First off, my apologies for the game thread snafu yesterday. It was nobody's fault but my own, as I was so preoccupied with getting things ready for tailgating on Saturday that I forgot all about it. Not until at least the second quarter did it occur to me that I had forgotten to post it. Thanks to Pan for getting one up and getting the discussion going, and to all who participated.
Now, down to business. We'll get to the game itself in a minute, but yesterday made it crystal clear that this series absolutely should not be renewed. Given that the Chiefs have new management now, I'm guessing they may not have been happy about having these games at Arrowhead to begin with, but after yesterday's abysmal attendance, it's obvious this won't keep happening. Announced attendance was 40,815, which makes me wonder if the Chiefs even covered their costs for the game, even at the ridiculous $22 per car cost of parking (they're awfully proud of the Truman Sports Complex parking lots). I'm not saying I didn't have a good time, because I did, and it's good to see your team play only 10 minutes from your front door.
Anyway, on to the game. Click the jump for more reaction.
What I liked...
...a little spark at quarterback. I got a text about 20 minutes before game time informing me that Grant Gregory was likely to start. While Carson Coffman's struggles this season have been well-documented, I wasn't sure about this news, as Gregory didn't look great when he did play. For whatever reason, he was a completely different Grant Gregory yesterday. He looked like his grasp of the offense has improved by leaps and bounds since the ULL game. Even when his pass protection broke down, which was often, Gregory showed he had a knack for eluding the rush and keeping his eyes downfield while he scrambled. While I know we're not supposed to say anything nice about the beaks, that's one reason Todd Reesing is so good. He moves around and gets away from the rush, but while he's doing it, he keeps his eyes up and looks for open receivers. Both of Gregory's touchdown passes yesterday came on scrambles, one where he found Lamark Brown after ISU's cornerback fell down and one where Brandon Banks got behind the defense.
Even in the running game, Gregory showed he's not afraid to stick his nose into the action and take a few hits. He ran the option fairly well, although he made a mistake in pitching it to Daniel Thomas on the second drive of the game, almost resulting in a failed conversion attempt. Overall, Gregory has a lot to be proud of after this game, and it sounds like he was a little overwhelmed to have finally, after five years as a backup, gotten his chance to contribute. That's the kind of story we can rally around.
...defensive improvement after halftime. It's really refreshing, after the disaster of the last two years, to see that we have defensive coaches capable of reading what the offense is doing and making the necessary adjustments. Now, granted, ISU has about the thinnest playbook in college football, as they ran a grand total of about four different plays yesterday (not much of an exaggeration). They probably ran the zone read on 60-70 percent of their offensive plays, and it was pretty obvious that the coaches made adjustments to that at halftime. The Cats got better on defense as the game went along, forcing three punts in the fourth quarter alone on three-and-outs.
Despite what he did to us last year, the book on Austen Arnaud is being written, and the plot is pretty obvious: he can't throw the ball for shit. He completed less than half his throws on the day, and 45 of his 164 yards came on two throws on the last drive in which our defensive backfield made (or failed to make) inexplicably bad plays on the ball. Props have to go to our defensive coaching staff for limiting Arnaud to 164 yards passing yesterday after he threw for 440 the year before.
...winning the game based on...special teams? Josh Cherry wobbled home a 39-yard field goal in the second quarter to knot the game up at 10-10 going into halftime. And because ISU fans had their hearts unceremoniously ripped from their chests and stomped upon because of a blocked PAT, kudos to Cherry for getting all three of his PAT attempts over the defensive line.
...Emmanuel Lamur's ups. Srsly.
...beating a school whose fans plainly don't like you. In case you missed it:
K-State is probably my least favorite team in the conference. There's nothing I'd love more than to see them lose and have their fans have an uproar as to how such an "elite" program like KSU could lose to lowly ISU.
What I didn't like...
...some poor tackling, especially in the first half. Pan noted on the game thread that our "tackling yips" were back, and that was pretty accurate at certain points of the first half. Josh Moore especially missed a couple tackles by taking bad angles and lunging at the waist of receivers. He wasn't the only one. I don't think it's a regression so much as just the fact that those weaknesses show up more against a bigger, faster team than the likes of Tennessee Tech and UMass. We saw a little of it against UCLA, also. It doesn't bode well as we move into conference play, but it's going to be a fact of life around here for a while.
...two inexplicable plays on ISU's last scoring drive. On fourth and five, with ISU playing for its life, Josh Moore tried to jump in front of Arnaud's pass to Marqui Hamilton. Normally, I wouldn't criticize for making an aggressive play, but Moore left open the possibility that Hamilton would catch the ball and take it to the house if Moore missed it. Moore did miss it, and Hamilton fortunately wasn't fast enough to break away as Moore recovered quickly and got him by the ankles.
On the very next play, Tysyn Hartman shockingly let a sure interception go right through his hands and, unbelievably, right into the arms of a diving Jake Williams. I truly don't know what happened on this play. From my seat, I saw Hartman break on the ball the instant it was thrown, and given where he was, I thought it was going to be a sure interception. As this picture at Clone Chronicles shows, it's almost beyond adjectives how this ball got through Hartman's hands.
What it means and where we're going...
I'll skip the obvious gloating about being on top of the North standings, given that nobody else in the North has played a conference game save yesterday's opponent. It was a nice win that showed some progress by this team, but that's about it. There really aren't a lot of goals for this team other than showing improvement this year. It would take a 5-3 conference record to make a bowl game and, barring unprecedented collapses by teams like Texas Tech, Oklahoma, KU, Missouri and Nebraska, there's no chance we're winning that many conference games.
