Our K-State Wildcats lost to Oklahoma, 58-35, yesterday. I don't have much to say in an introduction that I won't say below, so we'll just get straight into the analysis.
What I liked...
...a late-first-quarter and early-second-quarter comeback to tie the game. There will be a lengthy critique of our offensive playcalling in the first quarter below, but it should be noted that the playcalling on the three touchdown drives that tied the game at 28-28 was as good as the first-quarter playcalling was bad. The first touchdown, on the short pass that Brandon Banks took to the house, took advantage of an OU blitz that left Banks in space. I'll always take my chances with that. Also, the touchdown pass to Deon Murphy to tie the game at 28-28 was a good call to take advantage of an OU blitz.
...tough running by Josh Freeman. Freeman had 44 rushing yards before his sacks were deducted, and most of those yards came on scrambles rather than designed runs. Still, he seems to be gaining confidence in his running, and he is really difficult to bring down when he gets rolling.
...the howitzer attached to Freeman's right arm. Some of those passes have to leave his receivers' hands stinging for days. A perfect illustration of his power came in the second quarter when he rolled to his left and, on the run, threw a 65-yard strike to Ernie Pierce.
What I didn't like...
...offensive playcalling in the first quarter. I'm watching the game on DVR as I type this, and here is our playcalling on the first drive.
1st play: Play-action pass, complete to Deon Murphy for 15 yards
2nd play: Pass complete to Logan Dold for no gain
3rd play: Freeman runs for 14 yards. The play called was a pass, but OU blitzed and Freeman had to scramble.
4th play: Play-action pass called, Freeman scrambles for four yards.
5th play: Play-action pass, intended for Brandon Banks, incomplete (after this play they showed Shalee Lehning on camera...heart)
6th play: Pass to Ernie Pierce, complete for 8 yards (first down).
7th play: Pass intercepted by OU (Freeman hit on the play)
You'll notice there was not a single designed run in there. None. Not one. And yet, we called three play-action passes. The one called on the first play of the game could possibly be justified because teams often run the ball on the first play of the game, but that only works if the defense buys the fake. In our seven previous games this season, we have run the ball on the first play of the game four times, and two of those runs were against North Texas and Montana State, when our first offensive play of the game came on the opponent's four yard line and one yard line, respectively. Also, one of those, in the Texas A&M game, was a run by Freeman, not a handoff.
Now, here's a look at the plays called on our second drive.
1st play: Play-action pass incomplete, intended for Brandon Banks. Nobody was open, and Freeman basically threw the ball away as Banks was surrounded by three OU defenders.
2nd play: Wide receiver screen pass to Ernie Pierce for four yards.
3rd play: Wide receiver screen pass to Ernie Pierce for a one-yard loss.
Again, not a single running play called, and yet another play-action pass. What the hell? I'm not anything resembling a football coach, but my general belief was you ran the ball to set up play-action passes, not ran play-action passes just because you thought the defense might bite on the fake. So at this point, we've had the ball twice, picked up a couple first downs, had a turnover and a punt, and less than six minutes were gone from the game.
After a long Deon Murphy kick return, we had the ball in OU territory. Next drive...
1st play: Pass incomplete to Jeron Mastrud, almost intercepted
2nd play: Freeman, QB draw off orbit motion by Deon Murphy, no gain (first designed run of the game)
3rd play: Swing pass complete to Logan Dold for 12 yards
4th play: Halfback pass by Logan Dold, complete to Deon Murphy for a touchdown
We scored a touchdown. Beginning a drive on the opponent's 21 yard line always helps. I was happy to see the halfback pass finally brought back, because I think it can be a valuable weapon as long as it's used in moderation.
Finally, our penultimate drive of the first quarter:
1st play: Freeman scrambles on a designed passing play for five yards.
2nd play: Logan Dold rushes up the middle for three yards.
3rd play: Handoff to Deon Murphy off orbit motion for two-yard loss. Punt. Moving on.
...poor decision-making by Freeman. Not only did he have three interceptions, he had several other throws that could/should have been intercepted, including two on our touchdown drive that ended in Jeron Mastrud's touchdown (the tipped pass that ended up complete to Deon Murphy and the touchdown pass to Mastrud himself). Freeman has the arm to make those throws, but sometimes he needs to realize discretion is the better part of valor and make a percentage play. And the interception on the screen pass really needs no amplification, it was just a terrible decision to throw back to a part of the field where he hadn't even been looking.
