Monday, December 3, 2012

16 Goals & a Big XII Championship

In the spring of 2011, I still remember my father telling me, "If Collin Klein is our quarterback, we are in big trouble." I don't mean that as a knock on my dad- in fact, I agreed with him, as did many others. I just use it to illustrate how we all felt- and really how we felt about the team going into the season.

Goal 4: Improve- every day as a player, person, and student

Flashforward to the end of 2011. K-State went 10-3, winning an astounding 8 games by a touchdown or less, causing many to think, "hey, we were pretty lucky this year. Next year may be different as a result, but let's enjoy this while it lasts." Even looking at the 2012 schedule, it looked like a monumental task to even get close to those 10 wins again. Road game vs OU to start, road games vs BigXII newcomers and highly-ranked TCU & West Virginia. Improved Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Texas teams. I thought 8-4 was possible, 9-3 at best, as did most.

Goal 2: Unity- come together as never before

Something happened during the year though, that may have tipped us off to the coming success of 2012. I'm talking about Snyder's 16 goals. Those goals have been around since Snyder took over in 1988. They're what he lived by and was his teams lived by as they skyrocketed up the polls, all the way to a #1 ranking in 1998. Their continued success was a direct result. The only problem was that no one knew about them. K-Staters hardly knew about them. When they were made quite public in 2011, however, it did something to K-State that I hadn't seen before- it clearly defined them. K-State had always had an identity, sure. They lived off of non-offensive touchdowns (most in FBS since 1999). They ran a new-to-the-day option offense where the quarterback had way more room to run or pass than ever before. And their defense played smash-mouth, blitz-every-down football. But as talent and assistants changed, so did the success of those pieces of identity. The 16 goals, however, were and are unchangeable. K-State could keep them even after Snyder retires. They clearly define K-State.

Goal 1: Commitment - to goals and being successful

Even more than the 16 goals becoming public, they had a senior class that clearly lived by them. Collin Klein could rattle them off in order, out of order, by number, all in a matter of seconds if you wanted them too. They clearly defined him. Arthur Brown, even if he didn't speak much, clearly lived by them, always slipping one in during the few interviews that he did. They clearly defined him. This more than anything, showed how successful this team was going to be, even if it didn't mean wins. They were going to be successful in life, and as always, that is what great coaches like Snyder are much more concerned with teaching about anyway. I teach Biology at the high school level, and we always talk about how FORM fits FUNCTION. One thing is shaped that way SO THAT it will perform its particular function. It can't do anything else and it wasn't made to do anything else- you can't have one without the other. They form and function of life are intertwined. Just as Snyder's 16 goals are intertwined with success in life and football. This team was successful on the football field BECAUSE they bought into the 16 goals- you can't buy into the 16 goals and not be successful- you can't have one without the other. And K-State proved it on the football field.

Goal 6: Self-discipline- do right, and don't accept less

To belabor the point just a bit more, this wasn't even the most talented team K-State ever fielded. Sure, we have a battering ram for a QB who has improved his passing greatly, but has nowhere near the athletic ability of Michael Bishop or Ell Roberson. We have a solid running back in Hubert, but he is certainly no Darren Sproles. Few if any of these offensive lineman will go pro (and we've had plenty) and the same goes for the defensive line. Arthur is great, sure, but he and his surrounding linebackers are nowhere near the talents of the time when Jeff Kelly and Mark Simoneau lined up together or even Josh Buhl and Terry Pierce. And don't even get me started on how much better Terrance Newman is than anyone playing defensive back for K-State right now. Understand, I'm not trying to knock these guys- just showing how much buying into the 16 goals has really meant to a group that may not stack up athletically that also have 11 wins in K-State's past.

Goal 14: Consistency- your very, very best every time

And as if buying in and all that weren't enough, they performed amazingly throughout one of the toughest leagues in college football history. 90% of this league is bowl eligible- the highest in college football history. 80% of this league has 7 or more wins- the highest in college football history. The Big XII was the deepest league ever and Kansas State University is the champion of that league. Let that sink in for a minute. I saw this on the message boards some and agree- this team is better than 2003. Not athletically, perhaps, but emotionally, mentally, and consistently this team was better. The 2003 team played an amazing game against OU in that championship game, but nothing compares to doing so consistently throughout the season.

Goal 13: Expect to win- and truly believe we will

Finally, the buying in this team has done has made them better that the 1998 team as well- making them the best team in K-State history. The 1998 team went 11-0, one better than this one. They were consistent and beat down on teams just as much as they've done in 2012. The results, however, were different. And I barely even want to mention the 1998 championship game. Not because of how painful it was to lose the first and possibly only real shot at a national championship, but because I want to talk about what happened afterwards. The 1998 team wasn't able to bounce back from losing their national title hopes to Texas A&M in double overtime of the BigXII championship. They lost to Purdue in the Alamo Bowl, who was led by a young Drew Brees. However, after losing to Baylor by 4 touchdowns, this 2012 team WAS able to bounce back- and sometimes, that can be the most difficult thing in sports. Losing to Baylor but still coming back to Manhattan to beat Texas to win the BigXII championship is the greatest thing Snyder and his cats have ever done. Sure, Texas is a bit down, but they were ahead 10-7 at half and looked as if McCoy might just be their quarterback of the future. But K-State settled down and finally played to their potential, winning only their second BigXII Championship and winning 11 games for the first time since 2003. And you never know- perhaps a 12th win (it would be the most in K-State history) is in store. And it's because they bought into Snyder's 16 Goals.

Goal 12: No self-limitations- expect more of yourself

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Frank Martin Means to Me

First, to get some perspective. There are worse things in the world going on than the Frank Martin Saga. There are people who hate each other more than Frank and John Currie dislike each other. Nobody's life is going to be ruined if Frank leaves. Nobody's life is going to be ruined if he stays. No one is going to jail, going to die, or be tortured because of this decision. In the grand scheme of things, this really matters diddly.

However, most of what I read, write, and talk about matters diddly in the grand scheme of things as well. Probably even less than diddly, since it matters less what I think about this than maybe anyone else. I have never met Frank Martin and probably never will. He has no clue who I am and probably never will. We have very little in common. He is a father, basketball coach, gets paid millions of dollars, while I am none of these things. I am just getting started in my life, making little impact on those around me, while Frank matters to tens if not hundreds of thousands of people, as evinced by Twitter this afternoon. Nevertheless, we do share something that matters to me (again, as insignificant as that is and as I am)- we both have loved being a part of the K-State family, and that, to me at least, means a bit more than diddly.

"About six years ago I interviewed for a job. Their average attendance was 127 people," Martin said. "There's a lot of jobs like that out there. I am blessed. I'm fortunate I got my first opportunity at such an incredible place."

