K-State's defense may not have played to its top-ranked reputation, but it did enough and came through when it counted to preserve a 28-24 victory for the Wildcats.
Behind a punishing running attack and a breakout performance from the newly anointed Honey Badger -- quarterback Collin Klein -- K-State rolled up 398 total yards against Miami defense that allowed only 209 yards to Ohio State the week before. But in the end it was the defense that stepped up and atoned for allowing a couple big plays in the second half to stop the Hurricanes on fourth and goal at the two yard line with less than a minute remaining.
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...
...another efficient pass defense outing. While he hit for some big plays, Miami quarterback Jacory Harris averaged only 8.8 yards per attempt. In addition, the big plays Miami hit were balanced out by the aggressive defense on the edge that led to an interception by Nigel Malone and three passes broken up on the day. All in all, I'd much rather see an aggressive defense, even if it means giving up the occasional big play. But only the occasional big play.
...Collin Klein doin' work. Nobody's going to anoint Klein a Heisman contender for his stat line on the game. But for a K-State quarterback, he did everything we could want. Klein complete 12 out of 18 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns and, more importantly, did not throw an interception. His rushing stats don't look impressive, but if you take away the 27 yards he lost on sacks, he rushed 18 times for 120 yards and one touchdown.
...seeing Tyler Lockett catch his first touchdown pass. Granted, it was his only catch of the day, but for a true freshman who is learning on the job, it was a step in the right direction.
...a solid game for a running back. No, nobody is going to mistake John Hubert for Darren Sproles anytime soon, but you and I both know that we'll be thrilled to get 166 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown per game from him. Even against a speedy Miami defense, he more than held his own.
What I didn't like...
...poor special teams play. It's still a small sample size, but Sean Snyder's special teams have been the wrong kind of special thus far. In this game, K-State had to burn a timeout near the end of the first quarter when the punt team wasn't on the field on a Miami fourth down. Last year, K-State ranked third in the Big 12 by averaging 41.0 yards per punt. This year, the Cats are ninth at 37.0 yards per punt. That's also good for 105th nationally. Anthony Cantele has been decent, going 4-6 thus far on the year with a long of 49. He also has two misses, one apiece in the 30-39 range and 40-49 range.
...seeing Klein take a beating. I just pray that he can stay healthy if he's going to average 15-20 carries and also take a sack or two each game.
...the continues invisibility of Bryce Brown. Brown had zero carries, had one pass thrown his way (incomplete), and saw action on only two offensive series. If John Hubert plays like he did Saturday, then we can live without Brown, but there's no guarantee that will occur.
What it means and where we're going...
I'm not sure where this ranks among non-conference wins for K-State. Certainly, the wins over USC were a big deal, but for a team -- especially a defense -- searching for confidence, this was a big deal. I said before the season that this was the biggest game of the season for K-State, because a win set the table for a run at an eight- or nine-win season, while a loss left the team struggling for bowl eligibility. K-State got the win.
Now, the Cats set their sites on conference play and welcome the dangerous Baylor Bears to Manhattan for the conference opener. Robert Griffin III has 13 TD passes on the season and only 12 incompletions on the season. The Baylor offense will be the best K-State has faced this season, but the Bears aren't so much faster than Miami that this will be a huge step up in class for K-State. Additionally, Baylor's defense ranks only 59th in the country this season, allowing 363 yards per game, including 152 yards per game on the ground. Oh, and did I mention that their competition thus far has been Texas Christian, Stephen F. Austin, and Rice? Expect a big game from K-State running the football. Whether it will be enough against the high-powered Baylor attack remains to be seen.
Big 12 Roundup
I mention this game only because it involved a school who will still be a member of the Big 12 going forward. And because the fans of said team chanted "BIG 12!" at Kyle Field as the Cowboys finished off a thrilling comeback win over Texas A&M. The Aggies looked like they were going to dominate, leading 20-3 at halftime, but a nightmarish third quarter buried the Aggies. Justin Blackmon had 11 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, and maybe the most hilarious play of the year, as he was going in to score another touchdown and fumbled the ball, untouched, through the end zone for a Texas A&M touchback. Next week, Texas A&M gets an introduction to the ass-kickings it will receive regularly as a member of the SEC West when faces Arkansas at Cowboy Stadium, while Oklahoma State gets a week off before facing KU in Stillwater. Come to think of it, that means Okie State has two weeks off. Lucky Pokes.
Baylor continued to add to its aura as an offensive juggernaut by racking up 673 total yards against Rice. The aforementioned RGIII was 29-33 for 338 yards and five touchdowns. The Bears were impressively balanced, breaking 300 yards on the ground and through the air. Defensively, Phil Bennett's group is still a work in progress, giving up more than 400 yards to the hapless Owls. I still expect a shootout this weekend in Manhattan, but with a much-improved K-State defense and what is sure to be a raucous home crowd, I feel like the Cats have a better than even chance in this game.
Nevada flipped the script on Tech, bulldozing its way to 562 total yards (including 312 rushing!) while keeping Tech relatively in check. The Wolfpack rank only 107th in the country in total defense, but they held Seth Doege to what passes as a horrible game for a Tech quarterback, or 26-38 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Credit where it's due, though, as Doege led the game-winning drive, putting up the winning touchdown on a four-yard pass with only 36 seconds left in the game. A performance like Nevada put on against Tech gives me hope for the road trip to Lubbock. We all know Nevada is a running team, but even with the 312-yard performance against Tech, the Wolfpack are averaging "only" 285 yards per game on the ground. Texas Tech gets a week off travels to Lawrence, where its offense will undoubtedly gets its groove back against KU's vaunted 3-4 defense.
The latest Big 12 flavor of the week in conference realignment met last week's flavor of the week in Norman. Mizzou jumped to out to a 14-3 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Sooners roared back to take a 31-14 lead into the fourth quarter. Mizzou tacked on two late touchdowns to make things interesting, but the impression I got from the box score was sort of like the K-State game in Columbia last year. The final score looked somewhat close, but if you were actually at the game it probably didn't seem that tight. Consider me officially very concerned about facing James Franklin, who ran for 120 yards on 23 carries (after you subtract out sacks) and threw for 291 yards and a touchdown, although granted he was only 16-33 on the day. Henry Josey continued to stake his claim as Mizzou's primary rushing threat, with 133 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. But the Mizzou defense gave up nearly 600 yards to Oklahoma and Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles were just too much for the Tigers. Missouri takes the week off to get ready for its trip to Manhattan, while Oklahoma gets its final non-conference test against Ball State before facing Texas in the Red River Shootout.