Kansas State beat Texas A&M at the Advocare 100 Texas Bowl 33-28, sweeping all the Power 5 schools in the state of Texas in the process. You can dust off those Texas State Champions t-shirts again.
If the outcome of the game was expected, the way the Wildcats got there was anything but. As Jon Morse notes in his post-game recap, nothing was as it should have been.
There is plenty of credit to pass around. Scott Frantz lined up against star defensive end Myles Garrett and completely neutralized him. Byron Pringle and Dominique Heath both got to show off their impressive speed, prompting this remark on Twitter:
Seriously how is Kansas State the fastest team in the history of the world!?— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) December 29, 2016
The defense, though not quite as stout as at other points this season, was still a significant factor. Jordan Willis became Kansas State’s single-season sack leader last night, and Cre Moore got in Trevor Knight’s head just enough to end the Aggies’ last desperate rally.
This win was more than just a win though. It felt, for all intents and purposes, like an announcement. With 15 starters returning and a Big 12 schedule that gives the Wildcats their toughest games at home, Kansas State is poised for a potentially huge season in 2017. The BotC editorial staff discussed just this (and more!) in our most recent K-State Football Year-End Roundtable.
For now, let’s talk about Jesse Ertz. His stat line last night was modest. He went 14/20 for 195 yards for one touchdown and added 67 yards with his legs. But that one TD through the air came on a beautiful throw where Ertz hit Pringle in stride for a 79-yard touchdown, and Ertz’s legs provided two important 20-yard scampers (including one that put him over the 1000-yard mark for the season) and helped seal the victory in the end.
The Ertz we saw last night bore little resemblance to the one who lined up against Stanford at the beginning of the season (Kellis Robinett, Kansas City Star). If he seemed confused and tentative then, he was a commanding presence on the field yesterday (Kevin Haskin, Topeka Capital-Journal). He distributed the ball fairly evenly to his receivers, he knew exactly when and where to find the hole, and when he couldn’t get it done with his arm, his legs did the job for him.
But the thing that stood out most was this: Ertz has attitude. It’s a thing we don’t often associate with quarterbacks at Kansas State. We’re conditioned by experience to admire the gentle humility of a Collin Klein, the understated grace-under-pressure of a Jake Waters. But Ertz is not cut from the same cloth.
Accepting the MVP award and donning a cowboy hat last night (to immediate chants of “We own Texas” from the gathered purple faithful), Ertz was all swagger. He has the self-assurance and confidence of a man who not only knows he’s won but expects to win every time he takes the field.
His teammates have bought into it too. Whether it’s the loud chants of “Sisco Sisco” that accompanied Ertz in practice, or the constant praise his receivers and offensive linemen keep sending his way, the message is clear: this is his team.
Make no mistake. It’s Jesse Ertz’s world now. We’re just living in it.
The football season is now over, but the Wildcats are about to heat up on the hardwood. Kansas State opens conference play tonight at #3/4 Baylor. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM at Waco’s Ferrell Center.
The Wildcats but in a brief appearance in the Top 25 before playing an uncharacteristically poor game at UNI to lose their last non-conference game. In contrast, the Bears are coming off the biggest win in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history, a 140-32 beatdown of Winthrop.
Jeff Mittie is 0-2 in Big 12 openers so far. Let’s hope that trend is reversed tonight.
The long death march that is 2016 continues this morning. Legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards has died. He was 86. In Provo, he compiled a record of 257-101-3, good for fifth all-time at a single school. In his 29 seasons, the Cougars won or shared 20 conference titles, went to 22 bowl games and won a national championship in 1984.