When I was preparing to come to K-State, I had a high school teacher tell me we were about to experience the "Golden Years" of K-State sports - a new, young and energetic football coach (Ron Prince) and a proven, battle-tested, hard-nose basketball coach (Bob Huggins). Needless to say, neither of those worked out, but what I appreciated about Huggins, and about what we all still appreciate, was his willingness to come here in the first place, to leave it better than he found it, and to put K-State back on the map, if only for a short time. He left us with something K-Staters hadn't known in their basketball program for a long time - hope.

I had actually never experienced such a sensation when it came to K-State basketball, as I had been a K-State fan my entire life and only seen K-State beat KU once and only make the NCAA tournament when I was too small to remember. My hopes were crushed by Huggins leaving but soon revitalized by this assistant Huggins left us named Frank Martin. Unproven, but with a highly-touted recruiting class, we really didn't know what to expect. But Beasley and company gratified everyone with the greatest season for any one player in K-State history, beat KU in Bramlage for the first time ever (yes, I cried) and its first NCAA tournament win since the early 90s. The next year Beasley and Walker left and we were ready to see what Frank could do without them. An NIT bid wasn't much, but it was still more than we were used to, and then Frank really showed everyone with a NCAA tourney 2seed and an Elite Eight appearance - the first since 1988. Two years later and K-State has had two more NCAA victories, with varying degrees of success of course.

And through it all, I was there with so many K-Staters supporting, cheering, applauding, and most of all, hoping. To come back into perspective, this kind of hope is minimal compared to the hoping over hoping to get a job, hoping to find love, hoping to be successful, hoping to be happy. I had no control over this hope. Yet hope it remained. Hope that I was going to be there when K-State got back to the Final Four for the first time since the 1960s. Hope that K-State (or anyone, really) was going to finish ahead of KU in the Big XII standings. Hope that a coach would find love and peace and happiness in the same place I did - Manhattan, Kansas. Hope that maybe K-State mattered to more people than just the ones that grew up loving it like I did.

That last hope most certainly came true. During K-State's Elite Eight run, ESPN couldn't get enough of K-State and Frank's antics. Jacob Pullen, who became K-State's all-time leading scorer under Frank, kissed the court when he left Bramlage Coliseum for the last time. Frank continued to show that he wasn't just coaching these kids, he was preparing them for life, a life that would be full of future potential but also a life to remember where they came from and what made them who they were - Kansas State University.

"He came in as a freshman who thought he was the third pick of the NBA draft and he's getting ready to walk out with a college degree, as a man who is ready for life. And I don't get to coach him anymore. That's not fun." - Frank on how he had prepared Jamar Samuels, and about how he would miss him as a player.

Kansas State University, as the place my great-grandfather got a degree, the place my parents both got their degrees, as the team I rooted for as a little kid and as an adult still do, and as the place that I got my degree, matters a great deal to me. Sports matter a great deal to me, what they can do in the lives of young men and women who play and who watch. Frank Martin matters to me, for what he's done for K-State, for sports in general, for these young men he's coached, and for the HOPE that he's given all of us that things can always get better.

So no matter where Frank goes, I'll support him. He's earned that from us, for what he's done. It's his life, his decision, no one can make it save for him. Of course, I HOPE he picks one decision over the other, for whatever that's worth....

"Remember- hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." -The Shawshank Redemption

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bowl Recap & More Basketball

Okay, I know it's been awhile and everyone's moved on to basketball, but just a recap of my thoughts on the Cotton Bowl.

Get defensive stops: Absolutely yes. The defense was the only reason K-State was in this game. It might have even been the greatest defensive game of the season for K-State, holding the SEC's best offense almost 200 yards below their average and containing the SEC's best quarterback to one of his lowest outputs of the entire season. This is great news for next year, especially because leaders Arthur Brown, Ty Zimmerman, and Nigel Malone are all coming back. The bad news is Emmanuel Lamur, Tysyn Hartman, and Ray Kibble are all gone, though K-State has guys waiting to step in that should fill in all right. One of the biggest stories there is that highly recruited juco QB Justin Tuggle is making the switch to Linebacker, where he could make an immediate impact solely based on his athleticism. So look out for that next year.

Open up the playbook: Not really. I didn't see anything I hadn't seen before, though trying a flea flicker and reverse early in the game was a nice change of pace that just barely failed to work. The early offensive struggles (that were partly as a result of a few penalties that were questionable at best) was what put K-State in a hole here. They were unable to make up for that lost time, though in the second half they looked just as inept save on the opening drive of the half that looked like the K-State team we've been so used to seeing this year. Again, there is good news here because this offense that took advantage of every opportunity throughout the season is mostly back next year. Collin Klein may not put up the same numbers, but his decision making will only get better, and the same goes for John Hubert. Chris Harper is back, and don't forget about Freshman All-American Tyler Lockett who didn't finish the season because of an injury. Again, the future is bright.

Dominate on special teams: Absolutely not. This is where K-State lost this game no question. Arkansas dominated all day with field position and even had a punt return for a touchdown that really got their game going (again some questionable no-calls were made on this return, but them's the breaks. And K-State's been getting them all season, so maybe it was just time our luck ran out.) Once again, look for special teams to be even better next year with punter, kicker, and kick returners coming back next year.

So that's pretty much it for the game. I enjoyed Dallas/Arlington/Ft. Worth and I think most other K-State fans did too. The Arkansas fans were as nice as could be, as is my experience with other SEC fans, who are the very definition of southern hospitality (here's another area where Missouri does not fit the SEC resume haha). I was disappointed in the loss of course, but the fact that this team won 10 games is still amazing to me. The only thing I dislike about having a successful season like this is that it sets the bar pretty high for next year. Granted, O-State and Baylor lost their extremely talented QBs and overall the Big 12 is a big question mark for next year, but TCU and West Virginia are way better than A&M or Missouri, so that only makes the schedule tougher. Non-conference wise, K-State plays a couple of cupcakes at home (North Texas and Missouri State I believe) and then welcomes Miami to Manhattan for the return trip of a one-and-one. Again, if K-State wants to have another bowl appearance, it starts with that big game, just as it did next year. So look for that and much more next year. I'm excited.

