MANHATTAN, Kan. — For Nebraska, there was no laying into anybody.

There were no bad beatings. There were no sticks.

Although, perhaps NU defensive tackle LeKevin Smith could've used some sort of weapon when he let Kansas State quarterback Allen Webb slide through his grasp during the fourth quarter of Saturday's football game.

Smith had him, but couldn't hang on, couldn't bring him down. Webb escaped, somewhere near the Nebraska 6-yard line, and scampered easily into the end zone on a 9-yard TD run.

So much for Smith's plans.

"They are a team we want to beat and beat badly," Smith said earlier in the week, referring to K-State's victories over the Huskers in 2002 and 2003, and Nebraska's plans for revenge.

"We plan to go down there and just lay into them with a big stick."

Kansas State won, 45-21. Smith declined comment after the game.

Oh, well. Husker defenders didn't have much new to say, anyway.

For the third straight game, Nebraska coaches and players lamented over their lack of execution, missed tackles and blown assignments.

The damage this time? Try 45 points, 294 rushing yards, 418 total yards and 24 first downs.

"The bottom line is, you've got to make a tackle, you've got to make a play," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said. "When you're there in the field and you've got a one-on-one situation, you've got to make a play. That's football. That's life. You've got to make plays when you get opportunities, and we missed opportunities today."

Two weeks ago, it was the pass-happy Texas Tech offense. Last week, Baylor tossed the ball around in the flat and racked up yardage.

And Saturday, Kansas State dominated the Blackshirts in perhaps the most ironic, knife-twisting way yet.

With the option.

"It wasn't so much the pitch," Nebraska safety Andrew Shanle said, "but it was the cutback by the quarterback."

Webb, in his third start this season, rushed for 147 yards, capitalizing on quarterback draws and option keepers. He tossed to Darren Sproles, who rolled up 135 rushing yards.

The duo combined for 56 of K-State's 61 rushes.

"We prepared for (Webb) and the option game," Nebraska defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said. "I know, at times, it didn't look like it, but we practiced it a lot. Just comes down to execution, and they out-executed us."

Cosgrove said coaches have to do a better job of coaching. He also said players must execute what's called.

"When you play an option team, or the quarterback counter, it's responsibility in the option," Cosgrove said. "You have a guy on the pitch, a guy on the quarterback, you've got a guy in the alley, and you have your inside-out pursuit.

"We weren't always where we needed to be."

Over the last three games, Nebraska's defense has allowed an average of 47 points, 447 total yards and 24 first downs. After each game, coaches and players discuss the same problems.

Is that a cause for concern?

"We've just got to work harder, keep the kids positive," Cosgrove said. "We're going to stay positive as coaches and play the next game. We have to correct this one.

"You've just got to keep on working on it. We'll bounce back."

Kansas State scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, marking the second straight half an NU opponent accomplished that feat. Baylor scored touchdowns the first three times it touched the football in last week's second half.

Yet Nebraska players downplayed notions they came out with a lack of intensity.

"I wouldn't say we came out flat," Nebraska linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "We just missed a lot of tackles and they moved the ball steadily. They didn't do anything we didn't see in practice."

Said Shanle: "I don't think there was a problem with intensity at all. We had a lot to think about, and we were just pretty focused. There was no problem with intensity."

Callahan, though, noted his concern for his team's slow starts to halves. He then talked about how Nebraska has "to get better," beginning with working on tackling techniques in practice.

"We're still confident in our ability," said Bradley, who had three tackles for loss in the first half. "If you look at each position, we have a lot of skill. The coaches are doing a great job preparing us. We just need to follow their lead."

And yes, if you're wondering, the Huskers say they're still hungry.

"I feel everybody wants it," cornerback Lornell McPherson said. "We've just got to act like we do."

Reach Brian Rosenthal at 473-7436 or brosenthal@journalstar.com.