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A Long Day in Norman

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For the first time in ages, your benevolent despot attended a true road game. Two, in fact.

No stupid trip to Nebraska this year.
October 15, 2016: The Kansas State Wildcats prepare to play a point against the Oklahoma Sooners at McCasland Field House in Norman, Okla. L-R: Bryna Vogel (18), Brooke Sassin (17), Kersten Kober (1), Alyssa Schultejans (3), and Macy Flowers (12).
Brandon Payne

Sometimes, you have to take your victories where you can find them. On a good day, they at least come at the end.

This is not a recap of yesterday’s football game, as Derek Smith took care of that in fine fashion yesterday. There’s little to argue with from the perspective we (myself, KSUEMAW!, and Purple Brunette) had in the southeast end zone; the football game was mostly a dismal affair with only a few truly bright spots.

That said, a few observations are in order.

  • A lot was made about Reggie Walker’s comments earlier in the week, and while there were indeed a couple of individual plays which look pretty bad in that context, there’s also one number that should probably be looked at: 138. That’s how many yards the Sooners were able to scrape together, and Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine earned 4.6 and 4.7 yards per carry, respectively. K-State did, in fact, handle the Oklahoma rushing game.
  • The secondary, on the other hand... woof. Never mind the yardage, or the yards per attempt. Baker Mayfield was 25 of 31, and Mixon completed the one pass he attempted. That’s not an acceptable performance, and you can bet we’re not saying anything the coaching staff disagrees with here.
  • Three Wildcats carried the ball for more yards per carry than any Oklahoma back, yet K-State attempted seven more passes than runs. Those same three Wildcats had more yards per carry than Jesse Ertz had yards per passing attempt. Remove Joe Hubener’s carries from the equation and K-State ran for 121 yards on 26 carries, collectively better than Mixon and just a hair under Perine’s YPC.
  • That’s all well and good, and indicates K-State should be able to run the ball well against anyone in the league, which is critically important when the passing game is in shambles. But there’s a caveat. K-State has to get the lead in order to be able to accomplish that. The reason K-State attempted 37 passes against 32 runs is very simple. K-State was playing catch-up the entire game.

The Oklahoma fans were, almost to a fault, extremely generous, friendly, and engaging. It’s not an exaggeration to say that literally dozens of fans stopped us to thank us for coming down for the game, often asking how long our trip was. (That was amusing, as I only had to drive two hours and the other two members of our party live in Oklahoma City.)

And this wasn’t just pregame, or even just after the game when OU fans should be expected to be gracious winners. We even got this treatment after the volleyball game, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Indeed, the only negative interaction we had all day was with one drunken fan sitting about six rows in front of us, who spent the entire game heckling Willie... except for the brief interruption when, seeing Toby Keith on the sideline right in front of us, he started trying to get Toby’s attention. He succeeded, and was rewarded with a quick on-field photo op, which just goes to show obnoxious people are rewarded while the rest of us suffer.

In fact, after seeing a pick-up after the game with a Jayhawk front plate, Jayhawk bumper hitch cover, and Sedgwick County plates loaded to the gills with dudes wearing Sooner gear, we’re compelled to ask:

What if most of the “bad OU fans” are actually just KU basketball fans from Wichita?

Campus Corner is no Aggieville; it’s much smaller and has far fewer businesses. But it’s still a very nice place to pre-game. We would be remiss if we failed to direct your attention to Apple Tree Chocolates, a completely awesome little shop purveying delicious hand-made truffles and other chocolately goodnesses. We spent too much money there. But we’ll warn you: unless it’s a really cold day, don’t go until after the game. Chocolate is allergic to hot cars.

After escaping the post-game traffic nightmare and having lunch, we rolled back to campus because K-State was not done for the night. The Wildcat volleyball team was also on the road in Norman last night, and since admission was free we’d have been stupid not to attend.

Now, understand. We are not volleyball experts here. It’s a fun sport to watch, and really deserves more of our (and your) attention, and we’re actually invested in trying to make that happen after last night. But this short recap is not the stuff of sportswriting legend. It’s just the observation of a fan taking in their first live-in-person match in... well, a long time.

Although there were scattered pockets of purple all around McCasland, the bulk of the Wildcat contingent was located in the northwest corner of the field house, so that’s where we set up camp. That large pack of purple included quite a few family members who made the trip from various places.

Big news at Ahearn.
October 15, 2016: The Kansas State Wildcats huddle early in the first set against the Oklahoma Sooners at McCasland Field House in Norman, Okla.
Jon Morse

Things started... badly. The Cats got down early in the first set, and were never even able to claw their way back into the contest, falling 25-13. Even that score doesn’t indicate how off-center the squad was early in the set; they played much better during the latter half, but the hole they were in was already too deep.

But hey, no problem. Susie Fritz made the needed adjustments, and although Oklahoma did get the third set tied at 20 before the Cats pulled away to win, K-State had little trouble with the Sooners in the second and third sets.

In the midst of all this, we got to have a fun conversation with Kerstin Kober’s mother, who was seated right behind us. She had some fun insight regarding some of the head-game hijinks OU coach Santiago Restrepo likes to engage in. Who knew slowing the game down was a volleyball thing? We learned a lot last night.

October 15, 2016: Kansas State Wildcats Brooke Sassin (17) and Kersten Kober (1) look on as Devan Fairfield (21) sets up an attack against the Oklahoma Sooners at McCasland Field House in Norman, Okla.
October 15, 2016: Kansas State Wildcats Brooke Sassin (17) and Kersten Kober (1) look on as Devan Fairfield (21) sets up an attack against the Oklahoma Sooners at McCasland Field House in Norman, Okla.
Brandon Payne

Then came the fourth set, and we were pretty sure there was going to have to be a fifth. K-State fell behind, and at one point were down 18-13. But then they started chipping away, grabbing a couple of points for nearly every one they surrendered. Oklahoma had set point at 24-22, and K-State grabbed the next two to tie it up. Twice, OU regained the one-point lead off the Wildcat serve and had set point again; twice, K-State tied it and regained the serve. And then Oklahoma made a mistake, giving the Wildcats the serve and match point, and Kylee Zumach put an end to the affair with a vicious kill right down the center of the court.

So in the end, while Oklahoma had won the day, the Wildcats had most certainly claimed the night. A long, long day had resulted in the gift of Wildcat Victory for those hardy few who stuck around for the payoff.

Next week, K-State plays Texas within the friendly confines of Bill Snyder Family Stadium at 11am, just like the same weekend two years ago. At 6pm, the Volleycats take on West Virginia at Ahearn; tickets are just three bucks if you’ve got your football stub. Do what we did last night. Go support them. Not only do they really, really appreciate it, they deserve it...

...and it’s a LOT of fun. We promise.