Settle in folks. This is going to be a long one. It's one of the biggest and most hard fought wins in Wildcat history and I could go on for chapters. This was a fun replay to watch and I saw a few things that I missed in the live broadcast—mainly because I was jumping up and down a lot. Here we go.
I know what you're thinking. You're gonna start with the punter? Yes, yes I am. I usually start with Klein and that's only because the outcomes of the games to this point have been mostly on his shoulders. And while Klein and several others had solid games, in my opinion Doerr's punting is what won us the game. (Well, not entirely, but more on that later.)
The average starting position for the OU offense after a Doerr punt was just behind the Sooner 12 yard line. Every one of his five punts were inside the 20. That is outstanding. Also outstanding is the fact that Oklahoma was unable to return any of the five punts. Two were downed and three were fair caught. Doerr's third punt of the game—a 49 yarder resulting in a fair catch at the OU 16 yard line—set up the sack-fumble-TD by Justin Tuggle and Jarrell Childs that arguably set the tone for the entire game. That's why Doerr gets first mention. For more on him, Ashley Dunkak has an excellent write-up on his impact on the game.
I'm not even going to mention numbers with Klein this week. Instead, I want to focus on what the man is all about. The intangibles. Collin Klein looked more composed and in control in this game than I have ever seen him. I've watched almost every snap of every game he has played in his K-State career and this is the one where he looked the most like a leader and a true quarterback.
To quote Dennis Miller, I don't want to go off on a rant here but I honestly believe the argument could be made that Klein is the best quarterback Bill Snyder has ever had. Now, before everyone goes ballistic and brings up Bishop or Roberson or Chad May or (maybe someone might say) Jonathan Beasley, hear me out. The HCBS philosophy is that everyone on the team is just a piece of the puzzle, a cog in the machine. Kansas State football at its best has always been a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. No one embodies this more than Collin Klein. The way he manages games is more point guard and less quarterback. The assist is greater than the score. But he's not afraid to take it himself if it's the best option and he's mindful enough to make that decision only when it's the best play for the team.
Michael Bishop and Ell Roberson—while they were both great players—lacked the discipline and awareness to know when was the right time to carry the load themselves and when they should take a back seat for the greater good. Many times they were too quick to try to go for the glory and many times it resulted in costly mistakes. Klein rarely makes mistakes and he didn't make any in Norman.
I hate to say this so early in the year but if the Heisman Trophy really is the "most valuable player" award then Klein should get it hands down if he continues to play this way the rest of the year. We all know he won't because, like most things controlled by the American media, the Heisman is more about flash than true substance. You can't get a sense of the type of player this man is by looking at a stat sheet. You have to look at his eyes behind that face mask. You have to look at the intensity with which he snaps his scraped elbow to signal first down after a big run, the scarlet stains of blood on his jersey. You have to actually watch the games and see the way he pours his soul into every single play and makes every player on his team better just by being on the field. Don't get me wrong. I loved RG3 last year as much as the next guy and I think he's an amazing player and a great man. But players like him and Geno Smith are more about god given talent. Collin Klein is all about his will to win.
Wow, OK, that went on for a while. But I think every word needed to be said. Moving on.
On defense in my opinion, Zimm had the largest impact of any Wildcat on the field. He dropped a Damien Williams for a two yard loss in the red zone to force OU into a third down and eventually a field goal on their first drive of the game. On the botched snap play by the Belldozer, Zimm was on top of the ball before Bell even realized what was going on. He knocked down and almost intercepted a pass in the red zone later to hold the Sooners to another field goal. He also grabbed the Cats only interception of the night to set up Collin Klein's go-ahead touchdown run early in the fourth. He showed excellent hustle and did a great job of getting to the ball overall.
Coming into this game, I was one of many that had been worried about Zimmerman due to his perceived lack of impact thus far in the year. He put all those worries to rest in Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Longest Most Ridiculous Freaking Name In College Football Stadium.
