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It’s time for a change

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Kansas State lost, and now we have lots of questions but few answers

Kansas State v West Virginia Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

ca·thar·sis /kəˈTHärsəs/ noun : the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

Kansas State lost to West Virginia 17-16 yesterday when Matthew McCrane’s 43-yard field goal attempt went wide left in the dying minutes of the game. After I got over my initial frustration, I discovered a new and unexpected emotion: relief.

For the sake of argument, let’s rewind and pretend that McCrane’s kick sails through the uprights and Kansas State ends up winning the game 19-17. The players in white celebrate, the fans in yellow mourn, and all is right with the world. Sure, we would linger on the lack of execution in the passing game, on the inevitable delay of games, the wasted time outs, but we would also celebrate. We would marvel at how the gods of football fortune had finally—finally—smiled on us. We would talk about how our stellar defense and excellent special teams helped overcome a terrible day on the offensive side of the football, and how this win would set us up—mentally and physically—for the remaining road games on the schedules.

But McCrane didn’t make that kick, and so we don’t have to pretend anymore. Losing is enormously cathartic. We don’t have to repress our most basic sentiments anymore. We can purge our frustrations, we can vent our anger. We can come right out and say the one thing we never say when the Wildcats win:

It’s time for a change.

Forget about Jesse Ertz only completing 10 of 30 passes for a paltry 166 yards. Forget about the entire team only averaging 2.9 yards a carry through four quarters. Let’s focus on just one thing: the fact that Kansas State had to burn timeouts early in the game and then take inevitable, drive-killing delay of game penalties. Again. For whatever reason, the call from the booth and/or the sidelines hardly ever comes in on time, and you can only blame the quarterback, the offensive coordinator, or even the officials so many times. This has happened not just this season, or last season, or in 2014, but again and again for the last twenty five years!

The only constant over this entire time span is Bill Snyder. No matter the coordinator or the quarterback, this problem persists. Maybe it’s because our playbook is so complex? Maybe it’s because Snyder just can’t condense every thing he knows and anticipates about an offensive series into a set of easy instructions that can be conveyed to a college quarterback in under 20 seconds? Maybe that’s why talented underclassmen who can pull off on-field miracles, cement legacies, and save head coaching jobs at other schools usually just ride pine in Manhattan? Maybe that’s why our best quarterbacks have just been sui generis athletes who happened to be wind up in Manhattan because of geography, because of circumstance, because of sheer dumb luck? Maybe a program that values a player’s character more than his talent will always struggle to overcome its talent ceiling?

Speaking of our playbook, it’s often said that it’s the size of a 1990s era Manhattan phone book. Why then does it feel all the plays we actually run would fit on one side of a 3x5 notecard? For example, on a routine 3rd and 2 play, why does Kansas State try to throw a 40-yard bomb downfield when a quick quarterback run play would do the trick? Why do we run a quick quarterback draw for 3 yards when we’re at 3rd and 18 thanks to yet another entirely avoidable delay of game penalty? Where are the screens, the slants, the quick roll-outs for short yardage that we think—we know—our quarterbacks can execute? Why do we run plays on offense that even I—a person who has never played football and doesn’t know much about it—can suss out from my armchair? Why do we play with desperation instead of patience, with fear instead of courage, the minute we’re forced up against even a tiny wall?

Why does this keep happening? Why do we play (as Kellis Robinett noted a few weeks ago) with grit and moxie, but without the poise and playmaking skills needed to win? Poise is what allows Seth Russell to put his team on his back and will it to victory on the road against a scrappy opponent playing out of its mind. Lack of poise is what happens to Iowa State when the Cyclones think they’re about to pull the upset.

Yes, we are Iowa State now. Think about that for a minute. Think about it for a day, a week, a month. But when you’re done thinking, it’s time to act. You know this, and now you can finally say it.

It’s time for a change.

Football

Yep, we lost to West Virginia. For the first time since 1930. What was intended to be a barometer for the season turned out not be much of one at all, as Jon Morse notes in his instant What We Learned recap.

Derek Smith is back, and still looking for answers after the loss. We’re very excited to have Derek around again, but only wish his contributions presaged happier times.

Here are the other game recaps in no particular order. I have little desire to read them, but your mental fortitude is undoubtedly better than mine.

Volleyball

Kansas State took Texas right to the brink but faltered in the final set, losing 3-2 (22-25, 27-25, 17-25, 25-18, 12-15) to No. 4 Texas. At one point in the fifth set, the VolleyCats were tied 7-7, but the Longhorns reeled off four straight points to build a lead and never looked back.

Head coach Susie Fritz admitted the Wildcats had chances to win the match, but couldn’t find ways to slow Texas down.

This is entirely too familiar for teams wearing purple these days.

Tennis

Finally, a few wins!

Kansas State won two doubles championships at the Oklahoma Invitational on Saturday. Sophomores Millie Stretton and Ana Garcia Navas won the Flight 1 championship over Wichita State, while Carolina Castamanga and Palma Juhasz wotn the Flight 2 title over Tulsa. Overall, Kansas State finished 8-1 in the doubles, a tournament-best mark.

The OU Invitational wraps up today.