Speaking of excited, this basketball season is yet another roller-coaster year in the tenure of Frank Martin. I wrote earlier about how K-State need to avoid the dreaded 0-4 start to Big 12 play. I also wrote about how they had a chance to win in Lawrence, but obviously I'd forgotten about how terribly every K-State team in my entire life has played in Lawrence. So yeah, forget about that. But then K-State beat undefeated Missouri and were up against Baylor until the very end. And of course I made the mistake of going to Norman expecting to beat Oklahoma. (Going to Norman wasn't a mistake - I had a lovely time with old friends named Tricia, Porter, Tumbleson and Billy and a new friend named Bobo - but expecting them to win was a mistake.) Lon Kruger had his team ready and K-State was obviously not ready. Or maybe it was Frank, who refused to play Angel or Diaz while JO and Martavious played sparingly all because of mistakes they'd been making in game and practice. The little they played and the minutes that Southwell, Victor, and Nino put in were the reasons for this loss. K-State couldn't stop OU from scoring and the only reliable scorer for K-State was Rodney, and Lord knows he tried, but there just wasn't enough he could do. K-State fell to 1-3 and all of a sudden there was a problem where there really hadn't been one. Sure, they'd made mistakes down the stretch that cost them against Baylor, but Baylor is a great team and losing that game was no shame. Frank created that problem, Frank made himself the focus of the team instead of the players, and once again I'm reminded of something I wrote about how basketball seasons reflect the posters for that season. Well look who's on this poster.

But then the Texas game came. And of course, #WeSTILLownTexas. And then K-State went to Stillwater and won for the first time there since 1993. And just yesterday K-State played the worst Big 12 basketball team I think I've ever seen in Texas Tech. Seriously, they have nobody. There was a stretch of time that K-State couldn't stop Texas Tech from getting the ball - TT got rebound after rebound, put-back after put-back, and yet nothing went in. K-State got the ball back and the score was unaltered. It was awful. K-State hasn't played particularly well on offense over these last couple of games, but that will need to change this weekend for the rematch with Oklahoma.

DO NOT LET OKLAHOMA BECOME THIS YEAR'S COLORADO. Last year we were a decent team but for whatever reason could not beat barely-better-than-mediocre Colorado. Sure, Colorado had a lot more talent than OU has this year. But OU has Lon Kruger for a coach and certainly has more talent than Texas Tech. They just need to be prepared. And key contributers Will and Angel have got to get off to better starts. We'll see if Angel or Diaz or JO or Martavious can make a bigger impact than last game against OU, or if OU truly has our number like Colorado did last year. I sure hope not. K-State needs to take advantage of games like this before difficult games like at Iowa State and at Texas really test them. Or obviously difficult road games against Baylor and Missouri and of course the home rematch with KU. It's gonna be a fun rest of the season, but trip up in the winnable games too much and it's going to cost them a tournament berth.

I also wrote last time about how the women always deliver an upset or two and sure enough, they delivered in their first Big12 game, knocking off defending national champion Texas A&M. The girls even went on to go 4-0 in the conference, beating a decent KU team on the road and a ranked Texas Tech team on the road. Then they came home and lost a winnable game to OU (sound familiar?), got drubbed by undefeated #1 Baylor and lost another winnable game at home to Iowa State. The girls struggle with depth, and when teams like Baylor and Iowa State take away K-State's best player in Brittany Chambers, the girls are in trouble. They play good defense most of the time, but when the scoring dries up they have to work even harder, and with few subs to give them rest it can turn ugly quickly. I still have faith they'll get a few more wins and may even make it to the tournament, but it's going to be close.

So that's all my K-State thoughts for now. I may write another Best Picture post later as the Academy Awards are coming up, but until then.... Go Cats!


Friday, December 30, 2011

Bowl Prep, BCS Boycott, and Basketball

I know it was a long time ago, but first I want to do a quick recap of the Iowa State game.

Respect Barnett, forcing him into mistakes: Mostly true. Kept him to 150 pass yards and only 50 rush yards, with only one TD - a passing TD. He only made one mistake, but it came at an important time in the 3rd quarter when the great Ralph Guidry made a great diving interception. K-State turned it into a fg to go up 7pts.

Use Klein to all of his potential, mixing up the playbook: Not really. He only threw 15 passes, and while he completed 7 of them for 150 yards, one play took up 68 yards of that when he hit Tremaine Thompson for K-State's first TD of the game. Klein was also stopped after three attempts at the one-yard line for the first time all season, which probably means Braden Wilson didn't jam him in the back like he did against A&M for the winning TD.

Give the seniors a proper send-off: What better way of doing this than winning yet another close game? Hubert really delivered in this game, scoring the winning TD on a magnificent 26yard TD run to cap off a 120yard day, and dedicated it to the senior afterwards, as he should have. Ralph Guidry also proved how much he'll be missed with yet ANOTHER blocked extra point as well as an INT. He was hurt late in the game but walked all the way around the stadium to shake hands with the fans and all reports are good for his playing in the upcoming bowl.

My bonus one was to make it not gut-wrenching for my final game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium as a student, but obviously that didn't happen. I'll definitely take the win, though, and I look forward to seeing many more in the stands as an alumnus!

So that pretty well summarizes what we got out of that game I think. The defense has continued to improve, especially against the pass. Klein and the offense struggled a bit more than usual, but Iowa State has a decent defense that held Oklahoma State to their point-low of the season so that's not all bad. Hubert showed flashes of brilliance in breaking tackles and a Sproles-like spin move yet again and firmly established himself as the starting RB for next season. But first, on to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl against the Arkansas Razorbacks!

First a comment on the bowl selection, which I've already tweeted some about but will say here again. I am indeed disappointed we're not going to the Sugar Bowl, as we very well could have. Selecting Virginia Tech was not only a slap in the face to K-State, but to the Big 12 as a whole. The Big 12, ranked the second best conference by far in both computers and human polls, only got one team into the BCS. Meanwhile, the ACC, Big 10, and Pac-12 all got two teams in. From the Big 10, Michigan didn't even play in their conference championship and was ranked a full 5 BCS spots below K-State. From the ACC, Virginia Tech got creamed by 30 points in their conference championship and was ranked 3 spots below K-State. From the Pac-12, even though Stanford didn't play in their conference championship, they only lost one game and were automatically invited as they were ranked 4th in the BCS. But the Sugar bowl taking Michigan AND Virginia Tech is just ridiculous. I would've been okay with one of those teams plus maybe Boise, who's ranked above K-State and was also BCS-snubbed. But the BCS continues to show how inept they are, especially since they cited Virginia Tech's name and fan support as reasons they chose them and up till now K-State has sold more tickets to the Cotton Bowl. Good move guys. Oh yeah and that isn't even mentioning their farce of a National Championship. If LSU wins, well we already knew they were better than Alabama. If Alabama wins, we settle nothing since LSU split with them. I'm so sick of the "best two teams" argument. How can you possibly say with absolute certainty that Alabama is better than Oklahoma State? O-State only lost to Iowa State in a heated road game in two overtimes the day after the tragic deaths of the girls' basketball coach at O-State. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, so I'll stop with this: join me in boycotting watching the game and show the BCS just what a huge mistake they've made.

