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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Negative in victory, Positive in defeat

Keep OU's defense guessing: Pretty much a check mark for the first half, a big time NO for the second half (as with everything else in the second half)
Score on special teams or defense: Nada
Keep the crowd in it: Again, for the first half yes, for the second half no

So I know the title promises I'll be positive in defeat, but first I'm going to be negative. And there was a lot of negative to take away from this game, so it won't be too hard. The end of the first half is where it began. K-State at OU's 8 yard line, down 20-17. 3rd and 3. Collin Klein audibles... to a corner fade pass? And imagine that, it falls incomplete. Somehow I don't think that is the play that should have been called. The running game had been working. And even one or two yards could have set up a 4th down situation that K-State could have gone for. But instead they settle for the field goal. And the bipolar kicker named Anthony Cantele misses a 25 yarder after he had made a 54 yarder earlier in the game. I know it was against the wind instead of with it, and I know it was a tough angle. BUT IT WAS 25 YARDS. And it was a big deal. A field goal would have tied it, probably tied it for the half. And the touchdown would have been even bigger. To go in up at the half would have been an unbelievable boost in this game, and then you never know how the second half goes. I'm serious. This blown score was big enough to change a 40 point deficit- yes, that is exactly what I'm saying. But instead OU got the ball at K-State's 20. They're moving the ball, when Nigel Malone comes up with another great play to intercept it at OU's 20. Nigel, by the way, was one of the few positives to take away from this game. But then K-State turned the ball over and OU got a field goal to finish the half to go up 23-17. I know that turnover hurt, and I know OU scoring at the end of the half sucks, but the crowd was overly deflated I thought. We barely clapped for our team that had just come back from a 14-0 deficit to take the lead 17-14, then kept OU to only 9 more points for the half. What's not to clap for? We needed to be positive at this point. They had hung tough, and had shown that they were the better second half team in almost all of our games. What's not be positive about? So yes, I'm partly blaming the crowd. And I know I probably shouldn't. It just wasn't what I wanted to see from them and I truly do believe their discouragement was reflected in the players as they ran in the cat pack towards the locker room at half.

And then the second half happened. 35-0 in a half rarely begets anything positive. The offense was impossibly stagnant. The defense was lost and slow. OU exposed our every weakness. They picked on our linebackers, who can't cover tight ends and running backs very well. They picked on our slow and poor-tackling corners (other than Malone and Garrett, who both played well). They picked on our safeties, who are also somewhat slow and often take poor angles. K-State couldn't stop OU in that zone defense and Bob Stoops knew it. OU quarterback Landry Jones had to make some tough passes to get it into those zones, but the wide receivers sure didn't have to work hard to find them. I understand that the corners and safeties are poor one-on-one coverage guys. But when a team is picking you apart like the Sooners were yesterday, you have to try something different. The only thing K-State changed up was which linebackers they were blitzing and when, but that didn't help at all with a whopping ZERO sacks on the day. The other major K-State weakness is on the other side of the ball - the passing game. I understand Klein has a fine throwing motion and usually gets it to his target, but his ability to stand in the pocket with pressure baring down on him is pretty poor. And again, Bob Stoops knew it. He blitzed the crud out of Collin Klein, and it resulted in 7 huge sacks for Oklahoma. It also prevented K-State from mounting any kind of comeback in the second half. Perhaps there should have been more running plays, no matter how far we were down- they seemed to work in the first half. Perhaps there should have been more trick plays - K-State tried both a fake run by Klein then pass and a flea flicker Klein pass, neither of which worked but were nice tries and resulted in a pass interference penalty on one in the first half. I've seen a lot about putting some blame on the offensive line, and that is true- they were poor pass blockers and often not much better run blockers. But Klein is the leader, Klein needs to make better, quicker decisions, and he has got to find some way of delivering that football no matter who is in his face. So there was all the negative. The passing game was atrocious. The pass defense was worse. Oh yeah, and besides a blocked extra point by Ralph Guidry, the special teams didn't help much either. K-State loses 58-17, allowing Landry Jones to set a school record with 505 yards passing.

