Saturday night, an amazing, wonderful, magical, even mesmerizing event occurred:
A college football game kicked off, live on television.
Of course, the wonderment wore off quickly, as Central Arkansas and Austin Peay demonstrated, perhaps, the effect of a shortened fall camp in which players aren’t always present due to quarantine. By the standards of two FCS playoff teams, it was not a good football game.
Aside from any ancillary effects, COVID-19 may have directly impacted the outcome of the contest. The Governors dominated much of the game but had one glaring weakness: their starting long snapper sitting at home back in Clarksville, unable to make the trip.
The end result of that was three horrible snaps in punting situations. That forced Austin Peay’s quarterback, Jeremiah Oatsvall, to spend over half the game pooch kicking on fourth down instead of having the Governor’s punter actually punt.
The last of the bad snaps directly led to the Bears finally getting on the board near the end of the first half, and what on paper should have been a commanding Austin Peay lead ended up only being a 10-6 advantage. The failure to execute and capitalize very likely determined the ultimate result, as Central Arkansas went into the closing minutes with a 16-10 lead. The Governors put together a touchdown drive to go up 17-16, but the Bears responded with a one-minute drive to recapture the lead and went on to win 24-17.
In a different world without COVID, maybe Austin Peay is trying to kill off the final four minutes of clock instead of trying to score a go-ahead touchdown.
The point of all this is that this season, to the extent it proceeds going forward, is going to be wildly unpredictable. Things we think we know about these teams will almost certainly be undone on a weekly basis based on medical testing. Four weeks from now, Kansas State visits Oklahoma. We have a good idea what’s going to happen if K-State is missing important contributors while Oklahoma is relatively unscathed. But what if Oklahoma is missing players while K-State gets lucky?
If you’ve wondered why we’ve been relatively silent as far as attempting to preview what we expect this fall or project the starting lineups, this is a huge reason why. Anything we say is likely to be undone at any moment.
In other news:
Highly-touted commit Andrew Leingang also played some football on ESPN2 this weekend, as the Bismarck (N.D.) Century Patriots escaped with a 37-29 win over local enemies Bismarck Legacy. Leingang, whose presence was the reason ESPN2 chose this game (so they get a moratorium on accusations of disrespect), stood out on both sides of the ball, and impressed fans from other schools who are now very, very mad that he’s coming here.
At the Mercury, Ryan Black reports on Chris Klieman’s non-committal opinion regarding the NCAA granting an eligibility freeze for all fall sport athletes. The end result for us here may well be year six of the Skylar Thompson Experience; if he returns for 2021 he’d be the first four-year starter at quarterback in Manhattan since, well, the dawn of time.
Austin Siegel recounts the very first Big 12 contest ever, K-State’s 21-14 win over Texas Tech in Manhattan back in 1996, in today’s Sports Extra. It’s a good longform, checking in with folks like Brian Kavanaugh and Kevin Lockett, so give it a whirl.