This all being said, I am still happy with the bowl selection. The Cotton Bowl doesn't have to pick the team in the Big 12 with the second best record. They could have taken Baylor over us, they could have taken Oklahoma over us. We could have ended up in the Alamo Bowl (which was a fantastic game and fantastic travel site, so I wouldn't have been that upset) or the Insight Bowl (which I would have been extremely UNhappy about). However, the Cotton Bowl made the right choice and now we all get to manage getting to a January 6th bowl game in one of the coolest and most expensive stadiums ever built. AND we get to play an SEC team, the only SEC-Big12 matchup of the bowl season on a day where there are no other bowl games on a network where there are no other bowl games. Talk about great exposure. The opponent, however, is another one that's going to cause K-State some trouble.

Arkansas' passing game isn't quite to the level of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, or Baylor, as they are all in the top-10, but Arkansas is ranked 13th so... yeah, they're still pretty much the same. They don't have a very good rushing attack, ranked 80th, so expect another game like the ones against the four previously-mentioned Big 12 schools. The difference in Arkansas on offense from the previous schools, besides being a little less potent, is that they have turned over the ball far less than any of them. Taylor Wilson is efficient as they come and has only thrown 6 interceptions, which is less than Heisman-trophy winning RG3. K-State beat Tech and Baylor and kept it close against O-State with turnovers. Don't expect that kind of luck with Arkansas, though you never know with this ball hungry K-State defense. Nevertheless, they will need to get stops. Get to the quarterback, don't let them get anything going on the ground, and play some man-to-man pass coverage for the love of God. On the other side of the ball, there is better news. Arkansas ranks 80th against the run and 26th against the pass. Klein and Hubert should be chomping at the bit. While they may put 7-8 in the box and dare K-State to throw against Arkansas' athletic and talented secondary, I think K-State can handle that with some creative play-calling, out-screens, maybe some jump-passes, and as we've already seen this bowl season, maybe even some trick plays. All the chips are down in a bowl game and you aren't trying to hide anything. That's extremely good news for Snyder and the cats. Also good news is that Arkansas doesn't force too many turnovers. Not that K-State ever turns the ball over much, but it's comforting to know that Arkansas really doesn't have too many play-makers on defense that we should be too worried about. On special teams, Arkansas has a Tyler Lockett-type player in that he's a freshman WR with a top-15 return average and one kickoff returned for a TD. K-State's kick coverage has been pretty solid all season, but they looked a little lax against Iowa State so they have to be on top of their game, always paying attention. It'll be nice to have Ralph in there for some blocked kicks on Arkansas' average kicker, and Cantele for K-State has been solid lately, hitting all three of his important kicks against Iowa State. So let's keep those things going.

Again, this game is going to be a lot like those games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor - great offenses with little talent on defense. And in all those games, the offense was able to take advantage of those disabilities on defense while the defense did their part in forcing a few key turnovers and the special teams played solidly. In order to do those things I believe we must do the following:

Get defensive stops - I know this is pretty basic, but this isn't something K-State has done for much of the season. This game, for once, will not be about turnovers because no one's going to turn the ball over much. Stops can be punts or even field goals, but you have to keep them out of the end zone as much as possible.

Open up the playbook - I know I say this every week, but it's now or never for this team. You have GOT to open up the playbook in a bowl game. Pull out all the stops, throw down the gauntlet, all those cliches. Honey Badger don't care.

Dominate on special teams - Tyler Lockett won't be available for this game, but the kickoff returns have been solid without him and they need to stay that way. Same goes for kick coverage and Cantele kicking his field goals. A Ralph block would be stupendous as well. Stay confident, boys, cause you're just as important as the offense and defense.

So I know up till now this blog has been all about football, but wouldn't you know it - K-State plays lots of other sports and first of all I want to mention volleyball. Hell of a win at Nebraska (first time ever Nebraska has lost at home in the NCAA tournament). No seniors on a team that won close to 20 games and went to the sweet 16. Could be another great year next year. Next is another sport close to my heart - girls' basketball. Every year they look like they have very little talent and may just lose every game. And every year they surprise people. While they've sustained their fair share of unfortunate losses, they've also beat Iowa and Northwestern, giving us all hope for another fun season. The Big 12 schedule is a bear having to play everyone twice, especially because 4 wins came against two teams that have left since last year, but you just never know with these girls. Jalaina Childs and Brittany Chambers have been brilliant as always and I sure hope they stay that way. Finally, we have men's basketball. Already they're having a football-esque season. I tweeted earlier this year that they look like they've inherited some of the football teams' "nevergiveupiness" - as Eric Stonestreet so eloquently put it. Playing in their biggest game of the season, they gave up a late lead and lost to West Virginia in 2 overtimes in Wichita. It was a great game and I thought they played pretty well - they were one play away from winning. The next game seemed a bit of a let-down, taking overtime to beat North Florida. And it gave us all concern since the next game was again against the best team they'd have played so far - Alabama. The first half was a brawl but the second half was some truly beautiful basketball - perhaps the best team basketball any of Frank's teams have ever played. And they have played this beautiful team basketball every game since - winning a championship trophy in Hawaii in the process. This team is a long way off from as good as they can be or as good as previous K-State teams, especially because the conference is looking more daunting than ever. After a final tune-up against Howard, the conference schedule begins with KU in Lawrence, undefeated Missouri in Manhattan, undefeated Baylor in Manhattan, and 9-2 Oklahoma in Norman. Quadruple yikes. With the way this team is playing, 2-2 over that stretch would be magnificent. 1-3 would perhaps even be acceptable. But you have got to avoid the dreaded 0-4 start. I don't think it'll happen, and they should of course take it a game at a time, but man is it scary. Although, one of the best chances they have to win is in Lawrence, surprisingly. KU is somewhat down, though K-State has played horribly in Lawrence lately. If the basketball team really wants to show off how surprising they are, just as the football team, they'll have to learn to take advantage of every weakness of the opponent, just as the football team did, and this KU team has more of them than previous KU teams. But we will see.

So there it is. Bowl Prep, BCS Boycott, and Basketball. Hope you've enjoyed the first blog post in a while. I'll be back after visiting Dallas and watching my cats. As always, thanks for reading.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ugliest Win Yet

Keep Klein passing to keep him running: Well we certainly passed the ball a lot, just not enough/not effectively enough to open up any kind of room for Klein, save his one touchdown run.
Get pressure on the Texas QB: Yes. This was a great improvement, the greatest of the game actually. Ash was pressured into 2 int's and McCoy couldn't handle the pressure on the last two drives when he was trying to bring Texas back.
Keep the crowd out of it: Not so much. 100,000 fans were on attendance, the most to ever see a K-State football game, and they were into it from the beginning, mostly thanks to their defense.

So that's one check out of my 3, but really there was probably only two things K-State did consistently well the entire night: get pressure on the quarterback, and stop the run. Those are both on defense. The offense did virtually nothing to gain praise, but once again it did just enough, mostly thanks to good field position from a couple of Texas turnovers, to win another squeaker 17-13 over the Texas Longhorns.

