The debate is over, and we need to just not have it anymore.
Daniel Sams showed that he does, in fact, have what it takes to balance the offense, going 15-21 for 181 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 118 and scoring once on the ground. That opinion doesn't change even despite the three interceptions, all of which, if we're honest, were absolutely horrific. That shouldn't take away from the fact that Sams (a) moved the offense efficiently most of the game and (b) actually got the Wildcats into the end zone three times; more importantly, it's not as though we have any confidence in Jake Waters' ability to not throw horrible interceptions either. Additionally, we cannot stress strongly enough the impact of Tremaine Thompson being absent due to illness and Tyler Lockett leaving the game early with some form of injury; it appeared to just be a cramp, but may be a more serious hamstring issue. Missing his top two receivers, Sams certainly wasn't playing with a full deck.
For his part, Waters had a fairly embarrassing outing (including getting almost nowhere when given the keys on the final drive before Sams returned to spark some home), but we have to be fair: it can largely be ascribed to coming in cold and suffering a complete loss of confidence. He has lost the job, and the coaching staff shouldn't be twiddling around any further -- but let's not take the opportunity to pile on Waters. It's unfair, it's unseemly, and it serves no purpose at this point.
If anything, we've seen that the debate all along has been (as I have argued) misplaced. It's not about Sams vs Waters, but about why Waters was playing ahead of Sams. I think we now see why Sams should be playing ahead of Waters; I think we now also see perfectly clearly why the coaching staff was reluctant to make that decision. We have all our answers.
If there's a problem with the offense, it's that it was all Sams today. He directly accounted for 299 of K-State's 336 yards of offense; that's all but SEVEN yards after taking into account John Hubert's 30 rushing yards. That's a problem, even though Sams carried the team to 144 rushing yards. Torell Miller, amusingly, had a fantastic game; he snagged four clutch catches for 35 yards and a touchdown after being rightly derided for weeks due to his inability to catch a pass. Glenn Gronkowski only had one touch on the day, but it was a 65-yard scamper on a beautiful play fake from Sams; Kyle Klein also announced his appearance, notching his first three career receptions. And of course, Curry Sexton was Curry Sexton.
The defense also stood pretty firm for a change -- until Oklahoma State's penultimate possession, when the maligned unit reverted to form, unable to stop anything at all. With the exception of one incompletion on first-and-goal, every play the Cowboys ran on the drive resulted in a first down; OSU went 75 yards on six plays in only 1:56 to retake the lead. Other than that, the defense did a pretty good job of forcing Oklahoma State to settle for field goals, including on OSU's final drive to hold the Cowboys to a field goal which gave the Cats a chance to win. Too bad it didn't work out.
And then there were the special teams. Two really good moments: a punt coverage highlight, with Oklahoma State being pinned inside their ten yard line, and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by Kip Daily. Other than that, though, it was a dumpster fire.
The less said about the officiating, the better, although K-State didn't help themselves any by playing an undisciplined and ridiculous first half. A couple of key plays may well have turned this game around.
Sams has to have the keys now. This season is already smoke; a bottom-tier bowl game is about all we can expect (or even hope for). Sams has to have the game reps now to get through this season and be in position to enter 2014 with full confidence. It's time to move forward.
The debate is over.