I was at the game last Saturday but since my seats were in the south end zone and most of the action—especially in the fourth quarter—took place on the north side, I took the time tonight to watch the replay on K-State HD and I want to give some quick thoughts on what I saw.
It was obvious that the offense was trying to steer clear of relying on Klien's legs, which I think is a good strategy. He appeared to stand strong in the pocket but was a bit indecisive at times and may have missed a few chances at big plays. Even on the big touchdown pass to Thompson he seemed rushed and anxious but thankfully was accurate. All of his throws appeared to go right where he wanted them to except for the one that was nearly taken back for a pick six and possibly the one that went off of Harper's hands in the south end zone. He may have been trying for Lockett and just missed him too high. The cat is certainly out of the bag as far as his running ability goes and with the offensive line questions, his arm might be his biggest weapon this year. I have no doubt that he has the awareness and the poise to succeed and if the line holds and Hubert and Pease can keep the running game strong, he should have a good year.
Angelo Pease did not impress me. He does not have the speed to keep cutting to the outside like he did and faster teams like Miami and Oklahoma will eat that up all day. He did show some shiftiness on a few runs that may lead to a few lucky break aways later in the year if he can stay healthy. I also was surprised to see that he didn't take any snaps out of the Wildcat in this game. That may be coming later.
John Hubert was a little better. Even if you take away the big 95 yard run he still had 57 yards on 11 carries which is pretty decent by any stretch. I'm still not convinced that he has great breakaway speed. Coach Snyder mentioned in the press conference that the first thing that popped into his head when he saw Hubert break out on the big run was the Miami game from last year when he got tripped up from behind. I had the same exact thought at the game, and watching the replay it's clear that if this had been Miami or any other defense than Missouri State, Hubert probably would have been caught but it was still great vision and decisiveness on his part. Watching live, it seemed like the play developed pretty slowly but I was sitting behind the offense. In the replay it was clear that he made a quick decision when he turned it upfield and took off. A good sign.
The obvious gripe is the lack of a pass rush. Our defensive line got crushed by an FCS offensive line. After the live game, I thought maybe it was due to short, quick pass plays and the hurry up offense that the Bears ran, but the replay showed me otherwise. I know it's way early but I really miss Ray Kibble, Raphael Guidry and Jordan Voelker. Meshak isn't the same without them although he did get through on one play late in the game where Ashton Glaser was able to squirt forward for a short gain so it didn't count as a sack. Let's give credit where credit is due though. Twitter antics aside, Glaser appeared to be a very competent and able quarterback and executed extremely well early in the game. He lost some composure when the Cats started to pull away late, but he played really well otherwise.
The pass coverage was also pretty poor. Nigel Malone was exceptional but outside of him it looked as though we don't have much of a defensive backfield. Teams like West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are going to have a field day unless Tom Hayes and the defensive staff know how to work miracles. Allen Chapman was surprisingly terrible and at times appeared to have no awareness that the ball had even been thrown to his side. Hopefully this was more a product of week one jitters than an all out lack of ability.
Our special teams was the most consistent and effective unit on the field. I think Kansas State is going to be one of the teams that is most affected by the new kick off rule and teams will either try to kick the ball out of the end zone or do what Missouri State did twice and pooch it to Layton Dowling to try to neutralize Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson in the return game. We should be still be able to create big things on punt returns though. I've been watching K-State football for almost 20 years and I've never seen a unit go from a full on punt block to sealing off the coverage for a 40 plus yard return. Given enough opportunities, Lockett should get in the end zone at least a few times this year and if he doesn't, Thompson showed that he can do it too. Our kick coverage seemed to be very exceptional throughout the contest and the kicking game was great with Cantele showing great poise and accuracy and Mark Krause doing a more than serviceable job relieving Ryan Doerr.
I think the receiving corps is going to be a lot better this year than last. Tramaine Thompson really did a great job and I think Lockett, Chris Harper and Travis Tanahill will all contribute nicely as great targets for Klein in the coming games. Curry Sexton also showed good promise.
Daniel Sams is fast. Who knows what he'll look like throwing the ball but I definitely felt like I was watching a game from the late 90's or early 00's when he came in the game in the final quarter. He shows the athleticism and explosiveness that Snyder loves in a dual threat signal caller. It's just a question of whether he truly is a dual threat. Hopefully we'll see more of him before the season ends.
Lots of people seem to be high on the Cats going into this weekend but I think anyone who has actually watched the game has a few butterfly's in their stomach. Miami definitely has a few weapons at their disposal that could cause a lot of problems for us. Hopefully our offense can show a little more and give our defense a longer field to defend against Duke Johnson's explosiveness. I think it will be a great game and hopefully pretty exciting. But not too exciting.