The cookie monster was back in this one. I said in my last write-up that I thought he may have a chance at breaking out against OU's defensive line. Boy, did he. Time after time while watching the game I kept getting flashbacks to the 2003 Conference Title game and Darren Sproles. No, Hubert is not Sproles. Not by a long shot. He wasn't taking slip screen passes up the side line for 30 yards time and time again but his footwork, his ability to create yards after contact and his all-around intensity just conjured up memories of the almost decade old Sooner beatdown.
No play was more reminiscent of Sproles than the game-sealing nine yard touchdown run in the final minutes where Hubert pulled a very Sprolesian "disappear into the pile then squirt out when all hope seems lost and score". I always marveled at those plays from Sproles and Hubert showed he can do it too. While his 5.7 yard per carry average wasn't quite as gaudy as the 8.4 yard average that UTEP's Nathan Jeffery registered against the Sooners in Week One, Hubert's yards were much more meaningful. Jeffery didn't even have a score in that game. As I mentioned above, the Cats are not about the flashy numbers. They are about doing what needs to be done and no game so far this season has epitomized that philosophy more than this one.
Defense as a unit
The Cats defense, as usual, didn't look especially spectacular on the stat sheet other than the three turnovers. But—much like Klein and the offense—they did what they needed to do. If anyone needs proof of this units improvement since last season, let me point out that in this game Landry Jones attempted just four fewer passes than he did in last years contest. Or five fewer, depending on where one stands on the whole "hot potato forward pass play" situation. I personally still say it was a fumble and will gladly argue endlessly with anyone who disagrees. Last year he threw 47 passes and accumulated 505 yards and five scores. This year he threw 43 (according to the stupid "officials") for only 238 yards and one measly touchdown. While most coaches would be disappointed giving up 238 yards through the air, HCBS was all smiles because he knows what truly matters to his team. The level of execution and the end result. And the defense was more than adequate on both of those fronts.
There's a scene in the movie The Dark Knight where the Joker tells a police detective that his weapon of choice is a knife because it lets him "savor all the little emotions" and allows him to see who people really are in their last moments. The defensive game plan Tom Hayes and his staff put together in this game was a lot like that. I know it might seem morbid but this defense forced Landry Jones and the Sooner offense to show the world who they really are. And if I may say, it was beautiful. There aren't many teams in the country that could hold this Oklahoma offense under 20 points and damn I'm glad we're one of them.
I mentioned above in parenthesis that Ryan Doerr's punting wasn't entirely what won us this game. What I meant was, the pass rush was way better than I expected. The Cats sacked Jones twice and were able to get pressure at other key moments. Adam Davis said in post game that Jones was rattled and "jabbing his feet" whenever a defender got close to him. I couldn't really make that out but I do think that a lot of the overthrows and missed reads he had in this game could be attributed to his fear of back side pressure.
I know the nature of the hurry-up offense is to, well, hurry up, but Jones looked especially hurried and not too comfortable through a lot of the night. Vai Lutui was able to get up in his face when he missed a wide open Brannon Green in the end zone on their first drive. Ryan Mueller was right there on him when he threw the pick to Zimm. Both times the defense got to him, he lost control of the ball. A sign that he didn't have his composure.
In summation, the defense was amazing and I think if they can keep this focus, they might give Dayne Crist a good idea of what soybean turf tastes like in a couple weeks.
Amazingly, the Wildcat offense only had one three-and-out for the whole game by my count. That is huge against a hurry up team like Oklahoma. K-State also showed they have enough depth to rotate defensive lineman in and out to keep the front four fresh for the pass rush. Both of these things are great signs considering some of the teams coming up in a few weeks.