The offense was just bad. 121 yards over the entire game is just awful. 8 first downs? Yuck. 38 rushing yards on 39 carries. Yikes. Klein came in averaging 100 yards per game - he finished with 4. He still needs 25 to break the K-State quarterback record for rushing yards held by Ell Roberson. He did still get his one touchdown rushing, getting him closer to the all-time NCAA record for rushing TDs by a QB as well as Ricky Williams' Big XII rushing touchdown record, but K-State will need to play a lot better than that if they want to help him break those records in a couple of weeks. On to this week's game though.

From the very beginning, we could tell what kind of game this was going to be. K-State stops Texas. K-State goes 3-and-out. K-State is once again sparked by a turnover, this time provided by an interception by Emmanuel Lamur. I'm not sure I quite agree with the playcalling here, with two handoffs to Hubert and an option play, eventually settling for a field goal. We have the greatest runner from inside the 5 in college football - JUST SNEAK HIM UP THE MIDDLE. And maybe he was too hurt or the Texas defensive line was too good - but at least try. Once. The defense again did a nice job bending but not breaking, getting K-State the ball back where they immediately went three-and-out. The slugfest continued after that, with Texas gaining a few first downs but held to a field goal and it looking to be a 3-3 game at halftime until K-State got another favorable call as they seem to be getting so much this season. Tremaine Thompson muffed a punt without being touched by a Texas player and they called Kick Catch Interference. Several people have pointed out that it did indeed look that way, with Tremaine sort of contorting his body and never really getting hold of the football, but nevertheless it was still a fortunate call. Not only because Texas would have had the ball deep in K-State territory, but also because it gave K-State the ball at the 50 - yet another great starting position. And as K-State has been so prone to do all season, they took advantage, but of course in the most heart-racing way possible. Facing 3rd and 14, Klein made a perfect pass to Sheldon Smith for 24 yards and a first down. A few plays later, there were only 13 seconds left and it was 3rd down, but threw another perfect pass, this one a back-shoulder to Harper for a touchdown. Seriously, if this kid could do these things on a regular basis and combine it with his ability to run, he could be one of the greatest quarterbacks in the country, and definitely one of the best K-State has ever had. Not that he isn't already ;)

The second half was more of the same, with K-State going three-and-out on their first possession and intercepting Ash on Texas' next drive, this time courtesy of Ty Zimmerman, who seems to love doing this to Texas (he had two in the game last year). K-State once again took advantage, starting at the Texas 37. Hubert had his best two runs of the day, picking up 6 and 12, until a pass interference penalty put K-State at the 2. Honey Badger finally took care of business just like we all knew he could do and klein'd it up the middle on a zone read for a touchdown. It looked like maybe they were finally finding some rhythm, up 17-3, and might run some clock the next time they had the ball, preserving another crazy win. But then in came the younger McCoy, as Mack Brown finally sat David Ash after 6 quarters of touchdown-less play. McCoy of course put us all on the edge of our seats as he brilliantly led Texas down the field for a touchdown and I thought we were doomed, especially after we went three-and-out AGAIN. The defense stepped up, though, and forced Texas into their own three-and-out. After showing some more life on offense but unable to keep it going, K-State punted again, and Texas drove again, saved by another late tackle by Nigel Malone (remember last week when Pearson saved the game by tackling the A&M player and A&M only got a field goal instead of a touchdown? Same thing here). They were all the way down to the 8 and I of course thought: "overtime again?" But alas, K-State only plays overtime against Texas A&M. Texas kicked the field goal after yet another brilliant red-zone stop by this K-State defense. That of course didn't stop everyone from worrying for the rest of the game, as K-State went three-and-out and allowed Texas to get to the 50. One of the plays of the game happened on fourth down, however, when Adam Davis sacked Case McCoy. It was HUGE. K-State gave the ball back of course, and the defense came through once again, essentially doing everything they could to win the game and K-State escaped 17-13.

So obviously the offense played poorly and the defense played great. But getting outgained 310-121 and still winning is still hard to do. So how did they do it? They didn't make mistakes. Texas turned the ball over twice - K-State never did. K-State was only flagged for 2 penalties for 10 yards. Despite the lack of skill and the poor scheming, K-State stayed disciplined, stuck to the game plan, and was rewarded for it. Snyder said after the game that perhaps we didn't deserve to win, but win we did, and it was because they stayed disciplined. And now a whole myriad of opportunities await these K-State Wildcats.

So who would have thought that after losing to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in consecutive weeks that we would still be alive for a Big XII Championship? Certainly not me. But that's exactly the situation K-State is in. Thanks to Iowa State's upset of O-State and Baylor's upset of OU, K-State could win their second ever Big XII trophy. If K-State beats Iowa State on December 3rd and Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, then we are technically Big XII Co-Champions, head-to-head record be damned. If we beat Iowa State, then we will have beaten one of the teams that beat O-State. And we have already beaten both teams that beat OU, so why not us too?

So what does that do for our bowl chances? Glad you asked. If this co-champions thing happens, there will obviously be no Big XII representative in the National Championship game. (If said game, by the way, is Alabama vs LSU, I refuse to watch. #BoycottBCS) So instead OU will go to the Fiesta Bowl, O-State probably the Cotton, and K-State the Alamo to face either Utah, UCLA, or Arizona State - whoever wins that division, since USC can't because of their suspension. I'm assuming that Oregon and Stanford will both be going to a BCS bowl, but I guess if they don't we may end up playing either one of those as well. Despite the fact that everyone would love a Big XII Championship trophy, our bowl destination would actually most likely be better if O-State wins to go 11-1 and make OU 9-3. This gives O-State the chance of still going to the National Championship, perhaps putting K-State in the Fiesta Bowl! There we would most likely play an at-large team, either Houston or Michigan depending on selection order/record. If O-State goes to the Fiesta Bowl and not the National Championship, I think K-State would still have a shot at a BCS at large bid, though not very likely. They would most likely go to the Cotton to play either Arkansas or Georgia, depending on what happens in that crazy conference. Regardless, bowl season is going to be fun. Also regardless, K-State must beat Iowa State in two weeks. So let's get to that.

