It was second down. There were eight yards between the Oklahoma State Cowboys offense and a touchdown to make the score a manageable 44-37. Clint Chelf — who inexplicably sits third on the OSU depth chart — has taken over at quarterback for injured freshman Wes Lunt. Chelf and the reenergized Cowboy offense rush to the line as the clock ticks down. Two minutes, 20 seconds remaining. Tick, tick, tick, tick. Seven more seconds tick off the clock as both units get set. Chelf lines up in shotgun with four wide receivers. K-State lines up with three down lineman and Justin Tuggle as a stand up defensive end. The ball is snapped. Tuggle rushes but the pocket holds and Chelf's eyes lock on the near-side front corner of the end zone for what seems like an eternity. Kansas State defensive back Allen Chapman watches as the junior signal caller brings his arm back to throw. Chapman steps forward to cover Charlie Moore but quickly backpedals once the ball is released. Chapman doesn't know that Cowboy receiver Blake Jackson has just come off of his break on an out route behind him. He doesn't care. He follows the under thrown trajectory of the football perfectly as he leaps backward on one foot and snatches the ball out of the air. Interception. K-State football. Nine teams down, three more to go. It wasn't easy, but it was a win.
Could I really start anywhere else? For the first time this year, a player other than Collin Klein has a clear MVP performance for Kansas State. Chapman had a total of five tackles and three interceptions. His first two interceptions occurred on consecutive Cowboy possessions at the end of the first half and arguably caused the swing in momentum that allowed K-State to coast to victory without Klein for a majority of the last 30 minutes of play. His last pick no doubt sealed the victory. Every purple shirt to step on the field was a contributing factor, but the argument can clearly be made that Allen Chapman was the catalyst that led to a Wildcat victory.
Since we have no way of knowing the extent or even the true nature of Collin's injury, I'm not going to focus any of my time speculating on it. The fact is, even though Oklahoma State was clearly keying their entire defense on him and even though he missed all but 13 seconds of the last 25 minutes of the game, he was still far and away the offensive MVP. Sure, he only scored once. But he accounted for more yardage than any other player in the game wearing purple or orange. Despite facing eight — and sometimes as many as nine — Cowboys in the box almost every time he took a snap, he was still able to chip away for 64 yards on the ground. He also completed 73 percent of his passes for 245 yards.
Remember when they used to say Collin couldn't pass? Over the past three weeks he is averaging 267 yards per game and has completed 78 percent of his throws. He's also averaging 11.6 yards per pass. Not per completion. Per pass. For the season, his 10.8 yards per pass attempt ranks him 11th among FBS signal callers with at least 14 pass attempts since the turn of this century. In other words, the man can pass.
Klein showed the Cowboys his arm on the Cats second drive. After facing a loaded box on nearly every play, K-State had had enough. Klein took the snap in shotgun, pump faked once — fooling Shamiel Gary. Tyler Lockett sprinted deep, pausing briefly to pull a double move then blaze past Justin Gilbert and pull in the deep throw for a 50 yard gain. The play wasn't enough to keep OSU from continuing to load the box but it definitely showed them that the corners were going to have to play lights out from then on if they wanted to win.
Collin's 64 rushing yards were achieved in 17 grueling attempts. His longest run of the night was also his second to last play of the game. He took the snap then head-faked forward, pulling back just as OSU defensive lineman James Castleman dove for the tackle. Castleman ended up eating turf as Klein scurried around the left edge for ten yards, apparently scoring a touchdown until it was taken away after a review. Other than that it was tough sailing for Klein. The Cowboys did a great job of neutralizing the read option as well as not over-pursuing Klein's hesitation. Optimus finished the game with 3.8 yards per carry, but against a stacked box that's pretty good. An offense only needs 3.4 yards per down to be successful, so Klein showed that even when a solid defense does everything to stop him on the ground, he still can't lose. Let's all just hope he's healthy from here on out.