I mentioned the blown call on the fumble that was reviewed and stupidly ruled an incomplete pass, but the refs were kind enough to give the Sooners one more break on that same drive. On second down Jones hit Trey Metoyer up the sideline for 27 yards but Metoyer clearly stepped out of bounds before coming back in to make the catch. How many times has illegal touching been called against teams K-State has played this season when it turned out to be an incomplete pass anyway and meant nothing? Maybe I missed something but the side judge threw his hat down right where Metoyer stepped out. It looked like textbook illegal touching to me.
I heard a lot of scuttlebutt last week about possible surprises the Wizard might throw at the Sooners. Some people thought maybe he might sneak Daniel Sams into some special packages. Others thought perhaps we may see Klein hit Tyler Lockett on some slip screens or maybe they would try to engineer a trick play or two. Nope. While the Cats no doubt showed OU some things they might not have anticipated, this game was straight up Snyderball.
Speaking of showing them things they might not have anticipated, was it just me or did Sooner players and coaches look very confused on both sides of the ball at several points? I don't know how many times I saw both Jones and Tom Wort with there arms outstretched, looking toward the sideline like they didn't know what was going on. That's your quarterback and middle linebacker, the two guys on the field that better have the best understanding of what they're seeing. Sure, it happens to all teams at times but it seemed to happen excessively to OU in this one. Especially for being on their own turf. There was one point in the third quarter with the Sooners on defense where Mike Stoops called time out and did his best Linda Blair impression on the sidelines. I seriously thought his head was going to spin around.
Chris Harper only registered two catches in this contest but one of them might be his biggest catch so far. On a second down with seven to go Harp showed that he can be truly aggressive jumping up and beating out Aaron Colvin by snatching a 21 yard pass out of the air. It should be noted that it was a great throw by Klein but I don't think I'm the only one who was glad to see Harper finally show that he can go up and get the ball.
Travis Tanahill also only had two grabs but they were both big and both off of what looked like nearly the same play. A roll out to the far side of the field where he was left wide open. Both times this play was successful it resulted in a first down and extended the drive.
Perhaps no catch was bigger than the one Tramaine Thompson made on third down very late in the game to extend the Cats final drive. He came on a crossing route and Klein hit him in stride to pick up the first down. K-State is still a run first team and always will be with Snyder, but this year the Cats can throw too, brother.
Tramaine had another great grab on another third down on an earlier drive. Oklahoma dropped back in zone, no doubt expecting Klein to throw past the marker, but they seemingly forgot about Thompson who rolled out toward the near side line and was wide open. It may have looked easy but anyone who has watched football long enough has seen at least one play where a receiver is wide open but thinking about going upfield before he secures the ball and drops the pass. Klein might have missed a bit where he was aiming by not hitting him in stride but Thompson had his eye on the ball the entire time and was able to get more than enough for a first down on third and long.
Collin Klein's touchdown run in the fourth quarter showed just how many good blockers there are on the K-State offense. By my count—in addition to the offensive line of course—four Wildcat skill players had critical blocks that paved Klein's way into the end zone. Braden Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and to a lesser extent John Hubert and Chris Harper all sealed off Sooner defenders. Wilson's block was especially great.
Klein had some big runs extending drives in this game but surprisingly enough, the Cats never ran a single option play. Every Klein running play came right at the Sooners front seven without any fake to the back, and they rarely stopped him for less than three or four yards. Huge.
I waited way too long to mention this, but Tuggle is a beast. That's all I'll say. Beast.
Almost 2,700 words is probably enough so I'll wrap this up even though I could say a lot more. But before I go, I need to ask: Am I the only one who gets almost excited when the Cats defense is backed up into the red zone?
**Correction: Not sure if I was just tired and read it wrong or if the stat has actually changed since Monday but Landry Jones actually passed for 298 or 304 yards depending on the source. Not 238 as I said above. Thanks to Sean T for pointing this out. Also thanks to Ahearn Alley for pointing out that the Heisman is not actually a "most valuable player award" but rather is awarded to the "most outstanding player" according to the awards official website. Quite the difference really. But my points about Klein are still valid.