K-State defeated KU Saturday, 17-10, to return the Governor's Cup to Manhattan. We'll get more into that in a moment, but first, an aside.
To all the KU fans who laughed at Bill Snyder's return, said there was no way he could turn things around because KU and Mizzou were sooo good now, who said after the Colorado and Oklahoma games that K-State wouldn't win another game this year, and to all the fans of all teams who said that K-State was stuck in a spiral of mediocrity from which it was unlikely ever to recover:
Go fuck yourselves. The Legend is back.
Now, before we get into what I liked, what I didn't like and all the other stuff we usually do in this post, I want to look at a few numbers. Here is a comparison of each of K-State's opponent's season averages and what they did against K-State (excepting Texas Tech, because we know they seriously exceeded all season averages in that game):
--Averages: 431 yards per game, 303 passing ypg, 128 rushing ypg, 31 ppg
--Against K-State: 301 total yards, 241 passing yards, 60 rushing yards, 10 points
--Averages: 413 ypg, 274 passing ypg, 139 rushing ypg, 30 ppg
--Against K-State: 458 total yards, 294 passing, 164 rushing, 42 points
--Averages: 303 ypg, 217 passing ypg, 86 rushing ypg, 23 ppg
--Against K-State: 244 total yards, 184 passing, 60 rushing, 6 points
--Averages: 478 ypg, 293 passing ypg, 185 rushing ypg, 36 ppg
--Against K-State: 301 yards, 314 passing, -13 rushing, 14 points
--Averages: 367 ypg, 181 passing ypg, 186 rushing ypg, 21 ppg
--Against K-State: 371 total yards, 164 passing, 204 rushing, 23 points
As you can see, with the exception of the Texas Tech and Oklahoma games, K-State's defense has held its opponents at or below their season averages in yards and points, sometimes significantly so. Let's all stand up and give a big ovation to Vic Koenning and Chris Cosh. This defense was 117th in the nation last season. It currently ranks 43rd. Before the season, we figured that if the defense could improve to even somewhere in the 80s in total defense, it would be a remarkable turnaround. With two games left, it's possible this defense finishes in the top 40, and almost assured that it finishes in the top 50. Simply incredible.
What I liked...
...riding the D-Train. Whereas a lot of teams and players see their numbers fall when they get into conference play, this guy has just gotten better. Yesterday, it was 184 yards on 24 carries (7.7 yards/carry) and one touchdown.
...more wizardry from Vic Koenning and Chris Cosh. At times this season we've been critical that our defensive coordinators play too much soft zone, but there's a clear reason why they're being paid to do the job while we pay to sit in the stands. Yesterday, as has been the case most of the season, the plan was to keep things in front of us, swarm to the ball and tackle well, and force the opponent into long drives. The longer the drive, the better chance of forcing a fumble or getting a stop on a third down. Even on KU's last drive that resulted in points -- the field goal with 5:20 remaining -- the beaks had to run 16 plays just to cover 57 yards, and required two third-down conversions and one fourth-down conversions. It's frustrating that we didn't get the stops when we had a chance, but when you force third downs, the odds are that you'll get stops eventually.
...more disciplined play from the offense. While this team has more weapons than opponents would like to admit, it's not going to put up big numbers most of the time. The key is that Bill Snyder, Dana Dimel and Del Miller recognize that and don't try to force the issue. Grant Gregory is an average-at-best passing quarterback in the Big 12, but the coaches don't try to turn him into Colt McCoy or Landry Jones. They recognize that running the ball, controlling the clock, and limiting turnovers is how to win games with this team. Amazingly, outside of the late INT against Oklahoma last week, this team has not turned the ball over since the Iowa State game.
...throwing it deep on first downs. I may be in the minority in this one, because the inability to convert ended up leading to three second-and-tens, but the two first-down throws to Brandon Banks were good calls. The coordinators seemed to find a weakness, as Banks was open on both throws. Unfortunately, Gregory missed on the first throw (not to mention Banks didn't make the best play on the ball), and Banks just flat dropped what would have been a touchdown on the second throw. So they didn't work, but here's a copy-and-paste of what happened on first down on the next possession:
Gregory, Grant rush for 13 yards to the KU11, 1ST DOWN KS, out-of-bounds (Dudley, Drew).
Even though we couldn't capitalize on the throws, we got KU on its toes, and it opened up a nice running lane for Gregory.
...KU fans claiming that they gave this game away, and that we did nothing to win it. It's clear that these fans have already forgotten how KU had its success in 2007. There is more than one way to win a football game. One way is to line up with superior athletes, chuck it all over the lot, and put up a ton of yards and points. This works fine if you're Texas or Texas Tech or Oklahoma. But there's another way to win football games, and it's something SEC teams have been mastering for years now. Play sound defense that doesn't give up big plays and makes the offense earn everything they get, and protect the ball on offense.
