This Big 12 North stretch run really is about to get interesting.
K-State did what everyone expected it to do in losing to Oklahoma on Saturday night. However, it was how the loss came about that was noteworthy. As was noted by the other half of the Unholy Alliance last week -- before I chimed in with an utterly redundant comment -- K-State could show quite a bit even in an expected loss against OU. At this point, there are appear to be three teams other than KSU who can claim some form of hope to winning the division. Let's look at how they've fared against the best teams the South has to offer.
- KU: The week before being host to K-State, the Sooners pantsed KU in Lawrence, 35-13, in a game that wasn't really that close. Oklahoma led, 21-6, at halftime, and KU's only touchdown came in garbage time with the game well in hand.
- Missouri: Like K-State against OU, they fell behind early, 21-0. Unlike K-State, and at home I may add, they rolled over and died, losing 41-7 and producing fewer than 200 total yards offense.
- Nebraska: Went quietly into the night against Texas Tech in Lincoln. Didn't lose nearly as badly as K-State did to Tech, which is a sign of how good Nebraska's defense is, and is why I still consider Nebraska a threat in the North, despite the fact that its offense can't do anything right.
Anyway, let's move on to a quick review of the game.
What I liked...
...a team that doesn't give up. Had this been 2008, or 2007 or 2006, for that matter, I have little doubt we would have given up 600+ yards of offense and lost 63-14. While the team couldn't get over the hump after getting back in the game, the mere fact that it was even in the game after that first quarter is a credit to the coaches and players.
...the unleashing of Daniel Thomas. Over at Crimson and Cream Machine, a reader called it "gimmicky" and refused to respect what we did on offense. If he considers that offense gimmicky, then he clearly considers the Michael Bishop-Jonathan Beasley-Ell Roberson years a complete fluke, because the Wildcat formation is basically the offense we ran with those QBs. Daniel Thomas is what all those guys were, except not as polished of a thrower. I guess if you consider a jump pass a gimmick, then Urban Meyer is gimmicky, and he only has two national titles. I guess if you consider running play action off an option fake, you consider Nebraska from 1960-2003 gimmicky. While I liked these plays because they worked, I really like them because now KU, Mizzou and Nebraska have to prepare for them. They have to spend practice time working on them. Their safeties have to hesitate when DT takes the shotgun snap, they have to hesitate even if he looks like he's taking off on a draw, and they have to hesitate when it looks like he's running the option. I also get the feeling we haven't seen everything we may see in the playbook yet.
...more disciplined play. The only turnover for K-State in the game was the late interception, and you really can't hold that one against Grant Gregory. If we keep protecting the football and controlling the clock, we're in good position the next few weeks.
...speaking of Grant Gregory, an efficient outing against a tough defense. Gregory went 19 of 30 for 174 yards, and ran for more than 5 yards per play even after losses were subtracted.
...an offensive line that may be coming together. While OU did record two sacks, that's less than I feared we may give up. Further, they paved the way to 149 rushing yards, including a 5.1 yards per carry average.
...Brandon Banks to da house. I fear we've probably seen the last of teams kicking it deep to him, but if they kick it short, then we're going to have shorter fields each drive. Only Nebraska's kicker can probably dare to kick it deep and count on a touchback against us.
What I didn't like...
...two PATs blocked. I was watching this one at a bar, so I wasn't paying close enough attention to tell if these were Josh Cherry's fault or whether OU got penetration against our line. Either way, we can't go wasting points. I thought Snyder was going to explode after the second one.
...an inability to stop OU's passing game. While 294 yards is certainly better than what we gave up at Texas Tech, it's still far too much. As Pan mentioned on the phone today, we are getting killed by the short-to-intermediate passing game. Our linebackers and safeties need to step up soon, or combinations like Kerry Meier/Dez Briscoe and Blaine Gabbert/Danario Alexander are going to torch us.
Hit the jump for much, much more.
What it means and where we're going...
