Roberson outshines White in Big 12 title game
Posted: Sunday December 7, 2003 12:00AM; Updated: Sunday December 7, 2003 1:40AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Ell Roberson made himself scarce in the days leading up to the Big 12 championship game.
Once he took the field Saturday night, he was pretty hard to miss.
Kansas State's quarterback, usually a ready source of quotes, avoided the media all week. But Roberson was more than happy to talk after tying a career high with four touchdown passes in the 13th-ranked Wildcats' 35-7 upset of No. 1 Oklahoma.
"You guys can drive me crazy every once in a while. Nah, I'm just joking," said Roberson, who was 10-for-17 for 227 yards without an interception to help Kansas State earn a Fiesta Bowl bid -- its first BCS berth.
"I just wanted to play my game as far as being focused without worrying about all the outside stuff," Roberson said. "That's what I did, and it worked out well for me."
As satisfying as Roberson's performance was for the Wildcats, it also was a bittersweet reminder of what might have been.
After Roberson led Kansas State to a 4-0 start and a No. 6 ranking, he injured his left, nonthrowing wrist in a meaningless game against Division I-AA McNeese State.
Roberson missed two starts, including the Wildcats' 27-20 loss to Marshall. He returned after that game but was uneven as Kansas State opened its conference season with losses at Texas and Oklahoma State.
The three-game losing streak knocked Kansas State out of national title contention and Roberson out of the Heisman race.
But in the seven games since -- all victories -- Roberson has thrown for 1,328 yards and 14 scores and run for 544 yards and seven TDs.
"I don't make a lot of major statements, but Ell Roberson is the toughest quarterback playing the game, maybe the toughest football player," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "I'm talking about mental toughness and I'm talking about physical toughness.
"You know me. I never talk about injuries," Snyder said. "But when I get an injury report, week in and week out, Ell Roberson has a list of ailments that would cover an entire football team. He spends half his life in tubs and training rooms ... but never takes a snap off, never takes a day off. He's an amazing young man."
Roberson had significant help on two touchdown throws Saturday night.
Early in the second quarter, just five plays after his 19-yard pass to Brian Casey tied the game at 7, Roberson lofted a long, high pass to wide receiver James Terry at the Sooners' 20-yard line.
Terry made a nice move on cornerback Antonio Perkins to make the catch, then eluded safety Donte Nicholson and sprinted to the end zone to complete the 63-yard scoring play -- a career long for Terry -- for a 14-7 lead.
"That was a well-thrown football and we had it well-covered," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "That is one of those situations where you have to make a play when you get an opportunity."
Later in the second, it was running back Darren Sproles' turn for a career-long catch.
Sproles caught a screen pass in stride, broke into the clear around Oklahoma's 40-yard line and outran the Sooners the rest of the way for a 60-yard touchdown that put the Wildcats up 21-7.
With 235 yards on 22 carries, Sproles also gave Roberson something White never had: a credible running threat to take pressure off the quarterback.
"He's a guy that if you get him out in the open, he's going to make someone miss," Roberson said. "He showed that all day today."