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Postgame Reaction: Missouri Tigers

K-State moved to 5-0 for the first time since 2000 with a 24-17 victory over Missouri. For the third game in a row, K-State faced a favored opponent, and left with a win that had the opponent feeling like they should have taken the victory.

Alas, they still measure wins by points scored, not total yards gained. Mizzou outgained K-State, just as Baylor and Miami did before, but came up on the short end of the final score. Against Miami, it was a goal-line stand that stopped Miami one foot short, while interceptions were the story in the conference games. For Baylor, it was a late interception, while Missouri gave the ball to K-State on the first play of the game. Unlike the Baylor game, K-State turned the turnover into a touchdown for a lead it would never relinquish.

While Missouri scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to move within one score, ultimately the Tigers were done in by two missed field goals by Grant Ressel and, even more, two huge penalties. The first was a third-quarter roughing the punter that gave K-State new life and resulted in a touchdown, while a fourth-quarter personal foul gave K-State a first down and allowed the Wildcats to run out the clock.

Make no mistake, however, K-State had to take advantage of these mistakes, and past K-State teams would not have done so. Hit the jump for more on what I liked, what I didn't, what it means and where we're going, and the Big 12 Roundup.

What I liked...

...another strong defensive effort. Missouri came into this game averaging 517 total yards per game, and K-State held the Tigers almost 200 yards below that.

...a solid special teams effort. I've harped on the special teams play thus all year, and either Stan Weber read it or I wasn't the only one, because he mentioned the special teams criticism. Overall, I think the criticism this year has been fair. In the Big 12 conference, K-State ranks seventh in kickoff coverage, fifth in kickoff returns, sixth in punting, fourth in punt returns, and sixth in field goals. In other words, nothing horrible, but a step back from 2010, when the Wildcats were fifth in kickoff coverage, first in kickoff returns, third in punting, sixth in punt returns, and seventh in field goals.

But on Saturday, Anthony Cantele hit his only field goal attempt and did a good job with directional kickoffs, keeping them inbounds and limiting Missouri to 19.0 yards per kickoff return. Ryan Doerr made his one punt count, pinning Mizzou inside its own one-yard line with an assist from Jonathan Truman (HAHAHA PLAYER NAMED TRUMAN HURT MIZZOU SUCH A BAD JOKE). Tramaine Thompson returned a punt for 26 yards to give K-State the short lead that led to its final score. Ryan Doerr averaged 42.8 yards per punt on five attempts, besting his season average significantly. Better yet, we didn't waste a timeout because we didn't get the punt-return unit on the field on fourth down.

...dominating the time of possession stat, again. You think Missouri's defense may have been a little tired on that last drive after K-State had possessed the ball for almost 34 minutes already? I know the newer school of uptempo offensive coaches believe that time of possession is an overrated statistic, and for their purposes, they're correct. But for K-State, it's an absolutely critical component of winning games. Missouri came into the game averaging 74.5 plays per game on offense. Against K-State, they ran only 66. With its time of possession edge, K-State basically stole an entire possession from Missouri, and in a game decided by one score, that's huge.

...another 100-yard game for John Hubert. He got off to a slow start, but made up for it in the second half and totaled 26 carries for 126 yards. We'll definitely take 4.8 yards per carry from Hubert against a defense that expected to dominate the running game.

What I didn't like...

...too much east-west running from Hubert and, occasionally, Collin Klein. Hubert lost 16 yards on the day, mostly by trying to bounce outside when Missouri had stuffed the inside run. It's a tough situation for Hubert, because as a little guy, he's not going to run for power between the tackles, but he's also not fast enough to outrun Missouri's defense to the outside, at least consistently. Negative plays by Hubert put K-State off schedule too often, which will come back to haunt us eventually.

...getting too conservative too early. Up 21 with just more than 11 minutes to play, K-State stopped blitzing. And, truthfully, the first possession on which Missouri scored was pretty much exactly what you want when you go conservative. We made Mizzou run 13 plays and convert two fourth downs in order to score on a 3:11 drive. On top of that, a fumble very nearly ended the drive inside K-State's 10-yard line. Alas, the Tigers came through and scored, and then went 74 yards in only eight plays on their next possession, in only 1:30. At least on the second drive, I would have liked to see Chris Cosh try to put a little more pressure on James Franklin to try and force a mistake.

To me, at least, the most egregious example of getting too conservative too early came on K-State's offensive possession sandwiched between Missouri's two scoring drive. On that "drive," Klein kept the ball on the ground twice, then stared down his tight end and had a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. Other than the batted pass, I'm not blaming Klein; it was terribly conservative play calling. On the next drive, we went back to Hubert and picked up the first downs needed to run out the clock.

...inability to hit a big play-action pass. Klein just missed Chris Harper in the second quarter on a perfect play call. If he hits Harper in stride, K-State probably scores and goes to the half up 17-3 and loosens up Missouri's defense in the second half. Alas, we still won, so I can't complain too much, but it sure would be nice to hit one of those sometime.