Next week, we're going down to Lubbock to meet good captain Leach and his scalawags. After a concussion yesterday, they may be short a gunslinger in Taylor Potts, but they're still a formidable opponent whose offense has been a headache and a half for Bill Snyder. If we somehow come out of the South Plains with a win, we could start talking bowl game, but I don't see it happening. Fortunately, for those of us not traveling to LBK, FSN has picked up the game for broadcast at 6 p.m. next Saturday.
Past Opponent Recap
Massachusetts took a week off before meeting Delaware next Saturday. The Minutemen remain 3-1 on the season. Louisiana also took a week off, and will meet North Texas next Saturday in Lafayette, La.
UCLA suffered its first defeat of the season, dropping a 24-16 decision to Stanford. The Bruins just can't avoid the injury bug, as safety Rahim Moore was knocked out of the game with a concussion. At 3-1, the Bruins get red-hot Oregon next weekend in Pasadena, Calif.
I'm omitting Tennessee Tech here, because it really doesn't matter how that team does.
Big 12 Roundup
It was a light week for the Big 12, with only seven conference teams in action.
West Virginia 35, Colorado 24
Colorado's misery continued in Morgantown, W.Va., on Thursday, as the Buffs dropped to 1-3 on the season, with all three of those losses coming on national television. Until WVU scored two consecutive touchdowns in the fourth quarter to ice the game, CU was always within striking distance, but never could put much together without the 'eers help (four lost fumbles, really?). Colorado's offensive coaches continue to try to hammer a square peg (Cody Hawkins) into a round hole (serviceable passing quarterback). Hawkins was 27 of 52 on the day for 292 yards, and tossed three interceptions. Rodney Stewart finally reappeared for the Buffs, picking up 105 yards on 21 carries, but Darrell Scott apparently had to disappear for Stewart to shine, as Scott gained only five yards on four carries. The Buff defense had no answer for WVU's running game, as Noel Devine gained 220 yards on 22 carries (yes, that's 10 yards per carry). It doesn't get any easier for CU, either, as conference play starts next week.
Up next: Texas (Austin, Texas), Sat., 10/10
For more: The Ralphie Report
Texas Tech 48, New Mexico 28
Didn't see any of this one, so not a lot of commentary to offer. It was dubbed the Dysfunctional Bowl after the two teams' various issues the week before (UNM's head coach allegedly punching an assistant, Mike Leach banning his players from Twitter after some interesting tweets appeared). Once again, Tech was spectacular throwing the ball (29 of 46 for 453 yards and three TDs, although the three INTs weren't so great) and awful running the ball (34 yards on 23 attempts for a woeful 1.5 yards per rush). New Mexico put up 431 yards on Tech's defense, an astounding total given that they were averaging only about 230 yards per game coming into this one. We can only hope Tech has serious defensive issues, as our offense can use all the help it can get.
Up next: K-State (Lubbock, Texas), Sat., 10/10
For more: Double T Nation
Baylor 31, Kent State 15
Even without Robert Griffin and Blake Szymanski, the Bears improved to 3-1 on the season. Kent State put up 424 yards on BU, though, which has to be a concern for the partisans in Waco, given that it wasn't any of their defensive stars that got hurt last week. Third-string QB Nick Florence played ably against the Golden Flashes, passing for 216 yards and connecting on 20 of 27 attempts (no INTs or TDs). Baylor also ran the ball decently well, gaining 158 yards on 45 attempts (3.5 per rush). Don't forget, however, that this is the same Kent State team that Iowa State hammered two weeks ago. Conference play begins for the Bears now, meaning they have to find three wins somewhere in that difficult Big 12 South.
Up next: Oklahoma (Norman, Okla.), Sat. 10/10
Arkansas 47, Texas A&M 19
The Aggies took a step up in competition and fell flat on their face against Arkansas at Jerryworld. Although A&M's offensive numbers looked impressive (458 total yards), they did a terrible job converting those yards into points. Penalties didn't help, as A&M was flagged eight times for 87 yards. Two fumbles didn't help, either, but Arkansas turned the ball over three times and just kept right on trucking. Remember, A&M scored only 19 points on an Arkansas team that came into this game after giving up 41 points to Georgia. I'm not ready to pronounce the Aggies dead, as they're obviously better than they were last year, but it's obvious a lot of the perceived gains from the 3-0 start were due to the opposition.
Up next: Oklahoma State (College Station, Texas), Sat., 10/10
For more: I Am The 12th Man
Miami 21, Oklahoma 20
I fell asleep in the second half of this one -- yeah, Farmageddon really took it out of me -- so I missed the excitement at the end of the game. Regardless, OU jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, then found themselves unable to do much of anything right over the next two quarters as Miami pulled to a 21-10 lead in the third quarter. Landry Jones played fairly well for OU, who played Miami on pretty much even terms statistically despite being outplayed through the middle of the game. With its second loss, OU's hopes of a national title this year have gone out the window, and it will be interesting to see how this team reacts. With those hopes gone, this may end up being an 8-4 team, or maybe they'll rally and spoil Texas' season by picking up yet another conference title. I'm betting on the result being closer to the former.
Up next: Baylor (Norman, Okla.), Sat. 10/10
For more: Crimson and Cream Machine