honors (with Lockett). He was punished physically, however, as he was sacked seven times for minus-45.
"Steve was playing in a lot of pain in the fourth quarter," said Edwards. "It was a gutsy performance."
The Cougars dominated all but the final six seconds of the first half. Muirbrook started the scoring when he sacked K-State quarterback Brian Kavanagh in the end zone for a safety with 3:34 to play in the first quarter. Shortly thereafter Pochman nailed a 39-yard field goal to put BYU up 5-0.
It appeared the Cougars would go into the halftime locker room with a lead until Kavanagh did his best Jim McMahon-in-the-'80-Holiday Bowl impersonation. Kavanagh, on the final play of the half, threw the ball up for grabs in the end zone. Morgan got his hand on it, but it bounced into the arms of KSU's Andre Anderson for a touchdown. Running back Mike Lawrence scored the two-point conversion to put the Wildcats up 8-5 at intermission.
The Wildcats padded their lead in the third quarter when a short pass to Lockett turned into a 72-yard touchdown. Lockett broke a tackle by Chris Ellison and scampered down the left sideline to give the 'Cats a 10-point lead before the Cougars' comeback.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder came away impressed with the Cougars. "They're ranked No. 5 in the country and deserve to be," he said.
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