Roberson's KSU career ends in turmoil, defeat
Posted: Saturday January 3, 2004 2:16AM; Updated: Saturday January 3, 2004 2:16AM
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- This was supposed to be Ell Roberson's big finish, his triumphant cap to a comeback from injury and disappointment.
He had hoped to lead No. 8 Kansas State to its first Bowl Championship Series win -- and leave Sun Devils Stadium as only the third player in Division I-A history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 in a season.
Instead, Kansas State's senior quarterback played his last game for the Wildcats under a cloud of uncertainty -- and his second-half surge couldn't prevent Kansas State from losing 35-28 to No. 7 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Friday night.
Roberson was not available for comment after the game. He has not spoken to reporters since Thursday, when police in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley questioned him after a 22-year-old woman said he sexually assaulted her in a room at the team's hotel.
Roberson was not charged, although police have forwarded the case to the Maricopa County attorney, who will decide whether he will face criminal charges. He was cleared to play Friday by Kansas State.
"Coach [Bill] Snyder, about every day, tells us, 'Don't make mistakes, especially with women, alcohol and staying out late,"' wide receiver Antoine Polite said. "But sometimes, when you're in college, you're young and you're going to make mistakes."
The school released a statement saying its own investigation found no evidence of a crime, and Snyder told ABC before the game that the allegations were "not just."
Roberson's teammates agreed.
"I don't think this was handled correctly," defensive end Andrew Shull said. "You guys blew it all out of proportion -- but I guess that's your job."
Booed by Ohio State's fans when he took the field at the start of the game and forced to rely on the pass when Kansas State (11-4) couldn't establish a running game, Roberson showed his usual competitiveness all night -- but seemed to lack his normal composure early on.
"I think his head wasn't in the game the first half," Ohio State defensive end Will Smith said.
But after halftime, Roberson found his focus and passing touch and threw for 234 yards.
"In the second half, he was a very competitive young man," Snyder said. "Collectively, over the course of the ballgame, he probably didn't play real well."
Needing 57 yards rushing to reach the 2,000-1,000 mark despite missing 21/2 games with an injured left hand earlier in the season, Roberson ran for 32 yards and two second-half touchdowns on 16 carries.
He was 20-for-51 passing for 294 yards but also threw a costly interception that set up one of Craig Krenzel's four touchdown passes for the Buckeyes (11-2).
Still, his performance earned Krenzel's respect.
"I thought Ell Roberson played a tremendous game," Krenzel said. "He made a lot of throws downfield against what I thought is one of the better defenses and better pass rushes in the country."
Roberson got his second TD run on a 1-yard keeper with 2:47 left, and had one chance to force overtime when the Wildcats got the ball back deep in their own end with 1:12 left. Three completions got them to Ohio State's 47 with 9 seconds left, but his last-ditch heave was batted away by Nate Salley as the game ended.
Compounding Roberson's struggles was the fact that Kansas State's All-America running back, Darren Sproles, never got going against the nation's top rushing defense. That left Ohio State, which gave up an average of only 61 yards rushing during the regular season, free to key on stopping the pass.
Sproles, who came in with 1,948 yards rushing, had a season-low 38 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries -- one game after rushing for 235 yards in a 35-7 win over then-No. 1 Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game.
"The biggest thing I noticed on film, especially in the Oklahoma game, was when guys tried to get the big hit on Sproles, he would make them miss," Ohio State defensive tackle Tim Anderson said. "The key for us -- we all knew it coming in -- was we couldn't try and get the big hit. You have to wrap him up, try to take him down."