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SLATE: Kansas State’s a shambles, John Gagliardi’s dead, but at least Mike Stoops got fired

It’s a no news day, which means your benevolent despot is just going to rant.

Sympathy from the Konza may be hard to come by.
Sympathy from the Konza may be hard to come by.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It’s one of those days, dear readers, when your benevolent despot steps out of the third person I normally utilize. That’s because there’s no actual news, and I didn’t write the post-game this Saturday (thanks to a storm and Public Service Company of Oklahoma).

Before I commence ranting, let’s first toss one back in memory of one of the game’s true legends. On 638 fall weekends over 64 years, John Gagliardi led a football team out onto the field. The first four years, 31 of those occasions, came at Carroll College in Helena, Montana; the final 60 were as the head coach of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Gagliardi’s team won 489 of those games, 30 conference titles, and four national championships — two each in the NAIA and in NCAA Division III.

Gagliardi, who eschewed tackling during practice and insisted his players simply call him “John”, died Sunday morning at the age of 91. The winningest football coach in college football history leaves a massive legacy behind him. How impactful was he? Even the folks at St. Thomas, the Johnnies’ eternal arch-rival, were effusive in their praise:

Dennis Brackin at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune offers a local obituary, while I’d be remiss to not also include the reminiscence of Pat Coleman, publisher of and a Minnesotan himself.

Obviously, coaches at non-scholarship programs which don’t trip the national radar can tend to be more eccentric than their peers at larger schools, just as college coaches period can be more eccentric than NFL coaches. As the stakes are reduced, publicly anyway, there’s more room for being distinctive.

But Gagliardi was truly unique even among his Division III peers. We will probably never see his like again.

And that’s a shame.

Later yesterday, as evening blurred into night, “OU insider” and radio personality James Hale reported that sources were telling him Mike Stoops had been fired by the Oklahoma. He wasn’t wrong.

Sooner fans had been calling for Stoops’ head... well, for a long time if we’re honest, but the game-winning field goal by Cameron Dicker sent the Land Thieves into a feeding frenzy. Sunday night, they got their wish.

Ruffin McNeill, formerly Lincoln Riley’s boss at East Carolina, will take over as defensive coordinator for now.

Of course, here at BotC we can’t help but snicker quietly. Those of us who actually remember 1998 blame Mike Stoops for a lack of preparation prior to the Big 12 Championship Game, which took place right after Bob Stoops took over at Oklahoma and hired away half of Bill Snyder’s defensive staff. There’s no love lost here, and not a lot of sympathy to be had.

Which brings us to K-State‘s debacle on Saturday against Baylor. There was so much to be said Saturday night that I wasn’t able to because I’d missed much of the fourth quarter.

For five weeks, I’ve been praising the defense for doing a lot of the little things right. There were problems, to be sure, but they weren’t beating themselves. The only real issues were athleticism at linebacker and a seeming lack of ability to get a push at the line of scrimmage.

The latter problem was not a problem on Saturday, although an old K-State problem — an inability to tackle people — did rear its ugly head. But the defensive line was in Charlie Brewer’s grill all afternoon, recording a season-high four sacks, generating a ton of hurries, and helping to cause two interceptions. Lost in the wake of Baylor’s 557 yards of total offense — a number which looks really bad on the face of it — was the fact that it took Baylor an absurd 93 offensive plays to amass that yardage.

That’s only six yards a play. Not great, but acceptable, especially when you consider that if Baylor had only run 61 plays, they’d only have posted 366 yards of offense. Why 61? Because K-State only ran 61 plays and racked up 468 yards of offense, a 7.7 per clip.

And yet... despite that, the offense still failed. That massive per-play average was bolstered by four rushes for 34 or more yards. Not that we’re complaining about that, mind you. But if you take away the four utter failures of containment on the part of the Baylor defense, you take away 189 yards, and K-State is left with 279 yards on 57 plays — only 4.89 yards per snap.

Two sure touchdowns were dropped. Skylar Thompson over- or under-threw a bunch of guys. The final play of the game should be remixed with Yakety Sax as the score.

The defense did fail at the end, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, they played a game and a half yesterday. Reggie Walker should be running stairs for a couple of hours a day this week, as a bone-headed choice on his part extended Baylor’s final drive (and deprived K-State of his services for the first half of next week’s game).

That wasn’t all that went wrong; the special teams were horrible, too. Part of that is the injury to Blake Lynch, about which little can be done.

One thing which will unfairly be laid at the feet of Sean Snyder shouldn’t be, though: the fumble by Isaiah Zuber on the opening kickoff of the second half was a decisive momentum-changer. Of course, it wasn’t a fumble at all. I direct you to the NCAA rulebook, Rule 4, Article 3, Section b:

A live ball becomes dead and an official shall sound his whistle or declare it dead:

When any part of the ball carrier’s body, except his hand or foot, touches the ground or when the ball carrier is tackled or otherwise falls and loses possession of the ball as he contacts the ground with any part of his body, except his hand or foot.

It’s patently clear on the replay that the ball came loose when Zuber’s forearm hit the ground. Perhaps one can argue that it wasn’t his full forearm, meaning “not his elbow”, but here’s the catch: the wrist is not considered the hand. The ball was atop Zuber’s hand. At the very worst, it came loose when his wrist hit the ground.

It’s within the realm of possibility that if the play had been ruled a fumble on the field, it would have been upheld. But given the video evidence at hand, overturning the field call of “not a fumble” was absurd, inexcusable, and worthy of an apology from someone in Dallas.

Last Saturday was a condemnation of the coaching staff. This week was a condemnation of the talent on the field, which simply isn’t what we thought it would be. I don’t think the coaches failed in Waco. The offense was dynamic and showed some creativity, and the defensive scheming was essentially sound.

They just didn’t tackle worth a hoot, and that was a major disappointment after their efforts earlier in the season.

That said, some guys are absolutely worthy of individual praise after Saturday’s loss. Alex Barnes, who is now one of only three Big 12 running backs averaging over 100 yards per game. Eli Walker, who is single-handedly trying to hold the defense together and looking like a great big star in the making. Zuber, who isn’t the deep threat he really needs to be but always seems to be there to catch a 10-yard pass when needed. And Justin Hughes, stepping into the breach within a decimated linebacking corp, who quietly had a really solid game aside from a very poorly-conceived route to try and get to Charlie Brewer on his second-quarter touchdown run which gave Baylor the lead.

At 2-4, it’s a long hard road for the Cats to keep playing into December. It may not happen now. Saturday was a must-win in a lot of respects, but if — if — K-State learned something and can bounce back at home against Oklahoma State this week, maybe they can rebound.

I’m just not optimistic.