The Kansas State defense was torched for around 300 yards in the first quarter alone, and that put the Wildcats in a hole from which they simply couldn't recover as they fell to Texas Tech 59-44 in Lubbock.
The Red Raiders offense blitzed a hapless and unprepared Wildcat defense to surge to a 28-7 lead in the first quarter, and that was pretty much that. K-State settled down -- relatively speaking -- and played even with Tech from that point forward, but it was too late.
Joe Hubener had 289 yards passing and two touchdowns, which would be pretty awesome if not for the fact that he completed fewer than half his passes. Kyle Klein led the way in the receiving corps with 6 catches for 131 yards and a score; Dominique Heath was responsible for the other.
K-State was limited to 127 yards on the ground, about a third of what we expected coming into the game against Tech's porous run defense. Charles Jones had 99 yards on 18 carries; Hubener scored three times on short-yardage calls.
Tech? 663 yards. 378 in the air, and an inexplicable and inexcusable 285 on the ground. Pat Mahomes was 32-41 with three touchdowns. DeAndre Washington ran for 252 yards on 27 carries.
That's 9.3 yards a rush, people. No bueno.
All we have now are questions, because we certainly didn't learn anything tonight.
1. Why can't this team play an entire football game?
We don't have an answer, or even speculation. If the problem was consistently collapsing in the second half, we could speculate. If it was consistently being obliterated in the first quarter, we could speculate. But it's always one or the other. K-State played a decent three quarters of football today, and in fact outscored Tech 37-31 over the final 45 minutes. K-State outplayed Baylor in the seoond half. K-State outplayed TCU and Oklahoma State in the first half. It's maddening and inexplicable.
2. Will this team win six games?
The bottom line is that as far as actually going to a bowl game, nobody really cares. It's the extra practice that matters, because this is definitely a squad poised to reload in 2016. So the question needs asked: can the Wildcats win out?
It's looking less than likely. Iowa State has, in the space of three weeks, beaten Texas and (once again) nearly stunned Oklahoma State. Kansas had TCU on the ropes today. Those games are no longer gimmes, although both should still be wins.
But West Virginia? Can K-State really hold off the Mountaineers? The fact that the game is in Manhattan helps a great deal, but only if the crowd is there and involved.
And after the Baylor example, that's an open question too.
3. How can the defense be fixed?
The largest part of the problem on defense is the secondary. Injuries are not much of an excuse, as the difference here is not the difference between Danzel McDaniel and Duke Shelley but the difference between McDaniel and Morgan Burns, and it's not the difference between Dante Barnett and Donnie Starks but the difference between Barnett and Kaleb Prewitt. The former is probably significant, but less so in actual coverage. The latter is more relevant, but still not super-critical.
The issue is the coaching in the secondary, and the playcalling which utilizes them. And not coincidentally, both are the responsibility of one man: Tom Hayes. Two injuries don't explain the complete collapse of his unit, and it's fair to ask questions.
The Same Old Questions
The Same Old Questions
4. Why does this staff refuse to acknowledge the weaknesses of its players?
Joe Hubener is a great kid. He's tough as nails. As a runner, he's got a lot of Collin Klein in him. As a passer, accuracy and judgement is an issue. Throwing bad passes into multiple coverage during one game would be a problem we could simply lay on his shoulders. That it happens week after week after week is on someone else entirely. Most people aim their daggers at Dana Dimel here, but Dana Dimel isn't the passing game coordinator. Del Miller is. It's time to ask questions here as well.
5. What now?
Nobody wants Bill Snyder to retire. And he can still coach. But the question is whether he's actually doing the coaching, and whether he has the will to make changes in order to set the program on the right path.
Let's be frank: the staff is old. One might even call some of them complacent. Tom Hayes is rumored to want to retire. Only the younger coaches seem to be scoring points with recruits, Snyder himself excepted.
More importantly, perhaps, is the wide open landscape on the coaching carousel this December. A lot of big-name schools are in the market, and if K-State wants to get the guy they want -- regardless of who that might be -- waiting for another year or two is a dangerous, dangerous risk for the future of the program. And the uncertainty over how long he intends to stay is also working against K-State on the recruiting trail.
Decisions like these are not just for next year. They're for the long term. We're not calling for Bill Snyder to retire. That's a decision only he can make, and one he should be allowed to make on his own.
But it has to be mentioned now. This may actually be the necessary time, even if it costs Snyder 200 career wins, even if it means Snyder doesn't get to coach what should be a much more talented team in 2016.
Those words aren't written in anger. Sadness, yes. Profound sadness. Make no mistake, Bill Snyder is and may always be the most important person in the history of this entire university, save Isaac Goodnow. Not just the football program, the university itself. If he wants to stay, then so be it. He's earned that. But he has to be cognizant of the potential risks in doing so. And at some point, his famous loyalty to his staff needs to be tested -- not necessarily in terms of removing people, but in terms of accountability.