Along with that, it's laughable to claim that KU had more to do with losing this game by turning the ball over than K-State winning it. On both of Todd Reesing's fumbles, the ball was forced out. Josh Moore forced the first one by getting a hat and shoulder right on the ball, and Jeffrey Fitzgerald (I think) slapped the ball out while pursuing from behind on the second one. Now, could both of those have been prevented? Yes, but just about any mistake in a football game can be prevented, it's whether or not the players actually execute. Reesing didn't slide and didn't protect the ball, and our players made him pay for it. On the interception, Reesing could have prevented it by checking down to Opurum in the flat, but he forced it downfield into double coverage and threw it right to Emmanuel Lamur. Again, entirely preventable, but the game comes down to players executing. Our players were in position, and Reesing didn't make the play he should have.
What I didn't like...
...well, um, not much. Moving on.
What it means and where we're going...
In terms of this rivalry, it means the Governor's Cup is back at Vanier Football Complex and that you have scoreboard for the next year over your friends, coworkers and neighbors who are KU fans. In a slightly different sense, it shows a sea tide of change from last year's result. K-State got run over in Lawrence last season by a KU team that ended 8-5. Though yesterday's win wasn't an utter pwning like last year was, it signals something significant in this series. With what was supposed to be their "History Awaits" squad -- now changed to "History, uhh, waits" -- KU couldn't even beat a K-State team that was a popular pick to finish last in the North. Now, with Snyder back and getting this team into position to make a bowl game and in control of its destiny in the Big 12 North, K-State is a team on the rise while KU will have to pick up the pieces after this year as it loses Reesing, Kerry Meier, Dezmon Briscoe, Jake Sharp and Darrell Stuckey.
In terms of the conference race, it once again means that K-State still controls its own destiny in the North. Nebraska's improbable victory over OU last night is neither here nor there, although it certainly wouldn't have hurt to see them lose. If we win next Saturday at home against Missouri and then go to Lincoln and win on 11/21, we will play in Dallas for the Big 12 Championship. That's not to say I won't be cheering like hell for KU to beat Nebraska this weekend, or for Colorado to beat them in Boulder, because a little help never hurts and it's not like we can just count on winning in Lincoln. But the fact remains that if we go 2-0, we will have won the Big 12 North and Snyder will deserve National Coach of the Year honors.
Previous Opponent Roundup
Massachusetts beat Northeastern, 37-7, to move to 5-4 (3-3 CAA) on the season.
Louisiana beat Arkansas State, 21-18, to move to 5-4 (3-2 Sun Belt) on the season.
UCLA finally got a Pac-10 win, beating Washington, 24-23, to move to 4-5 (1-5 Pac-10) on the season.
Nobody cares how Tennessee Tech did.
Recaps for Big 12 opponents are below (Texas Tech was idle).
Texas 35, UCF 3
A bit of a sluggish start (scoreless after one quarter, 14-3 UT lead at halftime) gave way to an easy victory over Central Florida. Colt McCoy put up huge numbers on the day, throwing for 470 yards. A mere 273 of those yards went to Jordan Shipley (did you know he's McCoy's roommate?!?!). Texas has it set on cruise control toward Dallas, with only games against KU, Baylor and Texas A&M remaining.
For more: Burnt Orange Nation
Up next: Baylor (Waco, Texas), 11/14
Colorado 35, Texas A&M 34
I've given up trying to figure out either Colorado or Texas A&M. Colorado hasn't been able to move the ball against a stiff breeze most of the year, and suddenly the Buffs go off for 437 yards against A&M. Hey Aggies, be sure to take your medication this week, this bipolar act is getting old.
Up next: Colorado vs. Iowa State (Ames, Iowa), 11/14; Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma (Norman, Okla.), 11/14
Oklahoma State 34, Iowa State 8
This game was a real snoozer. I tried to listen to some of it on XM on my way back to Kansas City, but Okie State led 27-0 in the third quarter and nothing of interest was happening. Despite getting Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson back on offense, ISU couldn't do anything right in tallying only 242 total yards and one touchdown with the game already well in hand. Good bounceback for Okie State, as the Cowboys are positioning themselves for a nice bowl trip if they finish strong. Meanwhile, the Cyclones are searching for that one more win they need for bowl eligibility.
For more: Clone Chronicles
Up next: Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech (Stillwater, Okla.), 11/14; Iowa State vs. Colorado (Ames, Iowa), 11/14
Nebraska 10, Oklahoma 3
I consider this game some small measure of the universe righting itself after Nebraska turned the ball over eight times in a home loss to Iowa State two weeks ago. Landry Jones apparently was not informed before the game that
Shawn Matt O'Hanlon was not on his team, as he proceeded to throw the ball into the Irishman's waiting arms three times (he had five total interceptions in this game). Nebraska's only touchdown drive of the night was a remarkable one-yarder after Landry Jones, you guessed it, threw an interception. For the night, Nebraska "gained" 180 total yards (I want someone to tell me who the last Big 12 team was to win a game in which they gained less than 200 total yards). Nebraska now has a closing stretch that includes road games with KU and Colorado and a home game with K-State. Their defense will shut down or severely limit all three of those teams, but the question is whether their offense can do enough to win (or, at least as was the case last night, not turn the ball over).
Up next: Nebraska vs. KU (Lawrence, Kan.), 11/14; Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M (Norman, Okla.), 11/14