It's been two roller-coaster weeks for K-State fans.
In the immediate aftermath of the loss to North Dakota State, I was morose about the season's prospects. Morose to the point that Panjandrum and Curtis Kitchen had to talk me off the ledge. The metaphorical ledge, that is. I wasn't threatening to jump off the West Stadium Center or anything.
Upon further reflection, my mood improved. And all of us feel better after K-State jumped out to a big lead against Louisiana-Lafayette, even if the final result wasn't as dominating as we had hoped. Combine that with BYU's massacre of Texas in Utah last Saturday, OU's mortal performance against West Virginia, and KU's mostly unimpressive effort against South Dakota, and the Wildcat mood has improved.
This week, K-State welcomes the Massachusetts Minutemen to Manhattan for its final non-conference game of the season. Massachusetts enters this game sporting an 0-2 record. The first loss was a 45-0 drubbing at the hands of Wisconsin. Last week, Massachusetts dropped a 24-14 decision to the Maine Black Bears, an FCS program.
The University of Massachusetts is located in Amherst, Mass, with an enrollment of 27,269. Amherst is just north of Springfield, and a little more than 90 miles west of Boston. Interestingly, Massachusetts was founded as a land-grant university in 1863, which should sound familiar to K-State fans.
This is Massachusetts' first season as an FBS program. They are also now a member of the Mid-American Conference. So technically, this game features red-hot MACtion, although as you'll see below, it probably won't really be red-hot.
Players to Watch
Passing: Jake Waters, 43-60-4, 558 yards, 2 TD, 9.3 yards/attempt, 279 yards/game
Rushing: John Hubert, 28 carries, 79 yards, 2.8 yards/carry, 2 TD, 39.5 yards/game
Receiving: Tyler Lockett, 15 receptions, 224 yards, 1 TD, 14.9 yards/reception, 112 yards/game
Passing: Mike Wegzyn, 22-48-2, 212 yards, 1 TD, 4.4 yards/attempt, 106 yards/game
Rushing: Stacey Bedell, 35 carries, 128 yards, 3.7 yards/carry, 0 TD, 64 yards/game
Receiving: Tajae Sharpe, 12 receptions, 98 yards, 1 TD, 8.2 yards/reception, 49 yards/game
As you can see, there hasn't been a lot of offense to speak of for UMass this year. Definitely not very MACtion-y. Of course, when you're 0-2 with a loss to Maine, that's probably not much of a surprise.
Massachusetts was very balanced last year, with a 444:410 rushing-to-passing ratio. Unfortunately for the Minutemen, they lost leading rusher Michael Cox, and quarterback Mike Wegzyn has not taken a step forward this season. Playing Wisconsin has something to do with that, of course, but neither Wegzyn nor Bedell were all that impressive against Maine, either. Wegzyn went 13-25-1 for 139 yards (47 of those yards came on one play) and one TD, while Bedell has only 58 yards on 16 carries.
Team Statistics (from CFBStats.com)
K-State: 109th nationally, 95.0 yards/game
Massachusetts:116th, 82.0 yards/game
K-State: 35th, 292.5 yards/game
Massachusetts: 100th, 156.5 yards/game
K-State: 50th, 34.5 PPG
Massachusetts: 124th, 7.0 PPG
K-State: 86th, 196 yards/game
Massachusetts: 122nd, 320 yards/game
Pass Efficiency Defense
K-State: 63rd, 122.9 rating
Massachusetts: 104th, 157.06 rating
K-State: 62nd, 375.0 yards/game
Massachusetts: 121st, 556.0 yards/game
Before looking at the individual game results, you might assume that Wisconsin put up video-game numbers that have skewed things through two games. That's sort of true, as the Badgers rolled up a ridiculous 393 rushing yards. Or, as BYU calls it, a little more than a good half against Texas.
But even against Maine, an FCS team that went 5-6 last year, the Minutemen were outgained, 514-265. They may have introduced a bit of a quarterback controversy -- the Oklahoma version, not the K-State version -- when they brought in A.J. Doyle in the third quarter to complete only 7-17 passes for 62 yards. And 19 of those yards came on one play.
Cornerback Ed Saint-Vil is the Minutemen's leading tackler this season, with 20 solos. That a defensive back is the team's leading tackler is yet another indication that things haven't been going well. In fact, UMass' three leading tacklers are all defensive backs. Yeesh.
The Minutemen have not recorded a single sack this season. Zero. Defensive back Joe Colton has one TFL, and hybrid defensive lineman/linebacker Stanley Andre has two. Defensive back Devin Brown has an interception he returned for 15 yards in about the only other remarkable defensive play Massachusetts has produced this season.
This isn't intended as arrogant or harsh -- god knows K-State has its own issues this year -- but Massachusetts is not a good football team. The Minutemen were a reasonably successful program at the FCS level, and should probably be questioning the wisdom of moving up to FBS and the MAC. Some of those MACtion offenses are going to get red-hot against the Minutemen this season.
If we were going to choose a non-conference game to play very vanilla and still maximize our chances of winning two straight headed into Big 12 play, then this would be it. North Dakota State finished last season ranked 35th in Sagarin's rankings, and currently stand 50th in Sagarin's 2013 ratings. As we harshly found out, the Bison are too good to mess around with.
Don't be surprised if we ugly this one up a little bit in an effort to confuse the hell out of Texas before next week's game. Not that we need to, Texas appears fully capable of fully confusing itself. In any event, this is the kind of game we can win comfortably just by overwhelming the Minutement* with superior talent.
K-State 52, UMass 10
*I left that one in there because that's probably the 12th time I've done that while typing this post.