No matter the final score, it's hard to feel great about a game against an FCS school when you're still talking about the possibility of losing in the second half.
But K-State pulled away in the final 15 minutes for a 51-9 win over Missouri State, and the late scoring made for a box score that looked backward for this type of game. K-State finally got a few stops on defense, John Hubert broke a long run, and a Nigel Malone interception set up another short score and, before you knew it, it was 37-9.
Hit the jump for what I liked, what I didn't like, what it means and where we're going, and the Big 12 Roundup...
What I liked...
...overcoming a slow start. Whatever it was that happened in the first half shall never be spoken of again. Our vaunted power rushing attack wasn't very powerful and our defense looked like it was playing West Virginia when it was actually playing Missouri State. But in the second half, our defense made stops and forced a turnover to set up a touchdown. And the offense scored four touchdowns. It wasn't pretty, but it was a lot more fun than a long touchdown pass to take the first lead of the game with less than two minutes left.
...efficient passing and minimizing hits on Collin Klein. Yes, we can all agree that the passing stats in the spring game were a mirage and that Klein isn't suddenly Peyton Manning. But he's at least as good as he was last year, if not better. And he only carried the ball 13 times, and even a couple of those were called passing plays that resulted in scrambles. We didn't need 25 carries from Klein to beat Missouri State, so I'm happy we didn't do it.
...a big defensive play, a long run by a running back, a big special teams play, and a big play by a backup. In order, that's Nigel Malone's interception that set up a touchdown, John Hubert's 95-yard touchdown run, Tramaine Thompson's kickoff-return touchdown, and Daniel Sams' 46-yard touchdown run. To be better this year, this team needs some explosiveness, and in the second half we saw a little bit of that.
What I didn't like...
...not finishing long drives with touchdowns. K-State's longest sustained touchdown drive was 48 yards. If we're going to keep getting big plays, then nobody will care about this. But I hate that we had three drives of 10+ plays that got into Missouri State's red zone and we settled for three field goals. Punch two of those in, and it's 17-6 at halftime. Still not great, but we feel a lot better about that than 9-6.
...zero sacks against an FCS team. Missouri State's quarterbacks mostly had all day to throw, which is a lot of the reason they so often seemed to find someone open. Pick on Allen Chapman all you want, but most college cornerbacks can't cover for as long as MSU's quarterbacks had to throw. The rushing defense was at least solid holding MSU to less than 100 yards, but I'd rather see a sub-2.0 yards-per-carry average against an FCS team.
...a mostly pedestrian rushing attack. Take away Hubert's 95-yard run and Sams' 46-yard run, and K-State averaged only 4.8 yards per carry for the game. Once again, if we're going to keep hitting home runs like that, then nobody will care. But if we're not, then 4.8 yards per carry against an FCS team is cause for concern.
What it means and where we're going
I'm with Panjandrum (and others) on the overall meaning of this game. You generally can't learn much, if anything, from early-season games played by Bill Snyder's teams. All our concerns may be borne out next week in a home loss to Miami, or we may come out and play like we did in the second half and win by three touchdowns.
Speaking of Miami, the Hurricanes come to Manhattan next week after a 41-32 win over Boston College to start the season. Miami fell behind 14-0 early and trailed again in the second half, but ripped off 20 straight points in the third and fourth quarter to put the game away. The Hurricanes were solid running the ball (208 yards on 34 attempts for 6.1 yards per carry), and mediocre throwing the ball (28-45-1 INT, 1 TD, 4.6 yards per attempt). Interestingly, Boston College gashed the Hurricanes' defense for 542 yards, but three turnovers did BC in.
Remember, Boston College was picked fifth in the ACC's Atlantic Division in the preseason media poll. Of course, Miami was picked fifth in the Coastal Division.
Big 12 Roundup
The Mountaineers looked predictably awesome on offense against the Thundering Herd. Quarterback Geno Smith was 32-36 for 323 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, and running back Shawne Alston rumbled for 123 yards on only 16 carries. But the WVU defense did not impress, giving up 545 yards to Marshall. Of course, part of that comes from playing at a nuclear pace and giving Marshall so many snaps. And a lot of Marshall's yards and points came in the second half, when the 'Eers had this game comfortably in hand. Make no mistake, West Virginia will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12, but the questions about its defense remain.
The Mountaineers take next week off before welcoming James Madison University to Morgantown.