I hope you all saw what Iowa State did to Oklahoma State because it's a very solid reminder that anyone can beat anyone else on any given Saturday... or Friday... Anyway, Iowa State is a solid team that has had great some great games. They hung with A&M for a while, beat a solid Iowa team in 3 overtimes, and drubbed Texas Tech in Lubbock. Their true freshman quarterback Jared Barnett is pretty amazing and does things dual-threat wise that scare a lot of teams. The defense must respect him as they did RG3. He's not quite that good, but allow him to run, let them open up the passing game, and he could put up similar numbers that RG3 put up. He's also young and a bit turnover prone himself- take advantage of that. Iowa State's defense is nothing to write home about, ranking in the 90s in rushing defense, passing defense, and total defense. They beat O-State by forcing 5 turnovers, one of which came in the second overtime and all but sealed the upset win. Hopefully Klein can get rested over these next two weeks (he apparently hasn't practiced in two weeks, making his performance against A&M the stuff of legend what he did against Texas no easy task either) and take advantage of maybe the worst defense since facing KU. We are going to need to put up more points than 17 in this one, and Klein has to be healthy to do that. Snyder also needs to take advantage of this extra week and maybe shake up the offense a bit. It was dangerously stagnant and predictable against Texas, something no team can afford to do, no matter who you're playing. So here we go: respect and defend Jared Barnett, forcing him into mistakes, use Klein to all of his potential, mixing up the playbook as much as possible, and finally- give the seniors a great sendoff (we will miss Ray Kibble, Emmanuel Lamur, David Garrett, Hanson, Aufner, Freeze, and yes even Tysyn Hartman). Oh and an extra one this week, just for me, who will be watching his last game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium as a student - could we please just win one game where my heart rate doesn't shoot through the roof in the fourth quarter/overtime? Thanks guys, appreciate it. EMAW

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One of the Greatest Games in K-State History

Same offensive firepower as last week: Not really. In regulation, the numbers were quite ordinary, racking up only 31 points and just over 350 yards offense. Klein did have over 200 yards passing, which was like last week, but Hubert and the run game was awful, amassing less than 100 yards, with Hubert only getting 33 of them, so I guess I'll go half-check.
Win the "hidden yardage" on special teams and defense: Nope. Giving up 21 points on 3 turnovers nearly cost us this one, even though Tremaine Thompson did a decent job filling in for the injured Tyler Lockett on special teams.
Change the defense if it's not working: Finally we saw some blitzes and man coverages. They didn't do much, but we did
limit A&M to less than 400 yards in regulation and Tannehill only had 210 yards passing, the lowest total for any opposing QB other than Jordan Webb of KU, and the two QBs we faced in the first two games. Pretty solid there.

If you haven't already, you should probably read my very first blog post entitled "K-State Football Doesn't Play Overtime." Obviously I was proven "wrong" last night, but I did end the blog by saying this: "I’m not saying that K-State will never play another overtime game, that’s just ridiculous." Part of that of course was covering my rear, but I did a good job of it don't you think? ;) But of course, here's another interesting note. K-State has now only ever played two overtime games, BOTH of them against Texas A&M. The first, if you were too lazy to read my blog post, was in the 1998 Big XII Championship Game. K-State was undefeated and if they won, they would have gone to the National Championship, a first for K-State and the ultimate unbelievable dream for a program that was deemed the worst in the history of college football just 10 short years earlier. K-State was up 15 in the 4th quarter but a fumble by one of the greatest QBs ever to wear purple, Michael Bishop, led to A&M eventually tying the game and going into overtime. They traded field goals in the first, K-State kicked a field goal in the second, and A&M scored a touchdown to seal it, winning 36-33. The second overtime game against A&M comes 13 years after the most heart-breaking loss in K-State history, and most of those who were on staff or in pads are of course gone by now. Many of the fans remember, however, and it was not far from many of their minds as Klein took a knee to send the game into extra periods. And of course Snyder was there. And what better way to finally excise that demon than to play an overtime game against that same school THE LAST TIME YOU EVER PLAY THEM. A&M is leaving for the SEC, in case you haven't heard, and this would be K-State's last chance to put the past behind them, even a past that was 13 years ago. I'm not saying that they never got over that game, or that game has haunted K-State ever since and that's why they haven't even been close to a national championship, or any of that silliness. I am saying that this team has never played overtime since, and what better way of doing it than in a 4-OT thriller against the same exact team, but with a much different result.

So usually what I do here is recap the game almost play-by-play. Well, I've gotten some complaints about that, so let's just bring up the important ones- mainly the ones where I thought the game was over, K-State would go home in disappointing fashion, and I would be sorely depressed. The first was when K-State was down 14-0 AGAIN in the second quarter. (Seriously, guys, I can't handle this many more times. Can we please play well in the first quarter for once?). A&M had the ball again and K-State had done little on offense, amassing only 23 total yards and one first down, as well as a fumble that led to an A&M touchdown. The defense had been better, forcing an A&M punt and missed field goal (which, as I look back on it now, was in fact HUGE). But they obviously couldn't keep doing it, as "bend but don't break" defenses usually "break" if they're on the field for too long- see the game against Oklahoma. A&M was driving and I just thought, "Well this has been a nice season, but I guess it's all finally caught up to us. I hope they don't beat us by too many points." But then a man who has sparked K-State so many times this year sparked them again: Nigel Malone picked off a poorly thrown Ryan Tannehill pass and K-State was in business. Klein ran it down the field as usual and K-State was only down 14-7. Another defensive stop and an incredible two-minute drive in which Klein did his best Eli Manning impression by avoiding the sack and throwing it down the field to our Travis Tannehill at the five and eventually a tie score at halftime. Ridiculous as usual.

Another time I thought we were going to give up the game was when we were driving, still tied, maybe going to take the lead, and Klein miscommunicated with his receiver and threw it right to A&M, which led to another touchdown. Again I thought, "The offense just isn't consistent enough. We can't keep coming back from these deficits." This time it was Klein and Harper that proved me wrong, connecting on a 54 yard pass that eventually led to another tie game.

After another defensive stop, K-State had the chance to take the lead again but turned it over again, this time on a John Hubert fumble. A&M scored quickly, and after another 3-and-out by K-State, A&M got the ball back, ready to put the game out of reach. And when Cyrus Gray broke off a 63 yard run to the five, I thought that's exactly what the game was: out of reach. But this was one of the biggest plays of the game, and it happened on interesting circumstances. Earlier, K-State safety Tysyn Hartman had left the game from an injury. In for Hartman was Matthew Pearson, who isn't as hard a hitter as Hartman or as smart a defender, but has way more speed, and has at times filled in nicely for Hartman. Pearson was the one who tackled Gray at the 5 yard line. If Hartman is in the game, Gray scores. I almost wanted Gray to score, just so we'd have more time left to mount a comeback. I'm glad I was wrong. Instead, K-State came through with one of their "trademark" goal line stands and held A&M to a field goal, which of course was extremely important.

Down by 10, with 3rd and 10 at our own 20, and only 6 minutes left in the game. Of course, once again I thought, "No way this is happening. We are finally seeing a game that turnovers went against K-State and cost them the game as a result." Klein proved that he truly is the Honey Badger, doesn't care what the turnover ratio is, and hooked up with Curry Sexton for 27 yards for a first down and Chris Harper for 53 yards for a touchdown on the next play. Incredible.