What it means and where we're going

Again, K-State is now 5-0 for the first time since 2000. The Wildcats sit only one game short of bowl eligibility. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, because road trips in the Big 12 are always an adventure, but the next two are about as winnable as road trips get. This team probably isn't going to win the conference, but it would be nice to make the Oklahoma Sooners' visit at the end of October a game with conference-title implications.

This weekend, K-State travels to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are 4-1 after a home loss to Texas A&M. We'll take a closer look at Tech later this week, but the Red Raiders have looked progressively less impressive in their last three games, needing a late comeback to beat Nevada and allowing KU to hang around before losing at home to an Aggie squad coming off a two-game losing streak. Tech is also 115th in the country against the run. While they can score in bunches, K-State has seen two teams like that already, and has proven that controlling the ball can overcome the quick-strike offenses.

We'll take a quick look at K-State's opponents thus far below:

  • Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels improved to 2-3 on the season with a 48-16 victory over Eastern Illinois. No word on whether Eastern Illinois is as bad as previous Mizzou victim Western Illinois. Of course, Northern Illinois lost to KU this season, proving that directional football in the Illini state really sucks. Apparently, the University of Illinois is hogging all the football talent there, for once.
  • Kent State: Of course, I make that crack and then see that Northern Illinois hammered Kent State, 40-10, last weekend. OK, let's just go ahead and get this out of the way: Kent State really sucks.
  • Miami: The Hurricanes took Virginia Tech to the wire before losing, 38-35. The Canes are now 2-3 (0-2 ACC) and facing a must-win game in Chapel Hill, N.C., this weekend.
  • Baylor: Went to Ames and hammered Iowa State. Details below.

Big 12 Roundup

Oklahoma 55, Texas 17

A highly anticipated Red River Shootout between two ranked, undefeated teams quickly turned into a laugher as the Sooners took a 34-10 halftime lead and just continued to pour it on helpless Texas. The general consensus in the wake of this game has been "well, never mind, Texas actually sucks again this year," but I'm not so sure. Granted, none of their wins are over impressive opponents, but this is still a better team than last year. Our road trip to Austin for the Chisholm Trail Rivalry is still no guarantee, curse or no. It doesn't get any easier for Texas next week, as it returns home to face the "other" Okies, who are also a top-10 team. Things get significantly easier for Oklahoma, who travels to Lawrence in a game that will be over in the first quarter. The only real question is whether OU hits 80 points.

Oklahoma State 70, KU 28

Speaking of Oklahoma schools embarrassing KU, it's almost impossible to know where to begin. The Cowboys led 35-7 after one quarter, and 56-7 at halftime. Mike Gundy pulled his starters in the second quarter. Okie State amassed 600 yards and Brandon Weeden threw for 288 yards and five touchdowns in basically one half of actually trying. Jordan Webb did throw for 316 yards, but a lot of that was against OSU's backups and the also tossed three passes to the team in Halloween costumes. As mentioned, KU returns home to face Oklahoma, while the Pokes travel to Austin for their biggest game of the year to this point.

Baylor 49, Iowa State 26

The Bears got off to a very slow start in this one, trailing after the first quarter and leading by only a touchdown at halftime. But Baylor steadily pulled away and sent Iowa State to 0-2 in conference play, which has quickly erased the good feelings generated by the Cyclones' 3-0 start, especially considering both losses came at home. Steele Jantz played a pretty Steely Jantzy game in this one, completing less than half his passes, but still throwing for almost 250 yards and three touchdowns. He's a rebel, that youngster. For its part, Baylor rebounded from its sub-100-yard rushing output against K-State to bludgeon Iowa State for nearly 400 yards on the ground, contributing to another 600-plus yard total output. Iowa State travels to Columbia, Mo., next weekend for THE ALL-IMPORTANT 100TH HOMECOMING, while faces a huge grudge match at Texas A&M.

Texas A&M 45, Texas Tech 40

Unfortunately, I didn't catch much of this game because I was preoccupied with the train wreck that was, and then wasn't, the Nebraska/Ohio State matchup. As much as Texas A&M tried to fall apart in the second half, the Aggies' 31-20 halftime lead was too much for Tech to overcome. Tech actually dominated statistically, outgaining A&M by 130 yards and picking up 11 more first downs. What's more, A&M had more penalty yards, neither team turned the ball over, there were no scores on special teams, and Tech won the time of possession battle. Seriously, if ever there was a game where the stats would lead you far astray, it's this one. Amazingly, Tech ran 105 total plays on offense, but A&M was more efficient in its 72 snaps and came away with the win. The Aggies face a make-or-break game against Baylor this Saturday in College Station, while Tech looks to avoid falling to 0-2 in conference play when it welcomes our Kansas State Wildcats.