The kids kept fighting.
When Collin Klein led a prototypical Collin Klein drive capped by a prototypical Collin Klein touchdown run, the kids kept fighting, holding Kansas State to just 46 yards the rest of the half.
When Klein lumbered through the TCU defense for a 34-yard touchdown that put the Wildcats up 20-0 early in the third quarter, the kids kept fighting, keeping KSU out of the end zone the rest of the game.
And when the clock wound down, further and further toward the end of the game, and TCU hadn’t crossed the pylon, the kids kept fighting, right down to the goal line, throwing a few last-second blocks to get Brandon Carter over the goal line.
But the kids could only fight so much, and in the end TCU lost 23-10, falling to Kansas State and its brawn of experience and leadership, two things these Frogs seem to be searching for.
On Saturday, the Wildcats did it with a married quarterback, who five years ago was a high school senior and who in a few short weeks could be shaking hands with the president of the Downtown Athletic Club.
Klein didn’t have his best game – he was held to just 50 yards rushing and 12-of-21 passing – but he made the TCU defense pay for the few mistakes it made, first with a 62-yard pass to set up the Wildcats’ first score in the first quarter then later with the long touchdown run.
And the young TCU offense couldn’t take advantage of the few mistakes Klein made, failing to make anything of the senior’s third interception of the season, which came via Devonte’ Fields on the Wildcats’ first drive of the game.
Klein did Saturday night what Heisman favorites tend to do, and now, with two games left on his schedule, the only thing standing between him and his trophy is that freshman down there in College Station. But it’s unlikely even Johnny Football can shorten the gap between Klein and the rest of the field.
Also unlikely are the chances of Kansas State losing before bowl season, meaning TCU played a team that probably will end up playing for a BCS title in January.
It might have been done too many times the past week, but it’s worth comparing once again the similarities between this year’s Kansas State squad and the 2010 TCU team, which didn’t win, or even play for, a national championship but probably should have.
Those Horned Frogs were the veterans of veterans led by the veteran of veterans in Andy Dalton, the quarterback whose leadership and knack for winning far outweighed any measurable tangible.
And, really, that’s what Saturday’s game became, a tale of two programs so similar in design yet crossing paths at different stages.
Kansas State is living within the eye of a perfect storm. TCU is battling through the midst of it.
The difference between the two realms isn’t as disparate as it may seem.
"There's a very fine line," Patterson said. "Because that team right there, they might play for the national championship."
If anything, Saturday displayed just how much each team embodies the nature of their coaches.
Kansas State, with its methodical, borderline bland mantra, has been all season a direct reflection of the meticulous, silver-haired Snyder, who is about as flashy as the Cotton Bowl windbreaker he wore Saturday night.
On the other side, TCU has been a team that has tried this year to adjust to periods without success, something that has come in frequent quantities both for the Frogs and Patterson the past decade or so. Saturday night was simply another test in doing that, accepting the foreign feeling of a loss.
After the game, Patterson shook hands with Snyder at midfield, telling the coach to go win a national title, which the Wildcats seem to have a clear path to do so after topping this week’s BCS rankings.
Patterson, perhaps more than anyone, knows just how big that would be for his alma mater. For Kansas. For any school that ever toiled in ineptitude, which Kansas State did the 100 years before Snyder arrived.
But Patterson is a proud soul, and so is his team.
He takes little solace in the success of others, even those he admires deeply, and to say Patterson admires Snyder deeply would be an understatement of the highest degree.
As he walked off the field and through the tunnel beneath the south end zone seats, Patterson noticed something in his players as they lumbered through the locker room doors.
"I didn't see any kids hanging their heads, besides that we got beat. This is a young team, and I thought they fought," Patterson said. "We're not happy, but we haven't forgotten how to play big ballgames."
Even with a third straight home loss behind them and a tenuous two games ahead, the kids are ready to keep fighting.