The Quarter That Saved K-State's Winning Streak

We all know the absurd statistics from Saturday's game, and the overwhelming narrative about how Bill Snyder's magic led K-State to a victory despite getting beat in nearly every statistic other than rushing yards and time of possession. For the most part, that narrative is correct.

Many people say that means Bill Snyder is a wizard, or that K-State's awesome special teams and opportunistic secondary won them this game. There's a fair amount of truth to both of these claims.

A small group of people — and one that is shrinking every week — may tell you the Wildcats got lucky, or that the Red Raiders beat themselves.

That's patently absurd, considering the last four weeks and the fact that K-State has now been outgained for the year by a total of 2,074-2017 (345.7-336.2 per game). Bill Snyder and Honey Badger don't care.

While this whole underdog story sounds really nice and makes for some great trivia questions with your friends, it's also leading everyone to nearly discount an entire quarter where K-State, by every measure, looked like the top 15 team that everyone besides the coaches has agreed it is. We'll get to what just one quarter of great football means going forward, but for now let's take a closer look, beginning with the statistics.

Please note that unfortunately I don't have a way to go back and watch this game again, so I'm going from memory any time I go beyond the box score. Feel free to correct me when if I get something wrong.

KSU TT
Points 14 3
TOP 10:07 4:53
Plays 20 20
Total yards 177 95
Pass yards 97 75
Rush yards 80 20
Penalties-yards 2-20 3-35
Turnovers 0 0

In case you forgot what the full game statistics looked like, here's the box score. The differences are astounding. Before we get to a broader summary of how this all happened and what it means going forward, here are the three biggest plays of most important quarter of K-State's season so far.

1. An unlikely fade — 1st & Goal from the 3, approx. 12:00 left: Collin Klein 3-yard TD pass to Chris Harper.

In keeping with the "Bill Snyder is a genius" theory, I'm choosing to believe that he figured there was no way K-State would need more than two plays to get it in the endzone here, so he told Klein Harper was single-covered out wide, just throw the ball up for him.

Harper's leaping ability and the relative weakness of TTU's corners made an interception unlikely, and a completion would send Klein's rising confidence through the roof.

If you had told me this play was coming before it happened, I would have (at best) readily resigned myself to 2nd and goal from the 3, which is not the worst thing in the world.

Instead, Klein lobbed up a pass so good that few defenders in the country would have had a chance to make a play on it. Harper didn't even have to jump, and Klein got the confidence he would need for an even bigger throw later in the quarter.

2. Texas Tech's dumbest penalty of the season 2nd & 7, approx. 11:00 left: Offensive pass interference on Alex Torres, 15 yard penalty.

Not only was this play the definition of a drive killer, but it was one of the most unnecessary and obvious penalties you'll ever see. Torres, who was otherwise brilliant all night, decided to block his man well before his wide open teammate caught the pass from Doege.

If Torres had simply fallen down or sprinted directly off the field, Texas Tech more than likely would have had a first down inside the K-State 40 and continued the substantial offensive momentum they still carried over from the first half.

Instead, the Red Raiders were stuck with a 2nd and 22, giving the Wildcats the opportunity to force a punt for the first time since TTU's second drive.

3. K-State's highlight of the night (with apologies to Tyler Lockett and Raphael Guidry) 2nd & 4 at the KSU 33, approx. 2:30 left: Collin Klein pass to Tramaine Thompson for a 35-yard gain.

I don't even know where to begin with this one. The beautiful throw and even better grab were impressive enough, but this was also Klein's longest completion of the season, good enough to more than double the injury-plagued Thompson's yardage total since his 2010 season ended almost a year ago.

Throw in the fact that this was the key play on the drive that put Kansas State up for good, and there just aren't enough superlatives to describe how crucial and game-changing this catch was.

***

Of course, there were some other nice plays in the third quarter as well, most notably long runs by Klein and Hubert to get inside the Texas Tech 5-yard line, and two huge third-down conversions by Klein running, including the touchdown on the quarter's final play.

But honestly, at this point it's hard to be too impressed by any one play HBCK makes on the ground, because he's done about everything the coaches have asked of him while carrying the football.

I wouldn't be writing this post if a couple of near disasters had turned out differently on two scary fumbles by Klein in the backfield. Fortunately, it all worked out, and the Big 12's leader in carries and rushing TDs still has not lost a fumble all season long, unless you count the botched snap on K-State's first drive of the season.

Looking back at the statistics, the stark contrast in coaching philosophies really jumps out in the fact that the teams ran the same amount of plays, but K-State controlled the ball for more than two-thirds of the quarter.

It's also worth noting that this quarter was the only one without a turnover or significant special teams play that KSU critics could point to as "luck," rather than K-State just dominating the game for 15 minutes.

The biggest difference, though, in this quarter and any other in the game, or any time this season for K-State, has to be the passing yardage.

The statistics show part of the story, but they fail to document Klein's remarkable accuracy on crossing patterns, out routes, the deep ball, and even the fade that was almost completely unprecedented in his short career.

This is a guy that has 138 carries to 119 passes so far this season, and yet Snyder was willing to take the risk of having him throw on the first four plays of the second half. Or maybe that was desperation from a coach that saw his offense gain a pathetic 94 yards in the first half.

Either way, Klein stepped up in a way I wouldn't have thought possible, and later the defense did the same in forcing three straight incompletions by Doege at the KSU 30 on Texas Tech's final drive of the quarter.

The Red Raiders might have gotten three points, but that sequence, even more than the offensive pass interference call, set the stage for the defense's dramatically improved pass rush and tackling in the fourth quarter that sealed K-State's sixth victory.

Now, even the most optimistic fan knows this was only one quarter, and it's going to take a lot more convincing before anyone believes that Klein can consistently throw the ball that well.

Still, it's an encouraging sign, and those 15 minutes should give pause to anyone still laboring under the delusion that K-State is just getting "lucky" and won't stand a chance against the much more impressive looking Oklahoma teams in the coming weeks.

In fairness, unless those two dynamite offenses make a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes, K-State will probably need to look like this for an entire game to stand a chance. To be honest, I doubt it will happen, but at least now we know it's not impossible.

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