It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. OK, obviously last night wasn't within several thousand light years of the best of times at K-State, and it also wasn't nearly the worst of times at K-State. But during the course of the game, I experienced emotions all over the spectrum. At halftime, with the score 21-3, I was cautiously optimistic about some things I'd seen in the game. In the fourth quarter, with the game at 21-17, I was in a near panic.
Color me as an insufferable optimist, but there are some positives we can take away from this game. Granted, they're not positives in the sense that they came out of one of our circa-2002 beatdowns of an FCS opponent, but there were some things I liked. Click the jump for what I liked, what I didn't, what it means, and the Big 12 roundup.
What I liked...
...Tysyn Hartman in the secondary. Overall a very good game by the young man who moved over from quarterback last season. He made some good plays coming up in run support to go along with his two interceptions and two passes broken up. A third interception slipped right through his hands in the second half.
...having a running game again. Daniel Thomas cracked the 100-yard mark, and Keithen Valentine nearly got there on half as many carries as Thomas got. For the night, the team averaged a solid 4.7 yards per carry. Not bad, considering that sacks are factored into that and that UMass packed the box in the second half when it became obvious we were going to run Thomas into the middle every play.
...seeing Attrail Snipes on the field as a wide receiver. As Pan noted in his position breakdown, this kid was a highly touted recruit, and Ron Prince completely wasted a season for him last year. Last night, he caught two touchdown passes. Also, Brandon Banks had a decent night as a receiver considering we didn't throw much, catching seven passes for 67 yards. An uncharacteristic drop was the only thing that marred his receiving night.
...the defense making a stop late when we really needed it. Apparently, the conditioning is paying off, as the defense didn't wilt as the night went along and stopped UMass late in the game when it had to. Also, UMass quarterback Kyle Havens was 10-34 passing in the game, with two interceptions.
What I didn't like...
...mistakes, penalties, conservative playcalling. I didn't catch a replay on either Coffman's interception or his fumble, so I couldn't tell whether they were his fault or not, but three turnovers against an FCS team is how you get beat. As BracketCat noted in the game comments, I was pretty encouraged at halftime that we hadn't racked up many penalty yards. I should have kept that thought from entering my head, because sure enough we drew yellow laundry left and right in the second half. Eight penalties for 71 yards on the night? Yuck.
As far as the playcalling, I understand that it's the first game, it's an FCS opponent, and Snyder will do the absolute minimum as far as putting things on video for future opponents to see. I'll also agree that Coffman wasn't spectacular, but he was serviceable in the first half throwing the ball, especially the drive right before halftime. Against an FCS team, we should be able to move the ball consistently even if we are just running it, but there was zero imagination even in that. We just ran straight into the middle of the line. No sweeps, no option, nothing. Early in the game, the straight-ahead running game was working fairly well because UMass had to account for the wide receivers outside and the possibility that we could run the option. But hey, we won and we didn't show any tricks or funky formations, so that's a positive, I guess.
...special teams miscues. It was positively shocking to see Brandon Banks fumble a punt. It was a tough punt to field, as he had to sprint about 20 yards to get into position to make the catch, but it still hurt. On the blocked punt that led to a touchdown, I'm still baffled as to why we were running a rugby punt. Ryan Doerr had been decent punting the ball, despite UMass getting some decent pressure on him. Given that UMass was getting close, I'm not sure why we decided it would be a good idea to have Doerr hold the ball longer on a punt.
What it means and where we're going...
Don't lose the forest for the trees. While last night's game was anything but spectacular, the final score doesn't show how thoroughly in control K-State was most of the night. We had 24 first downs to 13 for UMass, while outgaining the Minutemen 407 to 212. Note also that UMass never sustained a scoring drive, as their touchdowns came on an 18-yard drive following Banks' fumbled punt and on a return of the blocked punt. Maybe I'm chugging grape Kool-Aid here, but I honestly believe that if Snyder had wanted to pour it on in the second half, he could have. As I'll note below, Nebraska led FAU 21-3 at halftime and KU led Northern Colorado (a 1-10 FCS team last year) only 28-3 in the third quarter. While I haven't even seen highlights from those games, I'm guessing Bo Pelini and Mark Mangino played for an "appearance score" rather than running the ball straight ahead to keep other teams from seeing anything they might do down the road.
Next week, K-State is on the road in Lafayette, La., for a game with Louisiana. We'll have a lot more on the Ragin' Cajuns later this week, but this has to be a game that concerns K-State fans after last night's average performance. Although Louisiana lost its quarterback and running back from last year's team that gashed our defense, Vic Koenning and Chris Cosh will need to have their unit ready to play.
Around the Big 12
Due to traveling to the game, I didn't catch a lot of action from other Big 12 games. The observations below are gleaned from the bits and pieces I did see, as well as astute (or not) box score observation.
Iowa State 34, North Dakota State 17
A decent start for the Clones against a NDSU team that was 6-5 last season. I had heard through the grapevine that the Cyclone offense was looking very good in practice, but that the defense was a concern. Turns out that was a fairly astute observation, as Austen Arnaud led ISU to 442 yards total offense, including a 300-yard day for himself (227 yards passing, 78 yards rushing). Iowa State didn't really put the Bison away until the fourth quarter, as the score was 17-10 at halftime and 27-17 after three. The Clones had better get something figured out on defense, because giving up 5.5 yards per rush to NDSU does not bode well for upcoming games.
