Malik Knowles set the tone on the first play of the game, racing for a 75-yard score on a jet sweep, and the Kansas State Wildcats just kept rolling to a 34-0 victory over the South Dakota Coyotes at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
South Dakota held K-State on its next possession, but a second consecutive three-and-out by the Wildcat defense led to a blocked punt by Seth Porter which was scooped up for a 32-yard touchdown by Desmond Purnell to put K-State up 14-0. After another three-and-out, K-State traversed into Coyote territory, but an attempt to go for it on fourth down ended with a blind-side delayed blitz and an Adrian Martinez fumble; the Cats recovered but turned it over on downs.
No big deal. Cincere Mason picked off Carson Camp two plays later. Five plays after that, Vaughn popped free for a 39-yard touchdown scamper. Chris Tennant missed the point after — his first miss as a Wildcat — to make it 20-0.
South Dakota actually mounted a drive on their next possession, but on 4th-and-1 at the Wildcat 22 Austin Moore and Jayden Pickle stuffed Travis Theis for a loss of one and a turnover on downs. A holding penalty stifled K-State’s following drive, but the defense forced a fourth three-and-out. A relatively quick drive ended with Martinez keeping it himself and scoring from six yards out, giving the Cats a 27-0 lead.
Both teams went three-and-out, then K-State played a soft defense as South Dakota tried to get on the board before halftime. That allowed the Coyotes to get some yards, but they didn’t get any points.
A sixth three-and-out was South Dakota’s reward for the opening second half possession. K-State drove 11 plays for 63 yards, eating up five minutes; the drive ended with DJ Giddings scoring on a 12-yard run. That was his third rush of the game, all of which were over ten yards.
The Coyotes then embarked on an drive against the Wildcat second-string, running off 11 plays and eating 4:38... and turning it over on downs at the K-State 36 thanks to having committed two holding penalties and a false start. The Cats also went three-and-out, although what appeared to be consecutive face mask grabs (against Martinez and Kade Warner) should have led to a ton of yards. Ty Zentner’s punt was muffed by Carter Bell, but the Coyotes managed to recover.
After the third quarter ended, K-State’s second string stuffed another 4th-and-1 attempt by South Dakota, and then Jake Rubley made his official debut as a Wildcat. That resulted in the first sub-10-yard carry for DJ Giddings, the first career reception for Giddings, and a three-and-out. The defense responded with one of their own, however — their seventh of the night.
Rubley then settled down and led a short drive, but it ended with Tennant missing right again on a 43-yard attempt. South Dakota then marched downfield, but in the red zone the defense stiffed up and forced a 4th-and-4 from the five — and held.
Martinez was 11-15, but for only 53 yards and no touchdown throws (but had one on the ground). Rubley went 4-4 for 43 in the fourth. On the ground, Vaughn retired from the game in the third quarter with 126 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Knowles had his one carry for 75 yards and a touchdown, Giddens had 57 on 6 touches and a score, and Martinez added 39 on the ground himself.
Since there wasn’t much in the realm of passing yardage, there wasn’t much on the receiving stat sheet either. Knowles and Warner had three receptions each, and Will Swanson led the team with 23 receiving yards.
K-State outgained South Dakota 392-270, but 85 of the Coyotes’ yards came against the backups in the fourth quarter. The Cats ran for 297 and threw for 95; South Dakota’s offense was almost perfectly balanced at 131-139. K-State was only penalized four times for 35 yards, while South Dakota ate nine for 75; the Cats won time of possession with 32:19.
What did we learn?
It’s an FCS blowout, so we didn’t really learn anything “good”. Instead, we’ll point out what K-State needs to improve on.
1) Martinez seems hesitant to throw.
Now, this may just have been the game design, not wanting to display too much against an FCS opponent with Missouri coming to town on Saturday. Martinez only threw for 53 yards, posting a QBR of 103.0. He managed the offense just fine, and his only fumble came on a blind-side blitz, so this isn’t a glaring disaster in the making. But he’s going to have to put up actual numbers next week or there will be issues.
2) Part of Martinez’s problem, though, was receivers not getting open.
One good thing about Martinez’s performance tonight was that his progression reads were visible. He was reading the field clearly, and working his way down to checkdowns correctly. He was doing that a lot, though, because his primary options just weren’t open. Knowles did catch three balls, but for only 14 yards. Phillip Brooks came up empty. Even Deuce Vaugh only had one catch for two yards. The only passing play that went for even ten yards was a toss to tight end Sammy Wheeler.
This needs to improve.
3) Rubley didn’t show much, but he wasn’t terrible.
Again, a caveat: he was almost certainly not tasked with showing anything, and this may very well have been one of those situations when the offense is instructed to help the defense preserve the shutout rather than padding the lead. He also looked a little skittish and appeared to be staring down receivers. This is not a criticism of Rubley or his ability, in any way; it’s his first game action, and nobody is ever expected to be polished in that situation. We’re just saying “he didn’t show anything”, which leaves open the question of how effective K-State’s quarterback play will be if Martinez goes down.
That said, he did seem to become more comfortable with every snap, and this may already be an absolutely overblown concern. He did complete a couple of nice passes, one of which he threw with a defender about to body him into next week, and he definitely has an arm. He was also playing with the second-string offensive line and receivers, so there’s potentially a grain of salt to be taken here too.
4) Okay, we lied. The new guys at safety played really well.
Mason had an interception and Kobe Savage was an absolute beast. The other new faces at safety didn’t get their names called very much — which is just as much a good thing as a bad thing, because they made no real mistakes. Good stuff.
5) Klein’s offense is a thousand times more fun than anything in a long while.
If you’re a K-State fan who’s been around for more than ten minutes, this statement will describe this more accurately and succinctly than anything:
Nobody on our staff said the words “Why the hell did he call that play, what did he think was going to happen?” even once tonight.
Players of the Game
Deuce had the bigger numbers, but for setting the tone on the first play from scrimmage we’re giving the offensive award to Knowles.
On defense, Kobe Savage was just everywhere. He only had two tackles, but he was in the area on so many more and anchored a safety unit that did its job expertly for three quarters.
The #UnholyAlliance has been called off for a week as the Missouri Tigers will traipse into the Bill next Saturday for a huge trip down memory lane. Most of our staff will actually be in attendance, so next week’s recap will be in the capable hands of AMS; your Benevolent Despot will return in two weeks.