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Vanderbilt 14, Kansas State 7: Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

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So many things went wrong that shouldn’t have.

Way too much of THIS tonight.
Way too much of THIS tonight.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

On 4th and 8 from the Vanderbilt 19 with about a minute to play, Jesse Ertz dropped back to throw. As they had been all night, his receivers were covered, and Ertz saw a lane. He took off.

He came up two yards short, and just like that the 18th-ranked Wildcats dropped a 14-7 decision to Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville. The argument will forever be that the teams should have been headed to overtime, as a Kendall Adams fumble return for a touchdown was overturned on replay despite the replay, if anything, showing Kyle Shurmur losing control of the football before he even started going down.

But overturned it was, and what should have been a momentum-generating moment turned into an anchor, weighing both K-State and its fans down as surely as Vanderbilt’s stifling defense had.

That defense forced K-State’s offense to post numbers which are so ugly they’re almost unbelievable. Ertz will definitely be nowhere near the top of the quarterback rating charts tomorrow, as he was only 10-28 for 76 yards and threw two interceptions. He ran for 126 and the lone Wildcat score which counted, but the passing game was simply execrable.

The running game other than Ertz wasn’t shiny except for a period of a couple of plays in the third quarter when the missing Justin Silmon arrived with 35 yards on two carries. (He later added another for six to finish 3-41.) Alex Barnes finished with 8 carries for 34 yards, but he was held to negative yards in the first half.

There’s no point even discussing the receivers here, because it’s time for What Did We Learn?

1) The receivers may as well have stayed on the plane.

It wasn’t entirely their fault, as Ertz threw several balls of questionable catchability to wide-open receivers throughout the game. But it would be a failing of journalism to not point out the balls which Byron Pringle had in his hands and didn’t catch -- most egregiously, the one which resulted in Ertz’s first interception of the year, which bounced off Pringle’s right pectoral muscle and into the hands of LaDarius Wiley.

Isaiah Harris had a touchdown in his hands, but was just a half-step too slow. Dominique Heath had a critical first down just shy of the goal line in his hands, and dropped it. Dayton Valentine (who later did catch a pass, amazingly on the same drive Winston Dimel did) had one land smack in his gloves and then land on the ground.

2) The defense? They came to play.

We can’t even begin to express how well the defense did their jobs tonight. Other than one seriously blown play which set up Vanderbilt’s first touchdown, there were no serious flaws on the defensive side of things. Maybe Vanderbilt’s offense isn’t that good, but I’m not buying that argument; K-State still forced the Commodores to punt eight times, five of the three-and-out variety. And as ineffective as K-State’s offense was -- only 277 yards on the game -- K-State’s defense held Vanderbilt to six yards fewer.

3) Vanderbilt’s pretty good.

Normally, our What Did We Learn section focuses on, you know, K-State. But Vanderbilt might actually be a threat to win the SEC East, and we’re not just saying that because it makes us feel better. Their defense is for real, and the SEC East is vulnerable and weak.

(Even though Florida did finally figure out how to score points on offense today.)

4) Replay officials are the worst.

5) Justin Silmon is a man.

I mean, seriously. Look at this nonsense.

And now, we have a week off to stew before starting the Big 12 schedule. What a world.