After a day to think about things and revisit the roller-coaster of Saturday's 32-28 win in Ames, it's time to digest the experience. Some of this is things that bubbled to the surface unassisted Saturday afternoon and evening; some of it has been helped along by your comments yesterday. Onward:
1. On paper, the defense was better than it looked
It's almost unfathomable after actually watching the game, but the Wildcats only surrendered 319 yards. It could -- well, should -- have been a lot less. Two plays leap specifically to mind: Jonathan Truman completely failing to use his arms at all when hitting DeVondrick Nealy in the Iowa State backfield only to have Nealy simply bounce off him (as running backs do when you don't grab them) and then scamper for nine yards on first down, and the incomplete pass midway through the fourth quarter the play which preceded the three Waters incompletions which we thought doomed the game. That play, you'll recall, should have been a seventeen-yard sack, but nobody seemed to be able to get their hands on Sam Richardson.
Just those two plays added 26 yards to Iowa State's total offense, and there were countless other instances of completely non-existent tackling in the second quarter which led to extra yardage and extended drives. It's not out of the realm of sanity to suggest K-State could have held Iowa State to 200 yards of offense in this game, and that's what makes the poor tackling, bad angles, and shaky coverage so maddening. This defense could be absolutely awesome; instead, it was merely adequate against a lesser foe.
This is relevant because in ten days, it's going to have to be awesome just to be adequate.
2. Charles Jones is pretty awesome
Still waiting for charting on this game, and I suspect when TB posts he'll talk about this too, but Charles Jones quietly racked up 75 yards rushing on 13 carries, for 5.9 YPC. What's hidden in there is two nuggets: two of those carries couldn't possibly have gone for more than four yards, what with them being from the Iowa State four-yard line, and several were on third-and-short when everyone in the stadium knew Jones was running the ball. And while everyone's still in awe of the two-minute drill Waters and Lockett ran at the end of the second half, Jones started that drive with a nine-yard carry, and interrupted the Waters-Lockett magic with a seven-yard run for a first down deep in Cyclone territory.
We can only hope the coaching staff was paying attention to this and other related events, such as
3. DeMarcus Robinson shouldn't run between the tackles
Robinson's a decent running back, and this is nothing against him at all. But he's too small to be firing into the line. They'll have to on occasion, just to keep defenses honest, but Robinson's key benefits are going to be bursting outside and serving as a check-down outlet. Robinson did not have a good game by the numbers Saturday, but it's hard to put the blame on him; all we saw was repeated efforts to have him try to run like a larger back.
4. Special teams are a mess
Well, other than Jack Cantele. There is no return game; Morgan Burns averaged a paltry 17 yards on kickoff returns, and K-State had exactly zero return yards on punts. And then there was The Disaster. which we're simply not going speak about ever again. That was allegedly attributable to Mitch Lochbihler, both because it wasn't a great kick in the first place and because he made almost no effort to tackle Jarvis West. That said, it was a 40-yard punt, and Nick Walsh averaged 46.5 on his four kicks, so I suspect that position battle is now over and done with for multiple reasons. Lochbihler's sole punt against Stephen F. Austin was 36 yards (and no, that's not because he was punting from midfield).
5. Jake Waters is like unto a god, or something
Seriously: Last week, he threw for 223 and two scores while rushing for 55 yards (not adjusted for sacks) before being lifted because mercy. Saturday, he added another 239 in the air, and the crazy thing is that some people think he had a bad day. He didn't have a great day, but it wasn't his fault; multiple passes hit hands like unto stone, and of course he also had a 42-yard completion called back because of a vaguely sketchy holding call on Tyler Lockett. Oh, yeah, and the apparently immobile Waters has only rushed for 193 yards and four touchdowns (not adjusted for sacks) in two games. For those of you without calculators, that's on pace for nearly 1200 yards and 24 touchdowns.
On the ground.
That doesn't even account for what he brought to the game through intangibles Saturday. He didn't just pick the offense up and carry it on his back after the Cats fell behind by 15. He was working the defense, too, and post-game quotes make it clear that this is absolutely, positively, 100% his team now, despite the pathetic bleating cries of those who'd like you to believe that he wasn't even worth a seat on the ride home.
We'll just have to see if that leadership is enough to push the team into making a run over the final ten games.