Blog: Smoking Musket
I was genuinely happy to see this result after Las Vegas installed Iowa State as an underdog in its home opener. The Cyclones were bad in the first quarter, but bounced back in the second quarter to take a 24-16 lead into halftime. Iowa State put up a relatively pedestrian 441 total yards on offense, but quarterback Steel Jantz (32-45-1 for 281 yards and two TDs) and running back Shontrelle Johnson (18 carries, 120 yards, one TD) will be players to keep an eye on. Defensively, Iowa State looked downright solid, holding Tulsa to a sub-50 percent completion percentage and only 358 total yards.
Next week, Iowa State travels across the state to play Iowa for whatever goofy trophy they play for now.
Blog: Wide Right Natty Lite
Texas Tech 44, Northwestern State 6
Somewhat like K-State, Tech made this one look better in the fourth quarter than it probably was. The Red Raiders led 27-6 after three quarters before pouring on 17 more points for the final margin. The Red Raiders slung it all over the field with Seth Doege and Michael Brewer, who combined to go 33-47-1 for 321 yards and three TDs. Even more impressively, Tech held Northwestern State to fewer than 100 yards for the game. Also impressive, NSU ran only 49 plays in the game, as compared to 93 for Texas Tech. And even more impressively, Tech limited NSU to 49 plays without forcing a single turnover.
Texas Tech takes to the road next week to play Texas State, who blew out Houston on Saturday.
Blog: Double T Nation
Oklahoma State 84, Savannah State 0
I'm not going to pile on Oklahoma State for scheduling this game, because the conference realignment mess left some teams in a tight spot for scheduling. But there's nothing that can be learned from this game. Savannah State was 1-9 last season, and in those nine losses the average score was 45.8-11.7.
We'll learn a little more about the Cowboys next week when they travel to Tucson to face Arizona, who beat Toledo, 24-17, in overtime.
Blog: Cowboys Ride for Free
I managed to keep an eye on this game while watching K-State on the computer. KU struggled and led only 10-7 at halftime, but scored two straight touchdowns in the third quarter to stretch the lead. South Dakota State battled back to make it semi-interesting, but the game was never really in doubt after that. Using its decided schematic advantage, KU rushed for 248 yards on 48 carries (5.1 yards per carry). Quarterback Dayne Crist was decidedly pedestrian, going 17-36-1 for 169 yards and one TD. Defeinsively, KU gave up 411 yards, including 204 rushing yards (6.2 yards per carry) and 207 passing yards (5.7 yards per attempt).
KU stays at home next week and gets a visit from Rice, who lost to UCLA on Thursday this week.
Blog: Rock Chalk Talk
Is Texas sufficiently improved at quarterback to contend in the Big 12 this season? David Ash went 20-27-0 for 156 yards and one TD against Wyoming. That's a Collin Klein-like passing line if I ever saw one but, unlike Klein, Ash ran for eight yards on five carries. Of course, if Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown keep combining for 200+ yards rushing, that won't really matter. Texas limited Wyoming to 345 yards, picked off the Cowboys twice, and held them to only 69 rushing yards. This defense is good, and it's only going to get better.
Next week, Texas welcomes Bob Davie and the New Mexico Lobos to Austin, fresh off a 66-21 win over Southern University.
Blog: Burnt Orange Nation
While this was far from OU's most impressive non-conference victory, there were positives to take away as a Sooner fan. UTEP didn't score an offensive touchdown and mustered only 255 total yards. Oklahoma was hardly overwhelming offensively, which will be a continuing concern in the post-Ryan Broyles era. Landry Jones was 21-36-0 for 222 yards and two TDs. Interestingly, OU gave up three sacks on the evening.
Oklahoma returns home to blow out Florida A&M next weekend.
Blog: Crimson and Cream Machine
Baylor transitioned to the post-RGIII era with a blowout win over Southern Methodist on a hot day in Waco. In a performance we've come to expect from an Art Briles-coached team, the Bears rolled up more than 600 yards on offense and put up a lot of points. Nick Florence put up a spectacular stat line, going 21-30-0 for 341 yards and four TDs. Jarred Salubi led a rushing-by-committee group to 220 yards and two rushing touchdowns (6.9 yards per carry). The Bears still weren't great defensively in giving up 507 yards, but a lot of the yards came in the second half when the game was well in hand.
Baylor also will take a week off before taking on Sam Houston State in Waco.
Blog: Our Daily Bears