*Note: If you’re tuning in for quick K-State football analysis, skip this part, it’s about my cat.
Since we’re all cat fans here (this is Bring On The Cats after all), I’m going to start this off with a brief tribute to my long time writing collaborator Mike Jones the cat. This is a bit weird for me, because every word of mine that you’ve read over the last few years has been written within 5 feet of a large gray and black tabby cat.
Mike and his sister showed up on in a basket our doorstep in Ladies Island, South Carolina almost 15 years ago. He was 2 or 3 days old. I bottle fed the obstinate eater, often times against his wishes, for a month. While his sister thrived, Mike was a sickly kitten. He ended up with a bladder infection. I woke up every three hours to force feed him food, antibiotics and water for a week. My wife didn’t think he would make it. We found a home for his sister, but since Mike was still scrawny, we decided to keep him until he was a little bigger. Almost 15 years later, I had to say goodbye on Monday.
As an extrovert, working at home during a global pandemic was tough. I need to talk to people, and there were no people. My wife and daughter were struggling to carry the burden of being my only social outlet. Instead of driving everyone else crazy, I decided to start talking to Mike. When I was home, he would follow me from room to room, and then nap somewhere within arms reach. I would talk, he would look at me, groom himself, and give out the occasional purr after getting a chin scratch. Y’all, when Mike Jones left this world and headed off on his next adventure, he left with more knowledge of 2020-2021 K-State football and basketball than 99% of the population. I hope that comes in handy for him.
It’s weird not having him lounging on the printer as I type. I’ll miss him. He was the best cat.
Now onto football....
Three weeks ago I wrote an article after the Iowa State disappointment heralding the peril facing Coach Kleiman and his coaching staff after a 3-3 start. The gist of the article was that Kansas State needed to win Big 12 games sooner, rather than later, or changes needed to be made to the coaching staff in the offseason.
Coach (huge fan of my work I’m sure) must have read the article with the rest of you, because he complied with a 3-0 late October, early November surge, putting the Wildcats back in the business of getting screwed over in Big 12 bowl placement, with three winnable games left on the schedule. I started the season saying six wins was the floor for this team, and anything short would be a huge disappointment. Now that my demands have been met, I’ve decided to move the goal posts. Six wins is great, but eight wins, eight wins would be an incredible recruiting chip to toss into the pot three years into the Klieman era. While other Big 12 coaches are falling victim to the Wildcats of Doom, and sharpening up their resumes, the purple and white reaper of the Big 12 continues on in search of new victims.
I’m probably in the minority, but this turnaround wasn’t unexpected. This was a good team at the start of the season, took their lumps with injuries and an absurdly loaded front end of the schedule, didn’t lose the faith, and bounced back against teams they should beat. Good teams beat teams they should beat, really good teams beat teams they should beat and pull off an occasional upset, great teams rarely play teams they shouldn’t beat. This team gets to prove over the next three weeks where they fall on this spectrum. They’re not a great team, but they’re clearly a good team with the potential to be really good.
Down the Stretch
I’ll have more this week on specific things to look for moving forward, but at this point, it’s all about executing. What I like about this team, is outside the “injured Skylar” games, they do what they do.
Stack the box (which the majority of defenses have tried), and Skylar Thompson sits behind a wall of offensive linemen and picks the defense apart. Every team wants to take Deuce Vaughn out of the game, but he’s such a unique talent, that it’s almost impossible. He can seamlessly transition from a running back to slot receiver, depending on the situation. As much as teams don’t want Vaughn tearing them up in the run game, they’re equally terrified that he’ll get matched up against a linebacker or safety in the passing game. Show a run box (a blocker for every defender), and K-State will happily line up and run the ball down your throat with the Deuce Vaughn and Joe Ervin (hugely under valued player) combo behind the big boys up front.
Versatility makes this team tough to defend. Before, you would go into a game against K-State with the goal of stopping the run game. If you stopped it, you won. If you didn’t, they won. It was a simple equation, and teams like West Virginia, with their penetrating 3-3 stack front, gave the Wildcats fits. This year, instead of forcing the run game, if it’s not available, the passing game is more than capable of carrying the day. It’s a refreshing change, and a change that I hope carries over to next season.
Much like the offense, they need to keep doing what they’re doing. King Felix has turned into a legit top of the scouting report problem for the opposition. He’s an equal opportunity destroyer of worlds, dispatching quarterbacks, running backs, and any other player with the temerity to carry the ball in his backfield. Having a player like Felix Anudike-Uzomah opens things up on the other side of the line (my kingdom for a Duke/Felix tandem right now). If an offense is double teaming the King, then they’re vulnerable to the blitz off the other edge. Daniel Green is a tackling monster. The secondary is experienced and solid. I’m still a little concerned about a team deciding to pound the run. The offense needs to help them out and sustain drives because guys like Felix need legs to finish off tiring offensive lines in the 4th quarter.
Knock off West Virginia on Saturday and get that monkey (not the Texas monkey, mind you) off their back. They’re better than West Virginia. No excuses. Go get that W.