MANHATTAN, KS - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Bill Snyder of the Kansas State Wildcats instructs his team during a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
This delayed post brought to you by the joy of home Internet outages!
Late in the second half of Saturday's 58-17 loss to Oklahoma, I tweeted "Reality check" from the BOTC account. In a sense, that was accurate, as Saturday's game was a wake-up call to those of us who had dared to let ourselves begin to dream that this team would beat Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and do something crazy, like play in the BCS National Championship Game.
But I definitely did not intend that comment to take anything away from what this team has accomplished to this point this season. If Saturday's game proved anything, it's that when this team plays well and executes its game plan, it can play (far) above its talent level. The Wildcats went to halftime down 23-17 and, but for a couple plays in the last seven minutes of the second quarter, that very well could have been a 24-20 K-State lead. Now who knows, even if that happens, it's possible that K-State loses 58-24. The bottom line is that I was pretty dejected when I left the game on Saturday night, but when I watched the game film on Sunday morning, I saw some reasons to be encouraged.
I'm not into moral victories, and I'm not saying that Saturday was one. There's no such thing as a moral victory in a 41-point loss at home, even to a team that should be a national-title contender like Oklahoma. But again, I don't think that precludes the possibility that there are some positives to be found from Saturday.
Hit the jump for what I liked, what I didn't like, what it means and where we're going, and the Big 12 Roundup.
What I liked...
...bouncing back from an early deficit. Oklahoma carved up K-State's defense on its first two drives to take a 14-0 lead, but K-State roared back to take a 17-14 lead behind Oklahoma turnovers and a punishing rushing game. The way K-State played in the second quarter, it could beat almost any team in the nation. Unfortunately, college football games last 60 minutes, not 15, and one quarter of good play isn't enough to beat Oklahoma.
...more lockdown play from Nigel Malone. The junior college transfer has six interceptions on the season and ranks second nationally. By consistently putting himself in the proper position, Malone was able to take advantage of a couple poor throws by Landry Jones. Malone could have had another pick, too, as he narrowly missed snagging a Jones floater in the first quarter.
What I didn't like...
...the last five minutes of the first half. On third and three from Oklahoma's eight yard line, K-State threw an incomplete pass to Chris Harper in the back corner of the end zone. At that point, K-State had scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions of three plays for 47 yards and six plays for 88 yards. Of those 135 yards, 113 of those yards came on the ground, and K-State was averaging 12.6 yards per rush on those drives. I realize hindsight is 20/20, but the percentage call in that situation seems to be a run.
In any event, K-State threw the ball incomplete, then missed a chip-shot field goal. Then, on its last drive of the first half, K-State fumbled in OU territory and the Sooners (barely) got a field goal out of it. If K-State picks up a first down on third and three and subsequently scores a touchdown and holds on to the ball with 0:19 left in the half, it would have gone into the half ahead 24-20. Maybe they would have ended up losing 59-24 instead of 59-17, but momentum does have a place in football, and it's possible the second half would have gone differently with a better end to the first half.
...the possibility that Collin Klein may be hurt. I don't want to get into all the personal fouls, but I'm not giving Frank Alexander the benefit of the doubt on the play where he stepped on Klein's chest. The Rock M Nation administration really isn't into unnecessary butthurt about things like dirty play, and Alexander is the subject of the ongoing DISRESPECT! chronicles.
Whatever the reason for "the stomp," it looks like it really hurt Klein. He was clearly in pain on the sideline and the broadcasters said the training staff had to bring some sort of rub to dull the pain. It showed in Klein's play, too. The first drive of the second half was hardly impressive, but with the aid of a Sooner penalty, K-State picked up a first down and had picked up 18 yards before the sack. K-State netted only 12 yards the rest of the half, and Klein looked slow and indecisive.
...abandoning the game plan in the second half. During one eight-play stretch in the second half, Klein threw three incomplete passes and was sacked four times. I realize OU was up 37-17 and then 44-17 at the time, but it does K-State no good to abandon the running game.
Now, a word on the defense. I'm not going to adamantly beat the drum of "abandon the zone" and "blitz more," because I truly think there's not a lot that can be done against a team with the athletes like Oklahoma has. It was obvious that Jones was poor throwing the ball when he was pressured, but the blitzes we brought in the first three quarters of the game had decidedly mixed results. Jones was 4-7 for 53 yards on blitz plays, below his 74 percent completion rate and 10.7 yards per attempt for the game, but an Arthur Brown outside blitz in the third quarter resulted in 31-yard touchdown run for Roy Finch. Also, on the two drives that ended when Jones threw the ball to Malone, K-State didn't blitz once.