For more: Clone Chronicles
Next opponent: Iowa (Ames, Iowa)
Baylor 24, Wake Forest 21
Credit to the Bears for going out and getting a road win in Week 1 against a quality ACC opponent. The Demon Deacons lost a lot from last year's defense, but for the most part kept Robert Griffin in check. Griffin, who may be rivaling Jesus Christ for the position of "Savior" among Baylor fans, passed for only 136 yards and ran for only 41. Griffin's pedestrian game makes this an even more impressive win for Baylor, as it shows they can win games when Griffin doesn't go off for 300+ total yards. I have no idea what Wake is supposed to have on offense -- other than Riley Skinner -- but Baylor held them to 269 total yards. I'm still not on board the "Bears to a Bowl" train yet, but this was a good start.
For more: Blogger So Dear (Wake Forest)
Next opponent: Connecticut (Waco, Texas)
Oklahoma State 24, Georgia 10
Undoubtedly the biggest game in the Big 12, and Oklahoma State proved it belongs in the discussion for the Big 12 South race with a home win over Georgia. What's most impressive to me in this one is that the Pokes won without exploding on offense. We are all probably tired of the Big 12 Offense vs. SEC Defense debate, but in this game OSU showed it could go toe-to-toe with one of the premier SEC programs and come away with a solid win. Despite only gaining 307 total yards and seeing Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant limited to what will certainly be below-average numbers, the Pokes put up 24 points on the Dawgs. With OU's loss (see below), the Cowboys are the premier challenger to Texas in the South. But they better not let down their guard next week, as the high-powered Houston Cougars and quarterback Case Keenum pay a visit to Stillwater. Oklahoma State has to be in the running for the most difficult two-game stretch to open the season.
For more: Dawg Sports (Georgia)
Next opponent: Houston (Stillwater, Okla.)
Missouri 37, Illinois 9
Anybody who thought Mizzou was going quietly into the night with the departure of DanielMaclinCoffman had better deal with the reality that those were mistaken thoughts. I'm looking directly north at you, Husker fans. Blaine Gabbert was sensational in his first game, completing 25 of 33 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Damn. Further, Danario Alexander looks to be back to his pre-injury form, hauling in 10 of those passes for 132 yards. What's more, the much-maligned Mizzou defense held Juice Williams and the supposedly potent Illinois attack to single digits. Even though it's only one game, I feel pretty comfortable saying that Mizzou ain't going anywhere, folks.
For more: Rock M Nation
Next opponent: Bowling Green (Columbia, Mo.)
Texas A&M 41, New Mexico 6
If you believe in comparative scores, the Aggies are a lot better than last year, considering they snuck by the Lobos, 28-22, last season. Statistically, A&M was shockingly good, picking up 606 yards (not a typo) of total offense, with Jerrod Johnson passing for 349 yards and rushing for 57 yards. Maybe we're not quite ready to call them the Wrecking Crew again, but the Aggies defense made life miserable for the Lobos, limiting them to two field goals and only 231 yards total offense. Statistical oddity of the night: somehow, New Mexico QB Donovan Porterie connected on 29 of 40 passes, but only picked up 210 yards. The more obvious statistical oddity was that A&M covered the length of the field more than six times, had zero turnovers, and yet only managed to score 41 points. Oh wait, 14 penalties for 123 yards might have something to do with that. Interesting also that A&M still had Johnson in the game as late as the fourth-quarter scoring drive. With a 34-6 lead, I would have thought Mike Sherman would want to get his backups some snaps.
For more: I Am The 12th Man
Next opponent: Utah State (College Station, Texas)
Texas 59, Louisiana-Monroe 20
Ho-hum, Texas is really good and UL-Monroe is really bad. Colt McCoy shockingly threw an interception, but that seems to be about the only thing that went wrong for the Longhorns.
For more: Burnt Orange Nation
Next opponent: Wyoming (Laramie, Wyo.)
Texas Tech 38, North Dakota 13
Despite the fairly easy win, I'm guessing this is not what Captain Leach wanted to see in the opener. Heralded recruit and scurvy-bearded pirate Taylor Potts passed for a lot of yards and a high completion percentage and...threw three interceptions to only two touchdown passes. The Red Raiders outgained, by more than double, the Fighting Sioux, and yet Potts was still in the game with less than four minutes left to tack on another touchdown. I'm sure this is at least partly due to Leach's desire to get the new starter more snaps, but North Dakota is a Division II team, and was only 6-4 last season at that. Also, the Red Raider rushing game has apparently vaporized again, tallying only 40 (again, not a typo) yards against UND. Tech better improve in a hurry.
For more: Double T Nation
Next opponent: Rice (Lubbock, Texas)
Nebraska 49, Florida Atlantic 3
A very good start by Nebraska against an FAU team that won a bowl game last season. After a slow start, the Huskers exploded for 21 points in the third quarter to put the game completely out of reach. At quarterback, Zac Lee had a solid debut in Lincoln, completing 15 of 22 for 213 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Roy Helu gashed the Owls for 152 yards on only 16 carries. Interestingly, despite only giving up three points, the Husker defense gave up 358 total yards. The low score was probably aided by the fact that FAU fumbled the ball FIVE times (somehow, they only lost one of those) and threw two interceptions.
For more: Corn Nation
Next opponent: Arkansas State (Lincoln, Neb.)
KU 49, Northern Colorado 3
The Jayhawks played without four players, including Dezmon Briscoe and Raimond Pendleton, who were apparently suspended. At this point, do we start to question whether Briscoe is ever going to get out of Mark Mangino's doghouse? Never mind, that was a dumb question. He'll punish them by holding them out of an opener against a 1-10 FCS team so they learn their lesson before they actually have to play a team with a pulse. In the actual game, KU led only 28-3 after three quarters before piling on three touchdowns for appearances in the fourth quarter (backup QB Kale Pick was in for two of those).
For more: Rock Chalk Talk
Next opponent: UTEP (El Paso, Texas)