As you can tell by now, I'm a pessimist. I couldn't watch when Cantele was attempting to tie the game just a few short minutes later. I'm so glad he made it. And then when we went to a knee to go to overtime, I couldn't believe what was happening. I wrote my finest piece of writing ever about how we didn't go to overtime, and here we were doing it, and I was once again at the game, and it was once again against Texas A&M.

I'm not sure anyone can imagine what a four-overtime game was like for a fan base that had only ever experienced one that went to two overtimes, and never in our home stadium. Rules were explained around, questions were asked and answered, the crowd went from being extremely quiet to one of the loudest crowds I've ever heard in a matter of minutes. It was unbelievable. Have I used that word yet? Unbelievable. That's what this game was, that's what this team is, and that's what its greatest leader Collin Klein is. Unbelievable.

Trading touchdowns in the first overtime, trading field goals in the second (which again, I couldn't watch as Cantele lined up for it - maybe the kid has finally found some confidence), then when we scored a touchdown in the third but didn't get the 2pt I thought we were sunk again. For the briefest moment I had hope when K-State was chasing Tannehill around the pocket on 4th down, but he found his extremely athletic receiver Nwachkwu for a touchdown and I felt sure that it just wasn't meant to be. A&M would get the 2pt conversion easily and we would lose another heart-breaker. But Tannehill zipped one in so hard that it hit off of Fuller's facemask and out of play. K-State fans breathed a sigh of relief. When A&M was held to a field goal, we could all tell that this was K-State's opportunity. If they didn't do it here, it would never happen. After picking up a first down, K-State boldly threw it into the end zone and drew a pass interference penalty. Two plays later, Collin Klein was in the end zone for the fifth time that day (tying Jonathan Beasley's K-State quarterback single game touchdown rush record) and K-State had won one of the greatest games in K-State history 53-50.

So I know that was really long, and a bit more recap than many of you probably wanted to read, but I had to give that game as much attention as it deserved, which may be more than I can actually provide. Plus, I nearly died of heart failure and hyperventilation, so recounting my possible last moments was important as well. So how did K-State win this game if it was again outgained in yards, sacked and held to three-and-outs more times, and turned the ball over more? First of all, they won time of possession AGAIN, played better defense at key points in the game, including a fourth down stop with one yard to go and at the goal line on third down later on, and we have one of the toughest quarterbacks ever in Collin Klein. Guts. Pure Klein guts. That's how we keep winning these games. Snyder doesn't give up, Klein doesn't give up, this team doesn't give up and never will, no matter the score or the situation. There's always a play call to be had, a throw to be made, a defender to be Honey Badgered all over, and Snyder, Klein and the rest of the Cats will make the most of those opportunities. They will keep coming out as winners in Snyder's eyes, the fans eyes, and each other's eyes, no matter what the final score says, no matter what the media says, and no matter what some silly Las Vegas spread says.

And though I and many I know will never forget that game and everything it meant to the program, to the fans, and to so many more, there are more weeks of football to be played. And the next game K-State plays will be its 8th of the season where they were the underdog. That's right folks, even though #WeOwnTexas, have a better record than Texas, and are consistently beating the spread, the Longhorns are favored by a touchdown. I think Snyder may have something to do with this... Anyway, Texas is another of those teams that look dominant against some teams, and extremely poor against others. They destroyed Texas Tech and KU in successive weeks, which given the state of both programs may not be saying much, but then make their final trip to Columbia and fail to score a touchdown for the first time since 2004, losing 17-5 to Missouri. It didn't help Texas that their leading two rushers were hurt for the game and then halfway through the first quarter they lost their third-string back as well. Their QB Ash seemed to have been pretty poor, completing less than half his passes, throwing one pick, and being relieved by McCoy late in the game. The defense didn't play much better, and even though they only gave up 17 points, they gave up more than 300 yards to an offense that lost their best running back (and the Big XII's leading rusher) Henry Josey in the first quarter as well. Despite all their struggles in this game, there is no official word on any of the Texas' three running backs, and if they're all back for Saturday, then the K-State defense is in for one of its toughest rushing tests of the season. On the other side of the ball, Texas has the statistically best defense in the Big XII, ranking 14th nationally, 10th in rushing defense and 48th in passing defense. It may seem another game where we look to Klein's arm to get things done, which will of course open up room for his legs. After two consecutive weeks of setting personal bests in passing yards, it certainly seems like that might be possible. Texas is even on turnover ratio for the season, while K-State is still ranked in the top ten even though they lost last week's battle 3-1. Turnovers are much more important on the road, where K-State has used that ratio to win games at Miami, KU and Texas Tech and keep it close at Oklahoma State. Texas' quarterbacks would seem to be young and prone to these turnovers, so getting to the quarterback is going to be key, no matter who is playing running back, so let's keep up those blitzes. And Texas isn't known for their crowd noise, but I think a lot of them are tired of losing to K-State, so they may be in this one early, meaning we have to get off to a better start if we want to win yet another difficult Big XII game. So here we go: Keep Klein passing in order to keep Klein running, get pressure on the Texas quarterback whoever it might be, and keep the crowd out of it by having a good first quarter and first half. Let's keep #WeOwnTexas alive, win a fourth straight in the series, and get an inexplicable 9th victory. How bout it? EMAW

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More Encouragement from a Loss

Score early and often - sort of. My mark was 28 by half, and they were down 27-24. Not bad.
Score on special teams/defense - yep. Nice pick-6 by Allan Chapman - his best play of the season by far.
Change the defense if its not working - absolutely not. The defense played the same zone all day against the Cowboys as they did the Sooners and let a second straight qb throw for 500 yards and a second straight team score more than 50 points.

Kellis Robinette pointed out that there are two ways people are looking at this game. The first view says to be happy that the Wildcats competed, only losing 52-45 to one of the best teams in the country on their home field with a chance to tie or win at the end, especially after getting drubbed by 40 points the week before. The other view says a loss is a loss and no one should ever be happy about a loss, especially when your defense played as badly as it did and the offense mismanaged the game at the end. I'm pretty firmly viewing the game from the first view. There were so many positives to take away from this game, the greatest of which was the guts and determination showed by Collin Klein, who set career highs for pass completions and passing yards with a 22/38, 231 yards and 1 pass td effort, not to mention his standard 144 yards on the ground with 3 rushing touchdowns. The cats never gave up, never looked as lost and folded as last week against OU, and seemed to have a new resolution about them that they could beat anyone. The negatives are of course on the defensive side of the ball where they continue to show their ineptitude against the pass. This is for a variety of reasons - not many good cover-corners or cover-linebackers, slow safeties, and absolutely no pressure on the quarterback, but the main one I believe is the defensive playcalling. Never does K-State send three linebackers on a blitz or even try and play man-to-man coverage, always playing it safe with a zone defense and rushing four or maybe five total players, which allows wide receivers to just sit in the open spots of the field and receive easy passes from their qb. Chris Cosh continues to show why he doesn't deserve to be a D-1 defensive coordinator, and I think Snyder really needs to start looking for anyone else - be it his son (who is currently special teams coordinator and doing a nice job of it) or someone from somewhere else with a little more experience and guts than Cosh. On to more thoughts on the game itself.