While I'm loathe to proclaim any loss a moral victory, this one comes pretty close to fitting the bill. For three quarters yesterday, our offense moved the ball and put points on the board and our defense played well enough to keep us in the game against an offense that's much more talented than those we'll face the rest of the way.
Now, the road lays before us, and we know what is required. Next Saturday, KU comes to town for an 11:30 a.m. kickoff. If you can make it, get tickets before it sells out. We need all the purple in that stadium we can get. Show up early. Make a ton of noise. We have a real chance to win this game, and winning it will do two things that should do any K-State fan's heart good. First of all, it guarantees we'll be, at worst, 4-4 in the conference, and sets us up for a chance to go 5-3 with games against MU and Nebraska remaining. Second, it will once and for all dismbowel the "history awaits" season proclaimed by KU, causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth downriver from us. I don't need to remind any of you that KU has won three in a row against us, and broke our nearly 20-year winning streak in Manhattan two years ago. I guarantee you Bill Snyder and these players don't need to be reminded of that.
UMass lost to Maine, 19-9, and is now 4-4 (2-3 CAA).
Louisiana lost, 21-17 (OT), to Florida International, falling to 4-4 (2-2 Sun Belt). I may cause myself bodily injury if this ends up being the game that keeps us from going to a bowl.
UCLA's miserable conference season continued with a 26-19 loss to Oregon State. The Bruins haven't won since playing us and are now 3-5 (0-5 Pac-10).
Nobody cares about how Tennessee Tech did.
See below for reviews of conference opponents.
Big 12 Roundup
Nebraska 20, Baylor 10
True freshman Cody Green got the start at QB for Nebraska, but not much changed for the Husker offense. Against a Baylor team that had been destroyed by OU and OSU and beaten easily by Iowa State, NU managed only 20 points and 273 total yards. In fact, if not for six -- yes, six -- interceptions by the Husker defense, this may have been an even closer game. Once again, the book has been written on Nebraska. Don't beat yourself by turning the ball over, and hope you break a big play or two against their suspect secondary (assuming you can give your QB time to throw).
Nebraska faces a probable loss at home next week to OU before the pivotal stretch run against KU, K-State and Colorado. It will be interesting to see if they acquit themselves as well against OU as the Cats did Saturday.
Next up: Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, Baylor at Missouri
For more: Corn Nation
Missouri 36, Colorado 17
The Tigers jumped ahead 33-3 at halftime and coasted home for an easy win. I only got to see bits and pieces of this one, but Blaine Gabbert's ankle didn't appear to affect his performance, although he still looked a little gimpy out there. In possibly scarier news, Mizzou's defense appears to have awoken, holding CU below 200 yards total offense. Now, maybe there's a grain of salt there because it's CU, but if not, then MU may well be capable of running off the four more wins they need to have a shot at the North.
Next up: Missouri vs. Baylor, Colorado vs. Texas A&M
Texas Tech 42, KU 21
While this game may not have been the rout the final score seems to indicate, KU still has some serious issues. The beaks' vaunted offense managed only 258 yards against a defense that gave up 500+ to Texas A&M a week before. Further, we now know that Todd Reesing is, in fact, playing hurt, and I'm going out on a limb to predict that groin won't be 100 percent by November 7.
Next up: KU at K-State, Texas Tech is idle
Texas A&M 35, Iowa State 10
Didn't see it, didn't read about it, don't really care. ISU is a much better team this year, and has a realistic shot at a bowl, but they didn't show much in this one.
Next up: Iowa State vs. Oklahoma, Texas A&M at Colorado
Texas 41, Oklahoma State 14
It turns out the Red River Shootout was the game of the year in the Big 12. While this one was supposed to fill that bill, the Cowboys laid down easier than a cheap hooker and Texas had its way (sorry, that was probably uncalled-for). Texas appears to be ratcheting up its play as the stretch run looms.
Next up: Texas vs. Central Florida, Oklahoma State at Iowa State
For more: Burnt Orange Nation