Guys, we need to talk.
Kansas State beat Kansas 30-20 yesterday in Lawrence to take home the Governor’s Cup for the ninth consecutive time.
So why does it feel like Kansas State actually lost the game? Well, as Jon Morse notes in his post-game recap, the Wildcats’ defense gave up nearly 500 yards of offense to a team that didn’t manage 50 yards the week before. On the other side of the ball, Kansas State only generated 335 yards against a Kansas defense that routinely gives up north of 500 yards.
The day belonged to the special teams players though. They provided the spark and most of the scoring in an otherwise lackadaisical outing for Kansas State.
D.J. Reed took a kickoff return to the house to put Kansas State in the lead early. He also had another long return that set up a short field. If all that wasn’t enough, Reed broke up a pass that was almost certainly a touchdown for Kansas, and then iced the game with an interception in the waning seconds of the contest.
Matthew McCrane was perfect on his field goal attempts, connecting from 31, 36, and 41 yards. Kansas State’s special teams also twice downed punts inside the 5, forcing Kansas into bad field position.
On the offensive side, Alex Barnes had a decent day at the office, tallying another 100+ yard rushing game. But even he admitted the team hadn’t performed to expectation and that any post-game celebration was “a little more dead this year.”
Still, the fact that the game was not decided until late in the fourth quarter, and that the Wildcats owed the win mostly to poor execution and miscues from their opponent should leave a bad taste.
So, as I said, we need to talk. I’m done discussing change as a broad concept. We know we need it, and we know what we want from it, but not one of us can articulate what the world beyond Bill Snyder looks like. Instead, it might be more productive to look at change in a granular manner.
The defense is awful
In hindsight, it’s obvious that our expectations for this defense—even tempered—were way too high. The linebacking corps in particular is really struggling. Clearly, Elijah Lee and Mike Moore left big shoes to fill, and despite great effort, the current starters aren’t quite coming together as a unit of force.
But also, let’s take a closer look at the sidelines. Tom Hayes has been on the cusp of retirement forever, and it’s possible this is his last season. But the defensive position coaches are also culpable here. The internal shuffle that moved Blake Seiler from coaching defensive ends to linebackers seems to have been a bit of a stop-gap measure, and it’s safe to say the Jon Fabris experiment has been less successful than expected.
Isn’t it time to bring new (or even old-but-purple) blood to that side of the ball?
The offensive personnel is good
There’s nothing wrong with the players actually lining up before each play. The offensive line is solid, regardless of who lines up under center. With neither Jesse Ertz nor Alex Delton available at quarterback, Skylar Thompson did a decent job. He ran reasonably well (10 rushes, 39 yards), he throws a nice ball even with an obvious lack of practice and experience (4-of-6, 40 yards). He may well be the signal caller of the future, although we shouldn’t put too much stock in a win over Kansas. But the fact that our offense has now broken two quarterbacks in little over half a season should give the coaches some pause.
That’s also true at running back. Kansas State has one of the deepest rosters of ball rushers in the Big 12, and yet, hardly anyone but Alex Barnes got any touches against Kansas. Barnes definitely needs to be the featured back, but carrying the ball 30 times when he’s the only production on the offense? Yeah, the game is going to break him if the coaches don’t spell him from time to time.
Maybe recruiting is a real thing
I’m one of those people who doesn’t care about recruiting. I’ve never been interested in class rankings and star ratings. It always seemed like a waste of time to spend so much energy and resources on players who haven’t played a single down of college football, and in fact, may never actually pan out.
But this season has left me properly chastised. To an extent, it’s possible to coach under-recruited players and walk-ons and turn them into Power 5 all-conference players. It’s also possible to enjoy some success with this approach. Kansas State is indeed the best proof of this concept. But in the end, talent will out.
Talent can make up for many sins, including lack of depth and playcalling lapses.
So what happens when you don’t have enough of it.
Winning breeds more winning
Yesterday, as I watched the Jayhawks drop sure passes and fail to convert at key points in the game, it struck me that the only thing separating Kansas State from their rivals is that our players know how to win. They understand that games are won at the margins, and that’s why—when it really comes down to it—Kansas State will run one more play, haul in one more pass, fight for one more return yard.
But then again, Kansas State is 4-4, and the two Big 12 wins have come over 0-8 Baylor and 1-7 Kansas. What if there are no wins left on this schedule? Will Kansas State forget how to win?
Kansas State will take on Fort Hays State in an exhibition game this afternoon. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:10 PM at Bramlage Coliseum. The game will be available on FOXSports KC, ESPN3 and KStateHD.tv.
It wasn’t all doom-and-gloom for Kansas State this weekend. The men’s cross country team earned their best-ever finish at the Big 12 Championships, finishing fourth with 142 points. The women’s team finished ninth, with every single runner making a new personal best.
Seniors Colton Donahue and Lukas Koch got the team into fourth place at the 4K mark in the 8K event, and managed to keep that pace through the rest of the race. Donahue finished 23rd overall, with Koch at 30th, and teammates Bryan Zack, Jeff Bachman and Brett Bachman finishing 31st, 35th, and 38th respectively.
Iowa State won the men’s and women’s titles.
The men’s and women’s teams will now travel to Ames to take part in the NCAA Midwest Regionals on November 10.
The men’s golf team is currently at the Bridgestone Golf Collegiate at the Grandover Resort in North Carolina. The team is in 8th place (+35) after the final round, with UNC and Northwestern atop the leaderboard.
For Kansas State, Ben Fernandez is currently tied for 14th. He shot +6 in the final round. Teammate Roland Massimino is the only other player in the Top 40 of the leaderboard. He’s at 31, with a score of +11.
Meanwhile, the women will look to end the season on a positive note. They’ll be playing at the Trinity Forest Invitational in Dallas, Texas on Monday and Tuesday.
Kansas State’s first full season of Big 12 soccer ended on Friday in Manhattan. On Senior Night, the Wildcats lost a closely contested match 2-1 to Iowa State.
Despite the loss, Kansas State had several positives to take home. They outshot Iowa State 21-19, the combined total of 40 shots being the highest in the Big 12 this season. Miranda Larkin staved off several scoring attempts in the first half before the Cyclones finally put the ball in the net.
Freshman Brookelyn Entz scored the Wildcats’ only goal in the 64th minute, the program’s penalty kick goal. Entz finished the season with five goals, a school record.
Another weekend, another heartbreaking five-set loss for Kansas State. The VolleyCats lost to Texas Tech in Lubbock 3-2 (18-25, 25-17, 25-17, 23-25, 12-15). The match ended Kansas State’s long winning streak against Texas Tech.
The VolleyCats led in total kills, hitting percentage, blocks and digs, but Texas Tech was not fazed by Kansas State’s 2-1 lead, and a strong fourth set and an early lead in the fifth helped the Red Raiders put the match away.
Senior Bryna Vogel had her 30th career double-double with 12 kills and 29 digs. Teammates Kylee Zumach, Brynn Carlson, and Peyton Williams also had double-digit kills, and six players have at least six kills on the day.
Up next, the team is back at Ahearn Field House on Wednesday night to take on Texas. First serve is at 8 PM, and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.