...another 500+ yard defensive gashing. Sam Bradford had what amounts to a horrible day by his standards, completing only 13 of his 32 passes for 255 yards. But it didn't really matter, because OU shredded our defense with 271 yards rushing on 6.1 yards per attempt.
...no attempt to even establish a running game. As you can see above, in our first four drives, we called exactly three designed running plays. If you look at our overall rushing statistics, you might say that there was no point running the ball because we only averaged 2.0 yards per carry, but that's missing the point. We didn't even try to run the ball on our first four drives, so how would we even know if it was working?
What it means and where we're going...
What it means is we lost to a team that was a lot better than us. I've heard some K-State fans say they are taking a moral victory from this game because OU only scored three points and gained 129 yards in the second half. However, it was pretty clear to me that OU just wanted to get the hell out of Dodge in the second half. Bradford attempted only nine passes, and after the first drive, in which Bradford attempted two passes and got hit on both, OU seemed more than content to protect Bradford, protect the ball, and bleed the clock.
Of course, it also means that next week we're going to Lawrence to play KU. The 'beaks took a beating from Texas Tech yesterday, losing 63-21. While things aren't all Skittles and beer in Manhattan right now, it's not exactly sunny in Lawrence, either. On the bright side, Bob Lutz finally came out of the closet as a shameless KU homer this morning. My hat is tipped to Bob; the first step is always admitting you have a problem. While I'm hardly optimistic about this game, I no longer feel like it's the foregone conclusion I did a few weeks ago.
Around the Big 12...
Texas Tech 63, KU 21: It wasn't even this close, as Jocques Crawford scored a meaningless touchdown with 3:52 left in the game. Crawford also inched closer to his season-long goal of 2,000 rushing yards, picking up 44 yards to up his season total to 168, only 1,832 short of his goal. Todd Reesing had his worst game at KU, going 16/26 for only 154 yards and throwing three interceptions. Tech was as outstanding as KU was awful, rolling up 556 yards and moving to 8-0 (4-0) with next weekend's showdown against Texas looming.
Also, if anyone has a screen shot of the KU students sleeping on the bleachers at Foreclosure Field, please email it to me at bringonthecats @ gmail.com
Nebraska 32, Baylor 20: The Bears, and Robert Griffin in particular, put a bit of a scare into the Huskers in Lincoln, leading the game at halftime and only trailing 24-20 after three quarters. But Nebraska pulled away for a much-needed win to move to 2-2 in conference play. Joe Ganz had a good day for NU, completing 32 of 46 passes for 336 yards and three TDs. Nebraska also picked up 161 rushing yards and controlled the ball for nearly 39 minutes of the game.
Texas 28, Oklahoma State 24: Perhaps the best college football game I've seen this year, as two good teams traded punches the entire game in front of 98,000 fans in Austin. The Horns came out on top, but I came away extremely impressed with Oklahoma State. In fact, after watching the game between an Ohio State and Penn State, I'm firmly convinced that Oklahoma State is better than both of those Big 11 teams. As PB @ BON notes, Texas won this game despite at least arguably losing several key battles within the game. Colt McCoy also threw an interception and Texas lost another fumble. Next week's showdown on the South Plains could be the game of the year in the Big 12.
Missouri 58, Colorado 0: From The Ralphie Report, we hear that this was the first time in 242 games Colorado had been shut out. Ouch. ESPN Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin called it the low point of Dan Hawkins' tenure in Boulder, although I think the home loss to Montana State would have to be right up there. Really, there isn't much to say, other than it's clear Mizzou has regrouped from the disappointment of losing a shot at its most lofty goals and has apparently refocused on winning the Big 12 North and ensuring it gets another shot at a BCS bowl by playing in the conference championship game.
Texas A&M 49, Iowa State 35: It has now been conclusively proven that Iowa State is the worst team in the conference, and A&M checks in at 11th. I'm only curious as to how Iowa State only managed 35 points off 574 yards total offense with only two turnovers. If we can somehow pick up a win in our next three games, we have an excellent chance at a six-win season with Iowa State coming to Manhattan on November 22.
Big 12 Standings
Iowa State 0-4
Texas Tech 4-0
Oklahoma State 3-1
Texas A&M 1-3