Kansas State came out of the gate ready to play this afternoon, and did something they really haven’t done since the surprising rout of Geno Smith and West Virginia a few years ago: buried the opponent so fast that the game was over before it started.
After turning Florida Atlantic (1-2) turnovers into 28 points before 16 minutes had elapsed, the Wildcats (1-1) cruised to a 63-7 victory before a crowd of over 50,000 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. About a quarter of those missed the opportunity to see some interesting performances by some of K-State’s younger players, however, as the student section largely emptied at the half.
The game started conventionally; K-State forced an FAU punt, then drove 89 yards on 15 plays, scoring on a 20-yard Jesse Ertz pass to Dominique Heath. After another three-and-out, a five-play drive lasting 1:42 started with a pair of Dalvin Warmack runs for 54 yards and ended with Winston Dimel taking a direct snap from the seven and blasting his way into the end zone.
After that, everything went insane.
Jason Driskel was picked off by Kendal Adams, who nearly took it to the house. On the next play, Dimel again bulled in from ten yards out to make it 21-0. On the very first play after the kickoff, Reggie Walker forced a fumble which Charmeachealle Moore snatched from the air and took to the seven; after a false start and the end of the quarter, Jesse Ertz ran it in and the rout was officially on.
The Owls fumbled again after a trade of punts, Driskel getting sacked by Tanner Wood inside his own five and very nearly fumbling into the end zone. The ball was illegally batted at the goal line, and Will Geary recovered; another one-play drive resulted in a Wildcat score as Dimel scored his third touchdown of the day. He wasn’t done; he got number four after Ertz finally completed a pass to Byron Pringle, who was hauled down at the FAU three. Dimel took the handoff, rolled in, and it was 42-0 at the half.
It took almost 20 minutes for the Wildcats to get on the board again, however, during which time the Owls finally got on the board after putting together a good drive against K-State’s second team. Alex Delton, whose first appearance in the game had resulted in a truly awful three-and-out, had over 40 yards rushing on a drive which ended with him scoring his first career touchdown... twice. (The first was wiped out on a holding call.) Joe Hubener iced the cake with just a minute left, scoring from six yards out to send everyone home.
The Wildcats racked up 495 yards on the day, 336 on the ground. Ertz was 8 of 13 for 117 yards in the air, but you’ll see a problem there if you’re observant and we’ll get to that in a moment. Hubener threw five passes, and completed them all. Isaiah Harris was the team’s leading receiver, mostly working with Hubener; he caught 6 balls for 46 yards. Heath had three catches for 40, and nobody else had more than one.
On the ground, five players broke the 35-yard mark. Dalvin Warmack led the way with 90 yards on 8 carries, an 11.3 per clip. Alex Barnes, seeing his first action as a Wildcat, had 73 yards on 8 touches. Ertz, Charles Jones, and Delton all landed in the 37-40 yard range. Justin Silmon only had 18 yards, but he also only had 8 carries. As a team, K-State averaged 6.2 yards per carry.
For the Owls, the day was a nightmare for Jason Driskel, who was 14-24 for 125 yards, two picks, no TDs, and a couple of fumbles. FAU only had 211 yards of offense; Kerrith Whyte had 54 yards on the ground, and Kalib Woods had seven catches for 82 yards, the only effective receiver for the visitors.
So, what did we learn?
1) This team is not the disciplined Snyder team you’re used to.
There’s one stat we didn’t dump above: K-State committed 13 penalties — 13! — for a whopping 113 yards. The vast majority of those were in the first half, and only FAU’s incompetence prevented them from becoming a real issue. This is a problem, but it’s the one problem we can probably be assured Bill Snyder will fix.
2) Jesse Ertz is still very much a work-in-progress.
The good: Jesse’s got wheels, and he’s not afraid to use them. The bad? He still hasn’t shown he can throw the ball effectively, at all. Yes, he was 7 of 11, which is nice. He also averaged less than ten yards per attempt, and only 14.6 per completion. Those numbers are awful against a team as bad as Florida Atlantic, and that’s a definite point of concern.
Simply put, Jesse is going to have to start making big throws for big plays to a receiving corps which actually doesn’t look too bad. If he can’t do it today or next week, he’s not doing it against Oklahoma.
(As an aside: Alex Delton didn’t look wonderful today, although obviously this was his first extended game action. His first drive was an abject disaster, aided by the offensive line not doing their jobs. His second, he ran the ball well, but it’s telling that he attempted exactly zero passes.)
3) The offensive line... may still need some time in the oven.
Don’t get us wrong. They played really well today. Florida Atlantic may still have no real idea what K-State’s backfield looks like, except for that play where Alex Delton got eaten on third down. That was K-State’s backup offensive line anyway, though.
But FAU’s defensive line isn’t great anyway, and we knew that going in. The game plan all along was to run the ball down their throats, because Bill Snyder knew his team could do that. So it’s not that we learned something here, but that we simply didn’t. The evidence does not lead to any conclusion whatsoever.
4) The defense, on the other hand...
Oh, they were good today. Even against a bad team, they were good. They were quick, they were on point, and they were making plays. Even when they weren’t getting credit, they were making plays. D.J. Reed had more than a few key breakups. You’ve already seen the litany of turnovers above, and how many different players were involved. Backup CB Cedric Dozier almost had a huge pick that could have gone for six in the fourth quarter.
Yeah, the defense is fine.
5) Someone is going to run the ball, and do it well.
That much is apparent. Until late in the game when Warmack and Barnes suddenly went nuts, K-State actually had a group of five players with a combined 200 yards rushing with not one of them having hit the 70-yard mark individually.
Of course, this actually presents a potential problem, one similar to the “if you have two quarterbacks you don’t have any” problem. Is it possible K-State simply has too many options, resulting in the hot hand — or legs, as it were — idling on the sidelines?
It may have even happened today. After two carries for over 50 yards, Warmack spent a half-hour cooling his heels before getting back in, and when asked about Warmack post-game Snyder said his position on the running backs hadn’t changed.
What’s that even mean? Your guess is as good as ours. But four different running backs who all showed some stuff is at least a positive sign of potential.
The problem, of course, is that potential shown against subpar competition often turns to disappointment against Big 12 foes. So while you should celebrate today’s win, be cautious. Because for all the good things we saw today, good things against a bad opponent tell you nothing.
Bad things against a bad opponent, on the other hand, are cause for concern.