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The anatomy of a defeat

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Kansas State lost a winnable game. Again.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Football

Kansas State lost to Oklahoma State 43-37 yesterday in Manhattan. On a day when the Wildcats led for much of the game, the Cowboys put together two late scores and Kansas State’s rally fell just short.

Significantly, it was the second time this year that Kansas State failed to sit on a lead against a quality opponent and lost the game. If the first loss was a sign of Kansas State’s inability to execute, this second loss was a sign of Kansas State’s inability to close, as suggested in Jon Morse’s post-game recap: What We Learned.

A confession: I didn’t actually get to watch the game. My thoughts on this game are based on highlights and the comments I’ve seen from various Kansas State beat writers and fans on social media. The various complaints were the usual ones: our quarterback is awful, our receivers are not dependable, the best running back isn’t playing, our defense is terrible. You know the drill.

But for all that, this wasn’t a terrible offensive effort from Kansas State. Jesse Ertz was 12/18 for just 87 yards, but he had 30 carries for 153 yards on the ground. The running game had its way with Oklahoma State, as the team racked up 345 yards. Byron Pringle had a couple of long returns to set up good field position, and playing in place of the injured Matthew McCrane, Ian Patterson did alright.

The defense was another question. A strength for part of the season, the secondary has shown a disturbing penchant for giving up big plays recently. The unit is playing reasonably well—D.J. Reed had an interception, as did Duke Shelley that he returned for a score—but is woefully inconsistent, and that may be the difference between a win and a loss.

But the biggest turning point was the Wildcats’ failure to go for it on 4th-and-1 (Ken Corbitt, Topeka Capital-Journal). On a drive when the offense was moving the sticks, and with less than a yard to make, the decision to punt was strange, and changed the entire tenor of the game (Kellis Robinett, Wichita Eagle).

On the other hand, as suggested in Ken Corbitt’s recap in the Topeka Capital-Journal, maybe Snyder was just playing the percentages? Mike Gundy suggested as much, and Dalton Risner sort of agreed with him:

I’m really disappointed and we can argue as much as we want, but if we didn’t get it on third-and-inches, how does Coach expect us to get it on fourth-and-inches? That’s on us.

Questioned about it afterwards, Bill Snyder was characteristically terse, but maybe also oddly unforthcoming:

“Didn’t want to do it.”

His only explanation was that he didn’t want to put his defense in a bad position. That’s fair, but also not very satisfying. The thing is, we’ve heard this story before. This same thing happened against TCU last year, and at least in my opinion, it led to losing not just that game but the next game as well. That’s because a loss like this can change how a team feels about itself.

After the game, an inconsolable Jordan Willis had this to say:

If we would have won today it would have set up a whole bunch of good stuff for the team. I’m not saying there still isn’t good stuff that can happen, but we dug ourselves a deep hole. To get to a bowl game, we have to keep winning. We have a tough challenge ahead of us.

For whatever reason, Snyder didn’t show confidence in his team when it was most needed. This begs the question: what the heck is going on here? Derek Smith shares his thoughts on Snyder, and his points are worthy of more discussion.

Then again, we lost a game to the #18-ranked team, and everything suggests things could easily have gone the other way. Whether we like it or not, Kansas State is a team with a very small margin of error, and sometimes the Wildcats are just on the wrong end of that, as TB writes in this piece.

Earlier this season, in response to the loss to West Virginia, I suggested that maybe it was time for a change in Manhattan. Now, in the wake of another similar loss, I find myself returning to that sentiment. While Snyder has undoubtedly earned the right to set the timetable for his departure, the window for an easy and seamless transition to a new staff seems to be closing. Snyder’s age is used as a weapon by opposing coaches in recruiting, and his long tenure and larger-than-life status at Kansas State may be a difficult hurdle for his successor to overcome.

Those calm waters Snyder wants are becoming choppier by the minute.

Volleyball

Kansas State didn’t find redemption on the volleyball court either yesterday. The team is now on a two-match losing streak, having dropped the match against Kansas earlier in the week.

Behind a terrible offensive effort (.137, the second-worst performance of the year), and a defense that finally allowed an opponent to hit better than .200 (.311), the team lost to TCU in straight sets 20-25, 12-25, 22-25.

Senior Brooke Sassin had 13 kills for the Wildcats, but admitted that the team never set its blocks right and TCU had the Wildcats on the ropes all night. Although the team began to rally a bit in the third set, it was too little too late.

Up next, the Wildcats are off to Morgantown to take on West Virginia. First serve is scheduled for Wednesday evening, and the game will be available on 1350 KMAN.

Miscellany

You may have heard the rumors already, but while you spend Sunday with your family, spare a thought for Jesse Ertz and his family, as his sister, Lydia Gatton, struggles with a serious and life-threatening illness.

Friends have set up a gofundme site for Lydia, and thanks to Derek Smith’s efforts, we now know that rallying around Ertz and supporting his family is not an NCAA violation.