Everyone remembers that scene at the end of "Rocky". Rocky has just lost to Apollo Creed by split decision and is standing in the ring surrounded by reporters. He is battered and bloody, his eyes swelled shut. Despite all the commotion around him all he can do is scream repeatedly for Adrian.
The first time I saw the film I remember feeling sick. Like the same kind of sick I feel after getting off of a wooden roller coaster. That last scene and everything leading up to it was an emotionally jarring roller coaster. That exact same feeling has been replicated after watching the past two weeks of K-State football.
The Cats haven't been Rocky for a while now. They're no longer the scrappy up-and-comer. They've spent the past few weeks more in the Apollo Creed role. But unlike Creed, they don't underestimate their opponents. They take care of business. They're just like Rocky in one respect though: they came out of Fort Worth battered and beaten, but still standing. And they stand now as the number one team in the BCS for the first time ever.
Usually when I write these recaps I break them down into individual headings, but I can't do that this week. In my opinion, this game was a great example of a team effort. There were a few great individual performances, but not enough that really jumped off the screen to justify a dedicated section. This was an ugly, gritty, hard-nosed football game. K-State is known as a team that executes consistently in all three phases of the game, but for only the third time this season, they needed nearly flawless execution in all three phases.
When I watched the live broadcast, I felt like Collin Klein showed some signs that he might still be injured. Not in the running game, but more when he threw. His passing just seemed off. After watching the replay, I feel a bit differently. I won't write off possible injury effects completely, but I think Klein's struggles can be more attributed to a great defensive scheme from the Frogs and a possible lack of practice over the past week.
TCU's base 4-2-5 scheme matched up very well against the K-State offense. Normally, the Cats can shift their multifaceted offense to exploit mismatches in opposing defenses. The versatility of Patterson's 4-2-5 puzzled the Powercats and kept their potent offense from putting up points at will.
Except for the second drive of the game, every time K-State started inside their own 40 yard line they either punted or turned the ball over. The only exception was the drive that started with the 62 yard pass from Klein to Chris Harper. Much like the OU game, this was very much a battle of field position.
Save for the interception, Klein's passing numbers were nearly identical in Norman and Fort Worth. Against the Sooners he went 13 of 21 for 149 yards and no touchdowns. Against the Frogs, he went 12 of 21 for 145 yards and no scores. This is surely a mere coincidence, but I found it interesting.
Contrary to what I felt after the live broadcast, the Cats offensive line actually played pretty well in pass protection. Most of the breakdowns were either due to great coverage or — on a few occasions — blatant failure to block Stansly Maponga or Devonte Fields. Even the big sack by Chucky Hunter was set up by Maponga spinning off of his blocker and chasing Klein. Fields didn't have any sacks but he did get a huge tackle for loss when he blasted through completely unblocked to drill Klein on a busted read option.
The line was terrible in run blocking after the huge botched punt recovery but John Hubert once again just couldn't seem to get anything going. Only one of Hubert's runs went for more than four yards and that was a run around the edge that went for 14. Hubert certainly doesn't look to be injured, but — as I've said for four weeks now — he just isn't hitting holes with authority. In this game it certainly seemed as though there just weren't any holes to hit and he isn't the natural outside runner that Angelo Pease seems to be.
The offense just couldn't seem to get it going all game as the two biggest plays — the 62 yard pass and a 34 yard touchdown run by Klein — accounted for 37 percent of K-State's total offensive yardage. TCU won the offensive yardage game barely, but as they've shown time and time again since last season, K-State has the wherewithal to win even when they can't dominate offensively.
On the other hand, the defense did show dominance.
Meshak Williams was the unquestioned standout of the unit, recording six solo tackles and one assist. Among those tackles, there were two sacks and an additional tackle for loss on a play that saw Meshak take down TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and running back B.J. Catalon at once. Like a boss, as the kids say.
Meshak's fellow defensive end Adam Davis also had a sack — and one monster pass deflection — finishing the game with four total tackles. Jarell Childs continues to quietly play well, finishing with seven tackles and a sack. Childs has really had a knack this year for getting himself to the ball. Allen Chapman was much quieter in this game than last week but still played well in coverage and finished in a four way tie for the lead in tackles along with Williams, Childs and Jarard Milo.
Boykin injured his shoulder late in the first quarter on a 15 yard run and had to leave the game, sending in third stringer Matt Brown. This marked the second straight game that the Cats faced an opposing signal caller that started the season third on the depth chart. Thankfully, Brown wasn't quite as effective as OSU's Clint Chelf and Boykin was eventually able to return to the game. TCU quarterbacks were sacked six times and Boykin threw one interception to Ty Zimmerman just before the half. The Frog running game had a few bursts — including a 26 yard scamper by Catalon — but could never get much going either.
The Wildcat defense pitched a shutout through three quarters and only allowed one sustained drive that finished with points — a field goal early in the final frame. The only touchdown allowed was a pass from Boykin to Brandon Carter that ruined the magical statistic of allowing zero points off turnovers, coming just three plays after TCU forced a Pease fumble.
Special teams performed fairly well with the kickoff coverage unit allowing only one significant return. The kickoff return team was kept at bay by touchbacks but Tramaine Thompson was able to register an average of 20 yards on three punt returns. Ryan Doerr played a key role much like in Norman by averaging almost 46 yards on five punts, one of which was botched and recovered by John Truman to set up Anthony Cantele's first field goal. Cantele finished the night putting three of four kicks through the uprights with his only miss being a 48 yarder just before halftime.
The games seem to be getting more and more physical as both Tre Walker and Collin Klein have left with injuries in the past two weeks and this game saw both Ty Zimmerman and Tyler Lockett go down. The extent of either injury is of course unknown, but neither player left the sideline before the game was over.
As was proven in "Rocky", to become the champ, there will be blood. There will be bruises, broken bones and buckets of sweat. But champions have to be tough. Nothing is perfect. All things have weakness. But how one responds to the moment a weakness is exposed is the difference between winning and losing.