Sorry this is late, and for the fact that it's going to be fairly short. It's been a busy time for the BOTC administration.
K-State's 38-12 loss to Missouri was disappointing for a number of reasons. Obviously, we lost a chance to get bowl eligible, and we lost a chance to win the North without beating Nebraska in Lincoln (of course, Nebraska took that chance away a few hours later by beating KU, but still).
More disappointing than those problems, however, was the way we lost the game. The offensive game plan for Missouri was, if not perplexingly simple, then perplexingly rigid. Our offensive identity is to line up, run the ball with Daniel Thomas, and occasionally find Brandon Banks, Attrail Snipes and Lamark Brown on short, controlled routes. That's fine, but it was clear from the beginning yesterday that Missouri -- a pretty good defense against the run -- was going to sell out to stop Daniel Thomas. On top of that, the Tigers looked vulnerable to screens and other short passes last week against Baylor and, looking at their defensive alignment on most plays yesterday, would have been vulnerable to them again this week. In fact, we had some success early in the game with swing passes to Banks, et al., but it seemed like once we threw a couple of those, we had to hurry back to the rushing game that only averaged 2.6 yards per carry on the game.
It was also frustrating to see the offense unable to finish drives. Three of Josh Cherry's field goals came on drives that got into the red zone. Against a team with the offensive talent Missouri has, three points won't cut it. Again, we were overly reliant on the running game, which was frustrating because we could have dinked-and-dunked our way to more success.
And all that's to say nothing of the elephant in the room: Banks' fumble in the second quarter. It should have been a perfect play. Banks catches a pass on third and four for a seven yard gain to Missouri's one yard line. If he goes out of bounds, we have the ball at the one yard line, and we can line up with two tight ends, Braden Wilson, and Daniel Thomas three times and we probably put six on the board to take a 10-3 lead. But Banks, trying to make a play, reaches the ball out and fumbles it into and out of the end zone for a Missouri touchback. Missouri, particularly Danario Alexander, were more than happy to take the ball down and score a touchdown, and instead of leading by seven, the Cats trailed by seven.
Speaking of Alexander, what a game. It's frustrating that our tackling fundamentals broke down a couple times and he turned pedestrian plays into big gains. It's frustrating that Tysyn Hartman missed what could have been an interception on Alexander's first touchdown (although, really, you have to give him credit, that was a helluva catch). But, overall the defense wasn't that bad. I know the final numbers don't look that great, but when the game was still in question, which was basically all the way until Alexander broke the 80 yarder to make it 24-12, the defense mostly did what it needed to do to keep us in the game. Despite a shaky first drive, it stiffened and forced a Mizzou FG. It forced a big three-and-out deep in Mizzou's territory on the Tigers' second drive, setting up what should have been a touchdown drive. They forced another three-and-out on Mizzou's second drive of the second quarter. They forced another three-and-out on Mizzou's first drive of the second half. That should have been enough for our offense to put more points on the board and either take a lead or tie it up.
That's all I have for the game itself. Hit the jump for a few thoughts going into next week.
While Nebraska is nothing special on offense, I still don't have a very good feeling going into this game in Lincoln next week. Our offensive game plan this week didn't take advantage of Missouri's weakness, and our defense was unable to force a turnover. If that happens next weekend in Lincoln, we'll lose, plain and simple. Against Nebraska, it's going to be very easy to figure out early whether we will have a chance to win or not. If we turn the ball over, we're done. If Banks doesn't get a chance/can't break a kick for a big play or a touchdown, we're done. If we let Roy Helu run wild on us, we're done.
On the other hand, if we force a few turnovers by Zac Lee and the Husker offense, or get a big three-and-out deep in NU's territory to flip the field position, or if Bill Snyder and the offensive coaching staff have a few tricks up their sleeve for the Huskers, we may just sneak into Lincoln and come away with a win. You can never just count on getting a win in Lincoln -- unless you're Texas -- but if nothing else, it's good to know that we're not going up there just hoping not to lose by 40.
So, ladies and gentlemen, after eleven games, it all comes down to this. We go to Lincoln on Saturday and one of two things will happen. Either we'll win, in which case we would collect our fourth outright Big 12 North championship and become bowl eligible, or we'll lose, in which case the season is over. While I don't really like our chances, Nebraska is not the unbeatable juggernaut it used to be, and as we have been saying the last few years about the Big 12 CCG: even if you're a big underdog, the favorite still has to play 60 minutes of football against you, and anything can happen.