The rumors of the death of the Lynch Mob have been greatly exaggerated.
No, the Kansas State defense not the same attacking sack machine as it was in the nineties, but it's solid. It has evolved. Tom Hayes deserves a lot of credit for resurrecting a unit that was pushed into a shallow grave during the Prince era then covered with dirt by Chris Cosh. Don't get me wrong, this defense isn't national championship caliber by any means, but the steady improvement since the beginning of Big 12 play shows a potential to keep the Wildcats in games for the rest of the year.
On Saturday, K-State was just three and a half minutes away from their first shutout of a Big 12 opponent since skunking the Cyclones in 2003. Granted, this isn't the usual scrappy Iowa State squad, but that doesn't take away from the 'Cats defensive improvement. The 'Clones had only five offensive plays gain more than 10 yards and none of those were over 16. Their offense only snapped the ball in red zone once in the game after Robert Rose fumbled at the K-State 10 yard line, giving Iowa State their only touchdown. The 'Cat defense also forced three turnovers with Dorrian Roberts snagging a pick for the second straight game.
The offense was also solid, registering their highest point total of the year and the second straight game with 21 points in the fourth quarter. The two quarterback system with Jake Waters and Daniel Sams gets smoother each week and while the play calling is still a little wonky at times, the combination is slowly developing into what was imagined it might be from the beginning. Sams continues to be an efficient passer -- even if some of his throws aren't the wisest -- and Waters proves more and more every week that he is a threat on the ground. In fact, adjusted for sack yardage Waters finished the game with five carries for 48 yards. That's 9.6 per carry. As teams continue to stack the box against Sams, Jake's scrambling is a wonderful change of pace.
The passing game was much more subdued this week despite the fact that early play calling seemed to pick up right where it left off last week. Waters was given a few early chances to go deep against the Cyclones but just couldn't get in rhythm with his receivers. He finished nine for 15 for 157 yards and no scores. Sams had one TD on a nicely thrown ball to Tramaine Thompson but had only 64 yards, completing four of his five passes.
Thompson and Tyler Lockett each only managed just over 70 yards receiving and no scores aside from Thompson's. Curry Sexton chimed in with a trio of short catches and Torell Miller and Zach Trujillo each added a catch for 37 and 19 yards respectively.
The offensive hero of the day was John Hubert, finishing with 105 yards and a pair of scores on 15 carries. It's only the second time Hubert has finished over the century mark this season and the first time in conference play. A majority of the yards were gained in one play, a 54 yard burst that registers as his longest of the season and the second longest of his career.
The yardage balance between the run and the pass was almost perfectly even with 227 on the ground and 221 through the air, but the play calling was heavily skewed in favor of the run as the Wildcats kept the ball grounded for 48 of their 68 offensive plays. It's worth noting that Iowa State was almost perfectly balanced in both yardage and play calling as they ran the ball 34 times for 123 yards and threw it 36 times for 126. Not sure that matters much to the folks in Ames at this point.
The offense was solid with just the one garbage time turnover and a single penalty, but the K-State defense was clearly the star. Next week though, they head to Lubbock to face a Red Raider squad that is averaging just three fewer passing yards per game than the high flying Baylor Bears. Tech got smacked in the mouth at home on Saturday and may be highly motivated to avoid a third straight loss. The Wildcats will have to balance their newfound confidence with a sense of how badly they need a victory to keep their slim bowl chances alive.
The newly evolved Lynch Mob has proven they can hang with the best of them. Let's hope it keeps up for a few more weeks.