It's been five days since The Letdown, and it's still hard to think about -- much less watch again. But after some bourbon, painkillers, and paint fumes, I was finally able to work up enough mustard to tackle the task.
1. Bill Snyder (or the offensive Janus) made a mistake.
In the lead-up to the game, if you go back and read our Knowing Your Enemy series having already seen the game, there's one thing that jumps out at you: multiple SEC writers suggested that K-State should target their tight ends in this game. They didn't, really, and the one time they did was a big gain for Zach Trujillo. It may just have been that they weren't getting enough space, but one can be forgiven for suspecting that the non-wideout options just weren't being considered as primary targets in the game plan. If that's the case, it's disturbing; not that we think Bill Snyder should be reading Bring on the Cats to develop his game plan, but that so many people saw this is as an opening to be exploited but the coaching staff didn't.
2. I keep telling you Curry Sexton is Wes Welker (light).
He couldn't have made a more convincing case Thursday night. Eleven catches. Over 100 yards. Carried the offense on his back in the second half while Tyler Lockett was contending with having half the Auburn secondary attached to his jock. This is not a team without an option behind Lockett. Sexton shone Thursday doing what he always does and always has done: he got himself open a yard past the sticks and moved the chains. It will be interesting to see if Big 12 defenses key on this now on third down plays. If so, the side benefit may be more opportunities for Lockett to break big ones. If that's the case, it'll just be another very quiet way Sexton helps this offense.
3. Morgan Burns may be maddening, but he's the guy.
For the better part of the first 150 minutes of the season, Morgan Burns was -- rightly -- the target of a lot of frustration. He is not an all-Big 12 corner by any stretch of the imagination. But when he pulled up lame with a groin issue Thursday night, Auburn's passing game suddenly woke up. I acknowledge that we may be confusing correlation with causation here, because the answer could just as easily be that Auburn's receivers started, you know, catching the ball rather than dropping it harmlessly on the turf. But it may be that Burns actually is a decent enough corner to be serviceable in this defense, and hopefully he'll recover from that strain quickly so we can find out.
4. It's a shame Dakorey Johnson is a senior.
As you now know, Johnson picked up the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honor, and it was completely deserved. Johnson was everywhere Thursday in his first-ever start as a Wildcat, showing speed, smarts, and the ability to actually wrap guys up and bring them down. If he were a junion, we'd already be talking about him as the quarterback for next year's unit. Sadly, we're just going to have to hope he can help hold this one together.
5. Nearly everyone had one critical error.
This was probably the most maddening part of the experience. The entire basis of Kansas State football is to not beat yourself, but Thursday night you could point at just about every guy on the field and say, "You made a mistake." What's fascinating about this realization is how that's really never been the case before, and it's a testament to the young men who suit up in the purple and silver. But Thursday, it happened. Tyler Lockett's mysterious ricochet. Gronkowski had a drop on a play that could have broken big. Waters had a few key miscues. Even the defense was afflicted, making their combined performance all the more impressive. Until the very last real play of the game, Danzel McDaniel had been an absolute beast, but in that one moment when a stop would have given the Wildcats one final opportunity, McDaniel got beaten badly.
(That said, there were a couple of exceptions: Johnson, of course, and Travis Green -- who would have stepped in for Ty Zimmerman last year anyway if he himself hadn't been injured -- has apparently put the Dylan Schellenberg experience to rest for good. Jordan Willis was also pretty spot-on Thursday night.)
Understand, I'm not throwing the players under the bus here. It's actually completely normal for every player to make a mistake or two during a game, what with them being human beings and not machines. What's stunning here is not that it happened; it's that it's something which doesn't happen in Manhattan but finally did. If it means they got it out of their system this week rather than against Oklahoma and/or Baylor, I'll take it.