K-State fell to another 14-0 deficit early on, and I thought this time they wouldn't be so keen to fight back as they were against OU. I was of course wrong. But the reason I thought that was the manner in which it happened. O-State actually punted on their first possession, a huge win for this poor K-State defense. But then Klein committed one of his biggest mistakes of the season and fumbled on the second play, giving the Cowboys the ball at K-State's five. Needless to say, O-State's qb Brandon Weeden and the rest of that high-flying offense didn't find it very difficult to score from there. It was exactly what we didn't need - giving this takeaway-prone defense even more confidence and an even easier than usual score for the high powered offense. K-State had another poor drive, Oklahoma State found their rhythm, and it looked like the route was on. K-State caught a break when Blackmon fumbled a punt and the cats recovered, but all they got out of it was a field goal, and all I could think at the time was "Well, at least we're not going to get shut out." Again, I know, I was wrong to be so pessimistic. Then K-State caught another break with Weeden making a bad decision and throwing it to our own Tysyn Hartman. This time though the offense finally got things going, mainly with the help of a 50 yard rush by the ever-dangerous Tyler Lockett, and scored to get within 4. K-State then forced another punt, had another big play on offense, this time in the form of a 30yard pass to Tremaine Thompson who continues to show that he's one of K-State's top 3 receivers, and K-State scored another touchdown to go ahead 17-14. Sounds familiar right? Down 14-0 last week to OU, K-State responded with 17 straight points. OU scored the next 44 points, however, and I thought that O-State very likely was going to do the same. K-State continued to prove me wrong.

The Allan Chapman pick-6 was huge, giving K-State a 10 point lead and reassuring everyone that last week was not about to repeat itself. O-State responded with only a field goal, and I thought maybe if K-State could go up 14 there would be a real chance. Klein made another big mistake however, throwing it to a tightly covered Chris Harper and it was picked off. O-State scored to tie it, K-State had another poor drive, and O-State kicked a field goal to end the half, going up on K-State 27-24. And then again, when K-State came out flat on the opening drive of the half and then gave up an easy TD to O-State, I thought, "well the first half was nice, but here we go again." Klein again proved me the doubter. This team, this quarterback, will never give up. They came right back with a TD, held O-State to a field goal, and then in the fourth quarter actually took the lead 38-37 on another brilliant drive by Honey Badger (Klein's nickname -cause he don't care). O-State scores another easy TD with an easy 2pt conversion. K-State comes right back to tie. O-State scores another easy TD, giving K-State three minutes to go 70 yards to tie or win, down 7 points. And here is where "K-State doesn't play overtime" comes in. K-State actually makes it down the field in thrilling fashion, giving LSU-Bama a contest for greatest game of the night if not the season. Klein converts on fourth down with a run, then later throws a 20 yard pass to Harper to the O-State 5. There's 12 seconds left. I want to know why Snyder didn't run the ball with Klein, who had been torching O-State all day with his legs. K-State had a timeout left, they could have at least tried. If they would have scored, however, I sincerely believe they would have gone for two. Not only because "K-State doesn't play overtime" but because you're never going to keep up with O-State in a shootout overtime contest. Needless to say, K-State didn't score. Three straight incompletions, and we didn't have to worry about whether K-State was going to play its second ever overtime game or not. The game was over and Klein was crushed. But that's a good thing. It shows how much he cares - how much he wanted to win. Bring it again next week, buddy, we're going to need you.

Speaking of next week, the Texas A&M Aggies are in a similar state in their season... sort of. It's similar because they're coming off two straight losses - one blowout to Oklahoma and one close one they could have won, theirs against Missouri not Oklahoma State. A&M however, is still looking for its 6th win to make them bowl eligible, which also means they'll be very hungry for a win, with not a whole lot of chances left (though they do play KU in College Station). Sometimes teams fold under that pressure, others respond. So far A&M has proven themselves the folding types, losing all three close games they were involved in, all of which they also had double-digit first half leads. The second-half struggles of this team are well-documented, but I don't care much about that. K-State still needs early points regardless. This offense is not built to come from behind, no matter what the stats of last week's O-State game says. A&M's defense is statistically very similar than O-State's, though their offense isn't quite as good, nor is their quarterback. Ryan Tannehill is much more run-oriented than Weeden or Jones, but he still throws a pretty ball. A&M itself is much more run-oriented than the last two teams we've played, with two outstanding running backs in Cyrus Gray and Christine (apparently pronounced Christian) Michael. I believe this plays into K-State's hands, as they still have one of the top-ranked run defenses in the country and showed it against O-State, who have a decent running game as well. Part of that may be due to the incredibly open passing lanes, but it's impressive nonetheless. A&M still has a talented qb and talented wide receivers and if K-State's not careful, they could end up letting a third straight team throw for a bunch of yards. Let's not do that shall we? And then of course there are turnovers. Texas A&M doesn't give the ball away a lot, nor do they get the ball from the other team. K-State has proven that it's going to take the ball away from you, but keeps the ball mostly to themselves. That seems to favor K-State as well. On defense, A&M is ranked in the top 25 in stopping the run. They are dead last in stopping the pass, though part of that comes from having faced three top passing offenses in O-State, OU and Arkansas (K-State is only three spots ahead of them, and I'm sure if they'd have faced Arkansas there would be an even smaller gap). It was a similar story against O-State, who had a good run defense and poor pass defense. What I believe all this means is that we are going to get a similar game as last week from this matchup. Lots of points in a back-and-forth game. I hope that means the mistakes will be on A&M's side as they usually are, giving K-State the advantage. But I can't be sure. I want to have faith in this team, and they showed so much spirit yesterday that I can't help but like their chances. So here we go: Bring the same offensive fire as last week (switching up play-calling, getting Lockett involved as much as possible, letting Honey Badger do his thing), continue to win the "hidden yardage" on special teams and defense (this means turnovers, good field position after punts and kickoff returns, and maybe a score), and, once again, CHANGE THE DEFENSE IF ITS NOT WORKING. I feel guilty putting the same key two weeks in a row, but how much more obvious could it be? So let's go. Let's keep this season special. Let's keep people paying attention to one of the greatest places on earth with one of the greatest football coaches who ever lived. Go cats.