That was some wacky football. Jake Waters finished the game with over eight yards per carry, the leading receivers were John Hubert and Glenn Gronkowski and the Wildcats only gained one yard on their lone attempt in the return game before fumbling.
The passing game looked shaky through the entire game with long touchdowns to Hubert and Gronkowski the only highlights. Clearly though, the passing game was not the focus as the Cats only threw the ball 12 times for 127 yards but finished with 329 yards on the ground. K-State spread the ball around well in the run game as seven different Wildcats carried the ball at least three times, each of them finishing with over six yards per carry and only one, John Hubert, finishing with less than seven yards a carry. Hubert did finish over the century mark in rushing for the first time this season though and had four carries of ten yards or more, including a 24 yard scamper in the third quarter. Robert Rose also scored his first career touchdown on an impressive 26 yard run the first time he was handed the ball.
Daniel Sams had the longest rush of the day, a 37 yarder to the UMass four yard line that almost made it into the end zone. Sams finished with 11 carries for 77 yards and a score, an Optimus-esque sneak at the one yard line on fourth down. He also had two pass attempts, each completed for only six yards a piece.
One of the bigger surprises of the day was the long rumored Jake Waters run game finally making an appearance. Waters finished the day with 74 yards on nine carries for a team-leading 8.2 yards per rush. His passing numbers were less than stellar though, going five for ten with for 115 yards and the two scores. He threw another bad interception on K-State's second offensive drive that the Minutemen quickly turned into points. It's his fifth interception in three games.
As mentioned earlier, the two passing touchdowns were long completions to Hubert and Gronkowski for 43 and 50 yards respectively, Gronk showing some of that play making DNA and proving he has at least some of his older brother's game breaking ability. Hubert's catch and run was also the longest of his career.
Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton were nearly invisible in this game, making only one catch each for a total of 14 yards. Tramaine Thompson might wish he was invisible after his performance which consisted of two catches--one of which was fumbled out of bounds--and two more fumbles in the return game, one didn't count as it was the fault of kick catch interference but the other turned the ball over late in the game.
The defense looked a lot worse on film than on paper. They only allowed 309 yards--186 passing and 123 rushing--and only two extended drives of over ten plays. They looked a lot worse though, unable to get off the field at times and appearing winded pretty early in the game.
Blake Slaughter paced the defense again with ten tackles and Kip Daily got his first two interceptions of his career, the first of which he returned back for the Wildcats' first points of the day. Charmeachealle Moore played well for the second week in a row as a pass rusher from the defensive end spot, getting one sack and creating pressure to keep A.J. Doyle in check. The starting defensive line at times looked as soft and porous as a sponge and at other times appeared to be a stiff wall that no man can pass through. That sort of inconsistency is unsettling to say the least as conference play starts in a mere six days.
Encouragement came for the defensive unit late in the game though, as the coaches trotted out many of the depth chart's number twos and threes for the first time. Players like Dakorey Johnson and Travis Green saw significant time in Massachusetts' final two offensive series, allowing only six plays for a total of 25 yards despite Tramaine Thompson fumbling a punt return to extend the final UMass possession after a three and out.
The special teams were possibly the strangest unit on the field for the Cats, struggling where they have excelled in the first two games. Thompson's struggles were part of the issue, as was a bad snap on the first extra point attempt that led to a block and only six points where there should have been seven. The kickoff coverage looked decent, allowing an average of 15 yards per return and adding two touchbacks. Jack Cantele also proved he has a reasonably good leg without a tee, hitting a 42 yard field goal against the wind in the final quarter. Mark Krause didn't see a lot of action, punting only twice with each of them downed well inside the UMass 20 yard line.
The Wildcats have more than a few issues to clear up before heading down to Austin next Saturday night. One would like to believe that this is just the normal non-conference jitters and the Cats will rise to the occasion when it really matters, but there is truly no realistic reason to believe that. The offensive inconsistency with such vanilla schemes is concerning and the defensive liability seems more prevalent each week. It's impossible to tell what will happen from here on, but the promising play of the defensive backups and the improved performance of the running game give the fan base at least a few things on which to hang their faith.