I chose to separate the rest of the defense from Chapman because I feel that there were a lot of other individual performances that deserved recognition. Jarell Childs performed well in his first outing without having to swap with Tre Walker. He seemed to always be around the ball and aside from allowing a pass to sail by him on OSU's final drive that converted a fourth down, I didn't see one mistake from him all game. Travis Britz, Adam Davis and Meshak Williams all had solid games on the defensive line. Britz and Davis were right there to force the Joseph Randle fumble that led to the first turnover. The unit as a whole held Randle to only 43 yards rushing.
Oklahoma State did manage to confuse the Cat defense a few times and got some big plays — most notably the touchdown pass on their first drive — and Lunt and Chelf combined to pass for more yards than any team has all season against them, but considering that the OSU offense ranks at or near the top in yards per game and they spent most of the game down on the scoreboard, that's really not too surprising.
Many educated fans assumed this would be a close game and there would be a lot of points scored. Several comments were made that it would likely come down to whichever team forced the most turnovers. Well, this game was all of those things and this defense forced five turnovers. The turnover margin was inarguably the defining stat of the game.
Wes Lunt vs. Clint Chelf
I hadn't watched any Oklahoma State film before this game. I haven't yet spoken to any OSU fans. It's not normally my nature to make sweeping generalizations based on a single game performance. But after watching the game on Saturday — especially seeing it live in the stadium — I have to say that Clint Chelf should be the starting quarterback for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Anyone who has read my analysis before knows that I don't go out of my way to shower praise on players from the other team. I try — and hopefully succeed — to never bash any player, but I feel it is within my bias rights to keep my praise on the purple side of things. In this case though, I really have to say I admire the hell out of Chelf for what he did in the Bill Saturday night. To go through what he has gone through this season and then come off the bench — on the road, against the second ranked team in the country — in the third quarter and play the way he did... it's amazing.
Lunt wasn't bad, really. He completed just over 50 percent of his passes and has boat loads of scary, scary potential, but when Chelf stepped on the field, it was like OSU was a new team. He completely reinvigorated the offense and showed decision making and athletic ability that led at least myself to believe that the Cowboys were far from dead yet.
I can't speak for our friends at Cowboys Ride For Free, but I assume they're not too concerned about their prospects going forward if Chelf remains at the helm.
This was easily the most bipolar game of the season for the K-State special teams unit. A kickoff return for a touchdown followed by letting the other team do the same. Preventing them from doing it twice by only inches. Downing a punt at the one yard line at a critical time. Missing a field goal. Returning another kickoff 60 yards. I needed some Abilify after the mood swings I suffered due to special teams in this one.
We all knew it was possible, but for the first time this season I was disappointed to see Daniel Sams. Aside from the one really bad pass to Chris Harper in the end zone, Sams performed pretty decent under the circumstances. He finished with a better pass efficiency rating than both Chelf and Lunt, but it would have been nice to see him lead a touchdown drive. He seemed very confused and unconfident at times, but he is still young.
Speaking of Harper, how amazing was he on that flea-flicker catch? He made Daytawion Lowe pay for only grabbing his jersey to make the tackle, dragging Lowe for 15 yards. He made a few other great plays too on his way to 89 yards.
The way Angelo Pease has been running the last few weeks has really made me love him. That spin move off of Shamiel Gary — while not quite Jawan Jamison caliber — looked pretty fantastic live. I've been waiting all year for Snyder to use Pease out of the Wildcat and while the argument could be made that the OSU defense was worn down late, Pease still really delivered.
After being penalized only nine times for 71 yards in their first five games, the Cats have had 20 penalties that cost them 162 yards in their last three games. In this one though, there were only two penalties for 13 yards. That's the third lowest penalty yardage total of the season.
This stat was flashed during the broadcast but it's so awesome that I wanted to mention it too. K-State has outscored opponents 111-0 in points off turnovers. Wow.
This week the Cats travel to Fort Worth to face the second new addition the the Big 12. It should be an interesting matchup as Coach Snyder faces off against K-State alum Gary Patterson for the first time.