It was Homecoming. The Bill was packed and jacked. On the last Saturday before Halloween the Cats were 7-0 and coming off a road game in which they made the competition look like a 4A high school practice squad. Things were looking up in Manhattan and K-State needed just one more win over a solid Big 12 foe to move to 8-0 for the first time since 1999. Sounds a lot like this past weekend doesn't it? But I'm talking about last year. Same setup, except last year it was the Sooners and the Cats got taken to the wood shed on their home field. That's why—as Morse mentioned in Sunday's National—we were worried. The phrase "let down" was used at least 8,787 times in different comment threads around BOTC this past week and the Red Raiders had us fearing the worst all the way into the halftime locker room. But Optimus and the rest of the Tuttle Transformers came out a different team in the second half and put our fears—and the Heisman hopes of one Seth Doege—to rest. Here's my analysis.
Part of what had fans fearing the let down going into the half was the fact that Klein was held to just seven rushing yards in the first two frames by the as-stingy-as-advertised Texas Tech defense. The Heisman front-runner was able to do just enough through the air to keep the Cats in the lead though, going nine for 13 for 103 yards as K-State held on to a slim 13-10 lead at the break.
Optimus the opportunist came out running in the third quarter though, using the first half aerial success to his advantage as he ran for two scores and threw for another to extend the lead to 34-17 heading into the final 15 minutes. Klein played up to the increased competition of the tough Tech defense in the second half, showing a better-than-normal ability to look off defenders in the passing game and read the pursuit off the option.
As it is with Klein every game, the little things made the difference. His response to the unpredictable is what makes him the mythical figure he has seemingly become. As the Cats opened the second half, everyone wearing purple in the stadium knew they needed a score. The offense was getting the ball, and they needed to make the most of it. After getting the kickoff, Klein lined up in the shotgun and took the snap, dropping a little head fake as if to run. The Tech middle linebacker came unblocked through the middle right for him and Klein was unfazed. Showing his usual Zen-like poise and patience—almost as if he knew what would happen—Klein waited. Instead of diving for the tackle, the linebacker left his feet as Klein cocked back his arm. With his main threat now out of position, Klein reset, stepped back and dumped a perfect little pass ahead to John Hubert for a 15 yard gain. The Wildcats proceeded to drive right down and score to take a 20-10 lead. It wasn't a play you'll see on any highlight reel, but this is what makes K-State K-State. The little things. It's not rocket science but little plays such as that force defenses to account for every available weapon and Klein has become a master at knowing which one to use.
Klein finished the day with 316 total yards and four scores against the highly respected defense from Lubbock. That along with his ability to protect the football and avoid turnovers should be more than enough to keep him at the head of the Heisman pack for another week.
Texas Tech lack of execution
Not many teams operate like Kansas State. Other teams are strange. Other teams tell the media things. Things like injuries, depth chart changes and even game plan elements pop up in press conferences and media releases all over the country. Not every coach runs as tight a ship as Bill Snyder, but maybe they should start. Texas Tech made a few things well known coming into the game. First, they thought the way to beat K-State was to go deep. Their goal was to hit 50 percent of their deep balls on the day. I don't know what their definition of a deep ball is, but if I had to guess, I'd say a deep ball is over 20 yards. Looking at the stats, Seth Doege threw 50 passes. Two of those were completed for more than 20 yards. I've always been more of a words than numbers guy, but even I'm pretty sure that two out of 50 isn't quite half.
Just for fun though, let's assume that the Texas Tech definition of a deep ball is 15 yards or over. Five of Doege's 50 passes were completed for 15 or more yards. Again, my math skills are mediocre at best, but I'm fairly certain that five out of 50 is pretty far from half. Now lets look at passes that went for 10 or more yards. Thirteen out of 50. Yikes. So much for that idea.
On the defensive side of things, they thought they could do what seven other teams had tried—and failed—to do this year. Stop Collin Klein from running the ball and force him to throw. As mentioned above, this plan worked in the first half. Klein was held to just seven yards on the ground. They also held the running back tandem of Hubert and Angelo Pease to just 32 yards on the ground with Hubert able to squeeze in the only Purple touchdown of the first half. But K-State's efficiency and Klein's still underrated passing skills kept the Cats ahead on the scoreboard anyway. Then the second half happened. The Wildcat rushing attack exploded for 154 second half yards and three touchdowns with Klein accounting for two of those scores and just a tick under half of the yards.
So much for that idea as well.
Seth Doege also spent a large part of last Monday's press conference patting his team on the back for their resiliency against TCU in a hostile environment. He implied—as he should—that the team felt they could do the same in Manhattan. He was almost right for the first half hour of play. But there are two halves to every game and well… you get the idea.
Another thing he mentioned in the presser was the fact that turnovers were what led K-State to victory last year in Lubbock and—quite obviously—they couldn't let that be an issue this year. Scratch that idea as well. Tech fumbled the ball away twice and while Doege actually threw three interceptions, the Wildcats were only able to catch one of them. It added up to three turnovers which resulted in 17 K-State points.
Maybe I'm making too much out of what was said before the game. It's not like they showed the media their playbook. The words likely had very little to do with the outcome on the field. But it sure does make them look silly in hindsight. Maybe that's why Bill and the boys stay quiet. Or at least part of it.
By the end of his career, Tyler Lockett may be the best of the three Locketts to wear a Powercat uniform. His performance last week was better than any single game of either his father or uncle before him and while his numbers this week weren't near as gaudy, he still led the team in catches. If not for a 46 yard bomb to Chris Harper, he would have led them in yards too. He is fast becoming Klein's favorite target late in the season.
John Hubert was held to under 100 rushing yards for the second straight week but ran hard when he had the chance and fought for two scores. He averaged a respectable 4.6 yards per carry and added 31 yards on three catches in the passing game to finish just a hair under the century mark for total yards on the day.
While Ty Zimmerman was unable to keep his personal interception streak alive, Arthur Brown grabbed the huge pick six in the final quarter to keep the Cats streak of interceptions in conference play alive.
Meshak Williams pulled a very Raphael Guidry-esque move to block a Red Raider field goal in the first half, using a Tech blocker as a platform to launch himself up and tip the ball. If there was a such thing as a turning point in this game, that may have been it.
Let me just say, the officiating in this game was terrible. Two missed pass interference calls against Tech—one of which may have cost the Cats a touchdown—and one big call for an illegal block on the Jarell Childs fumble return that—at least from where I was sitting—looked very clean. This is all pointless nitpicking of course, but it should be noted.
The 55 point performance marked the fifth time this season that the Wildcats crossed the 50 point mark. It was also the third time in five conference games. K-State now ranks fifth in the country in points per game, just ahead of next week's opponent Oklahoma State.
The Cats kick off at 7 PM in the Bill next Saturday for their third straight nationally televised game on network TV. The Pokes have looked good lately since almost dropping a stinker in Lawrence but K-State will look to just keep sawing wood on their way to 9-0.