In a game which started poorly for the Kansas State Wildcats, the visitors finally got untracked in the second half and marched on to a 30-3 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners to finally break the curse and win a game at the Alamodome.
UTSA was held to 242 yards, only 37 on the ground; K-State racked up 418, 175 rushing. Joe Hubener was 12-23 for 243 yards, no touchdowns but no picks. He also led all Wildcat rushers with 58 yards; Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack each had exactly 40 yards. Winston Dimel had 2 catches for 80 yards, while Andre Davis had 4 for 73.
Here are the five things we learned this afternoon:
The Defense: It's Solid.
Although they were shaky on UTSA's opening drive, the Wildcat defense adjusted quickly and began dominating the line of scrimmage. The concern that the Roadrunners would be content to just dink and dunk for 4-5 yards a play appeared valid early, but in the end didn't materialize. Several defenders made really nice plays, none more notable than Will Davis, who was all over the place. Several times, Davis came seemingly out of nowhere to drop a ballcarrier from his blind side, and led the team with nine tackles. Donnie Starks had a great closing hit to stop UTSA from picking up a first down on third down early in the third quarter, Danzel McDaniel broke up a key third-down pass play near the end of that quarter (though he did get called for a bad pass interference penalty in the fourth), and the entire line was all over Blake Bogenschutz most of the game. Nate Jackson could have had a better game filling in for Dante Barnett, but that's a minor quibble.
The question, however, is whether they can maintain this domination against Big 12 competition. If the offense doesn't shift into a higher gear, they're going to need to.
The Offensive Line: It's Not.
To be fair, the line is missing Boston Stiverson, and it shows. But right now, Dalton Risner is still growing into his role, and Cody Whitehair's the only lineman who seems to be doing his job at a high level. The running game really never got untracked aside from Hubener (who really resembles Collin Klein a LOT when he carries on a designed run) until UTSA's defensive line tired out, and that was entirely due to a lack of holes up front. They were not entirely ineffective in pass blocking; Hubener had plenty of time to throw most of the game. But this unit needs a lot of work, including on timing. There were a ton of false starts.
Silmon and Warmack Need More Touches.
When Silmon finally got some carries and started gaining yardage. His 14-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter pretty much put the game out of reach. The walk-on is for real, and it's time to unleash him. And then Warmack came in during garbage time and showed some promise. Charles Jones is a good back in specific situations, but he was never effective last year running as a tailback; Silmon and Warmack need to shoulder that load.
The Receivers: Getting Better, But Still Need Work
Throughout the first half, the narrative of the game was "dropped passes", and nearly everyone who'd been targeted was guilty. In the second half, though, the receiving corps did step up their game, and Hubener responded by going Chad May on the UTSA secondary. Still, Deante Burton had multiple drops; on the other side of the coin, Andre Davis impressed, and Kody Cook redeemed himself for last week's dropped touchdown with a couple of nice grabs. And then there was Dimel, who executed the POP to perfection early in the game and caught a "regular" pass out of the backfield for his second catch.
Jack Cantele is Back.
Matt McCrane was taken out on K-State's first-half extra point attempt, and was seen wearing a knee stabilizing brace on the sideline. That set the stage for Jack Cantele's return to the number one position, where he didn't do himself any harm; Cantele hit three short field goals and an extra point without incident.
Bonus Sixth Thing: K-State's Kick Coverage was Phenomenal
With 3:49 to go in the game, UTSA returned a kickoff to the 22-yard-line, and that was a disappointing result. The Wildcats swarmed all over the Roadrunners in kick coverage today, and the ensuing benefit in field position was striking.
So, the Wildcats move to 2-0, and while there are still concerns, things might actually start coming together for this team. Next week, the competition level will ramp up again, and we'll see where we're at then.