Donny Starks had seen just about enough of Carter Stanley hitting short passes. He sized up the play, timed his move, and stepped right into the path of yet another. A quick 39 yards later, Starks was in the end zone, and Kansas State had a 20-3 lead.
Despite injuries to Jesse Ertz and Alex Barnes, and several Kansas attempts to make it interesting, the game was all but over. The Wildcats used a stout defense to hold on and earn Bill Snyder his 200th career victory, a 34-19 decision over their in-state rivals.
The only glaring black mark on the game was a 95-yard touchdown pass from Stanley to LaQuviante Gonzalez, a play which resulted from Dante Barnett simply being unable to make the tackle in space. But the defense was sound overall, with multiple players making big plays.
In addition to Starks, who added to his pick-six with some great stops, Craig Settles made a relatively brief but impactful appearance. He recorded a sack, then a couple of plays later batted a pass at the line which Elijah Lee fielded like a pop-up. Jordan Willis and Trey Dishon combined for a big sack early which rattled Stanley. After the Jayhawks recovered a Joe Hubener fumble with three minutes to go, Charmeachealle Moore returned the favor on a Stanley miscue a minute later.
Offensively, K-State did well in the first half, but the injury to Ertz right before the half ended sort of took the wind out of the sails. Despite this, the Wildcats managed to win the second half as well. Joe Hubener led the way for the most part, although Alex Delton saw action in a couple of series. Delton only attempted one pass, rushing 12 times for 53 yards.
Three different Wildcats — Ertz, Barnes, and Dalvin Warmack — had yards of 30 or more yards against the KU defense, a stat which in and of itself tells much of the story of the game. The Wildcats only passed for 99 yards on the day, with all but one 22-yard screen to Charles Jones being the production of one Byron Pringle, who had five catches.
On the ground, Barnes led the way with 103 yards on 10 carries, which included a big run after he had initially left the field with an injury caused by a helmet-to-helmet hit which resulted in no flag. Ertz racked up 99 on 12 carries; he’d originally broken 100 before taking a loss on his final carry. Delton added his 53, and Warmack posted 45 on 9 carries. And on the game’s final play, senior Cameron Morgan got his first career carry... picking up 11 yards. All told, 342 yards on 58 carries, compared to only 11 pass attempts.
The Jayhawks did manage 402 yards of offense, but 95 of it was on one play and a whole bunch of it was after the game was well in hand. Only 101 of that was on the ground.
So, what did we learn?
1) Jesse Ertz really is kinda important.
The offense really did go into free-fall after Ertz left, the protestations of the fanbase notwithstanding. It was moving effectively with him in the game. Sure, there were some nice moments in the second half, but nothing sustained.
2) BARNES BARNES BARNES
He is the future. It’s that simple. Warmack showed what he can do in limited action, and Charles Jones is going to get to play out the string due to loyalty. But it should be Alex’s backfield next season, and he’s earned it.
3) Something’s not clicking with Delton.
Could the coaching staff just be exercising undue caution with play-calling when Delton’s in the game? Perhaps. But it’s also possible that he’s just not practiced enough as a passer to truly open the playbook for him. His window may be closed, with Skylar Thompson waiting in the wings.
4) The defense can do some things when they’re amped.
Early in the game, the Wildcat defense wasn’t just making plays. They were wrecking KU’s shop. A lot of that was sheer adrenaline. Bodies were flying everywhere, people were getting hit, and risks were being taken. Of course, those risks also resulted in some bad things — but when they all only add up to three points, maybe that’s okay. KU didn’t start producing anything until the second half, when the buzz wore off and the subs started filtering into the lineup.
5) Bill Snyder is awesome.
And that’s all we need to say about that.
After the game, Bill Snyder was honored in a post-game ceremony, and was then carried off the field by Dalton Risner and sophomore WR Colby Moore, with Elijah Lee there as a spotter and the entire team surrounding him. A fitting end to an important day.
We’ll have more later, of course. Until then, celebrate. The eternal enemy has been imprisoned for yet another year.