Given the terrible TV angles we're subjected to -- seriously, is it so much to ask that we use the back camera -- it's hard to tell how much zone and how much man-to-man defense K-State plays, but it's clear they're quite zone heavy. Without pressure from the front four, a quarterback like Jones and (::shudder::) Brandon Weeden will pick apart a zone defense. So the answer is to tighten up the corners and bring some pressure, except Oklahoma leads the nation in Sacks Allowed and, if you don't get pressure when you blitz and man up on the receivers, players like Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds are going to get open. Frankly, against a team like Oklahoma I think the answer is to play as much bend-but-don't break as possible and trust that Jones will probably throw you the ball a few times. The script worked through the first half.
What it means and where we're going...
Unfortunately, it doesn't get any easier, at least next week. Oklahoma State is every bit as good as Oklahoma, and quite possibly better this season. The Cowboys are fresh off a 59-24 pasting of Baylor and need all the style points they can get in the national championship race. A win is exceedingly unlikely, but if the team can get through Saturday with its confidence somewhat intact, games against Texas A&M and Texas appear winnable.
Here's a quick look at what K-State's non-conference opponents have been up to:
- Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels are 5-3 (4-1 OVC) after a 34-33 win at Murray State. As mentioned last week, EKU appears to be rolling toward an OVC title.
Kent State: Finally, some points! And a win! Kent State beat Bowling Green, 27-15, for its second win of the season.
- Miami: The enigma continues. The Hurricanes lost at home to the Virginia Cavaliers, a 5-3 team that is having a decent season but shouldn't be beating Miami at Sun Life Stadium. The 'Canes should get back on track with a big win over Duke this weekend.
Big 12 Roundup
What a wild weekend in the Big 12.
Missouri 38, Texas A&M 31
Missouri came into this game reeling at 3-4 (1-3) and looked like it may be on its way to 3-6, but the Tigers made a second-half comeback to get a crucial win and send Texas A&M to 5-3. James Franklin and Henry Josey led the charge for Missouri, totaling 260 yards between them. In encouraging news for K-State, Mizzou gouged Texas A&M for 299 yards (not factoring sacks into rushing yardage). Ryan Tannehill threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns, and Christine Michael had a 100-yard rushing game, but it wasn't enough to overcome three fumbles. Next weekend, Texas A&M travels to Norman to face Oklahoma, while Missouri gets that joyous trip to Waco to face suddenly struggling Robert Griffin III and Baylor.
Oklahoma State 59, Baylor 24
The Poke train just keeps rolling along as OSU jumped to a 35-0 first-half lead. The Cowboy defense gives up quite a bit of yardage -- 622 to the Bears -- but they force a ton of turnovers, including two interceptions by Griffin III and three fumbles by the Bears. If K-State can avoid turnovers against Okie State, it may have half a chance to hang around for a while. Of course, that's assuming the defense can do anything against Brandon Weeden, who was 16-24-0 for 274 yards and three touchdowns, while Joseph Randle ran for 152 yards and four touchdowns on only 14 carries. Yeah, never mind. As mentioned, Baylor gets Mizzou at home next week, while Oklahoma State welcomes our Kansas State Wildcats.
Texas 43, KU 0
Seriously, KU football has to be rated XXX right now, because the Jayhawks suck hardcore. The stats in this one read like something out of a matchup between a national-title contender and a middling FCS team, except Texas is 5-2 and KU is supposedly a BCS-level team. KU gained 46 total yards for the entire game, including -2 rushing yards, and gained only three first downs. Texas gets Texas Tech in Austin next weekend, while KU travels to Ames to face the suddenly resurgent Cyclones.
Iowa State 41, Texas Tech 7
Seriously, WTF? One week after handing Oklahoma its first loss on the season and its first home loss in something like a decade, Tech laid a broken egg in Lubbock against what had appeared to be a moribund Iowa State team. Tech did almost nothing right, gaining only 290 yards (didn't they get that in a half against us?) and turning the ball over three times. Defensively, Tech gave up 368 rushing yards to Iowa State, including 138 to some guy named James White, 101 to some dude named Duran Hollis, and 92 yards to backup quarterback Jared Barnett. If you're a Tech fan, you've gotta be shaking your head after this one. Or drinking heavily. Perhaps both.