Kansas State cruised to a 34-0 shutout victory over the South Dakota Coyotes Saturday night. Here are three things we learned:
Special teams are indeed special
From the opening kickoff, Kansas State showed no signs that they missed Tyler Lockett as Morgan Burns raced for a 103 yard kick return for a touchdown. With that score, Kansas State extended its NCAA record for most seasons with a kickoff return for a touchdown to 11. Dominique Heath performed well in the punt return position as he gained 52 return yards on three chances good for an average of 17.3 yards per return. In addition to the return game, the kicking game was excellent as Matthew McCrane was 2 for 2 on field goal attempts and perfect on his PAT tries. Nick Walsh averaged 44.8 yards per punt being called upon to do so four times. Overall, Bill Snyder and Co. must be happy to see there was no drop off after losing the Big 12 special teams player of the year in Tyler Lockett.
An inconsistent offense
Following an injury to Jesse Ertz (we'll get to that in a minute) Joe Hubener took over and looked poised as he commanded the offense to a 34 point burst. However, a number of dropped passes, including one by a WIDE open Kody Cook early in the third quarter, hampered the offense. With the receivers struggling at times to create seperation from the defensive backs, it is imperative they catch the ball when open. If not, this team's offense will struggle against Big 12 competition. On the bright side, Dominique Heath had a fantastic catch wherein he ripped the pass away from the defender for a long 43 yard reception. That, along with an acrobatic Deante Burton touchdown catch in the first half, were easily the best plays of the night.
In the running game, SEVEN different players were credited with a rush including two fullbacks, Glenn Gronkowski and Winston Dimel. While Dimel showed solid push as a running fullback, the best runner this evening was Justin Silmon. Silmon averaged 8.5 yards per attempt. The walk-on looked very explosive, hitting holes hard and finishing his runs strong. No player had more than nine carries, with both Charles Jones and Hubener tied for the most with nine. Overall, a solid if not spectacular performance by the offense.
As predicted in Friday's Injury Report, Boston Stiverson sat out with an undisclosed injury, but the injuries didn't stop there. On the very first play from scrimmage Jesse Ertz took a hit to his lower leg and limped back to the huddle. After executing a handoff to Charles Jones on the next play, Ertz gave way to Hubener. After being examined on the sidelines, Ertz was carted off the field. Bill Snyder had no comment on Ertz's injury at the post game press conference except to say he felt "dramatically bad for him" and he hoped it was "something where he can get back on his feet".
But Ertz wasn't the only notable injury of the evening. Dante Barnett also went down with a left shoulder injury after making a tackle where he appeared to be speared. Barnett also never returned to the field following half-time, and one can only hope that was just a precaution and not because it's something serious. Again, Snyder was mum on the injury in the post-game, saying he didn't know the extent of the injury and wouldn't speak to it if he did. Hopefully for Ertz and Barnett neither injury will force them to miss a long period of time.
Overall, this is a solid, confidence building victory for a relatively young team, and one on which they can build.