So now for some positives. In the first half, K-State ran the ball well. Klein ran for 92 yards on the game, mostly in the first half, and Hubert ran it for 71, also mainly in the first half. Oklahoma is a great defense and to score 17 unanswered as K-State did to take the lead was tremendous. The run defense was also pretty solid, despite one hiccup as they seem prone to do almost every game. OU did rush for 170 yards, which is a lot when you're throwing the ball most of the time, but 61 of it was on the hiccup and much more of it was against our backups near the end of the game. And the best positive? K-State is still 7-1, ranked, and with a chance to go to a very nice bowl game. I saw plenty of quotes this week from players about analyzing this Oklahoma film, seeing every inch of what they could improve in themselves, and already starting to get ready for Oklahoma State. That tells me they aren't going to hang their heads, not that Bill Snyder would really allow them to do that anyway. K-State has come off huge losses the last two seasons and come back to win big the next game, so that proves that Snyder is always ready to change things up to make his team better and more prepared (2009: lost 66-14 at Texas Tech, beat Texas A&M in Manhattan 62-14, 2010: lost 48-13 in Manhattan to Nebraska, won 59-7 at KU). Of course, neither A&M or KU were as good as the team we're going to face this coming week - the third ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys.

This could be Oklahoma State's greatest chance to win a National Championship perhaps ever, save maybe when Barry Sanders ran the ball for the Cowboys. The offense is just as unstoppable, if not more so, than Oklahoma's. They don't play shut-down defense, but they play the same style as K-State has for most of the season, bending but not breaking. And they have yet to meet the offense that can keep up with them anyway, so that may not matter so much. Brandon Weeden is a 27-year-old master of efficiency. Justin Blackmon may be the Big XII's most athletic and NFL-ready wide receiver or even player period. And Joseph Randle is as fast a running back as I've seen of any team, save perhaps LaMichael James of Oregon. They are all good and scary. But mostly scary for anyone playing them. Add all that to the fact that it's in Stillwater, which can be an extremely hostile environment, and K-State may have to be prepared to endure another 40-point blowout. The defense will obviously have to get better. Bending but not breaking doesn't work against high-efficiency offenses like the Oklahoma schools. The only way it worked against Texas Tech was getting four turnovers and scoring on special teams. So those would be nice. And obviously enough, if K-State can get some favorable things to go their way on defense and special teams, they may have a better chance of scoring on offense. Especially because O-State's defense is nowhere near as sound as OU's. Even with all of these things going their way, I just see very little chance K-State comes away with the victory. Oklahoma State's offense is too good in too many ways, as they've shown in every game they've played, and our pass defense is too bad in too many ways, as we continue to show as well. So in order to win (or maybe just to avoid the blowout), the cats need to score early and often (which again, is more possible against this team - 28points by half would be tremendous), score on defense or special teams at least once if not twice (K-State continues to show that this is the way to win ball games), and CHANGE THE DEFENSE IF IT'S NOT WORKING. That was aimed at K-State's defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, though I'm sure no one on K-State's staff reads this blog. I can try though. So as always, go cats - I hope they prove me a doubter, a pessimist, and pull off the TexasTech-Oklahoma sized upset. But if they don't, I'll still love K-State, I'll still be a fan, and I still can't wait to see what the rest of the season brings.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Even in Victory, K-State Surprises

Be aggressive on offense: Only 18 pass attempts for Klein, but completions of 48, 29, 24, and 21 yards make this a yes
Stay smart on defense: No huge mistakes, but there were still some mix-ups. Mostly a yes
No turnovers: yessir

Obviously K-State did a lot of things right in this one, handily beating the Jayhawks 59-21. And even though it wasn't the complete domination of last year's score of 59-7, we actually gave up 50 FEWER yards than last year and gained 6 more. Actually, comparisons are scary. Last year, Carson Coffman scored 5 touchdowns - 3 on the ground, 2 through the air, with 184 passing yards. This year, Collin Klein scored 5 touchdowns - 4 on the ground, 1 through the air, with 195 passing yards (a career high, by the way). Klein, as the backup QB last year, also had a rushing touchdown in last year's game. Sammy Lamur, as this year's back QB, had a rushing touchdown this year. Daniel Thomas, last year's incredible starting RB and workhorse, scored one touchdown with 91 rushing yards. John Hubert, this year's starting RB, scored one touchdown with 92 rushing yards. The defense scored a touchdown last year by way of a Stephen Harrison fumble return, but this year it was a Tyler Lockett kickoff return to start the half. Either way, it goes to your DST right fantasy players? ;)

The main difference from last year to this year was the defense. Sure, K-State gave up more points this year, but as I said before, they gave up fewer yards. They had three takeaways last year (with one turnover) but only two takeaways this year (with no turnovers). That means that the turnover difference was still +2 in our favor. The reason KU had more yards last year and fewer points though was that they turned the ball over once in a pass to the end zone and once at the KSU 15 yard line, already having gained the yards but unable to come away with the points. This year K-State gave up the points, but it was mostly not a problem.

So enough comparisons, on to the game itself. K-State finally did what it was supposed to do. But even in making everyone a winner who bet on K-State yet again, they still did what most didn't think they'd do. K-State was only favored by 10, and I saw plenty of places pick them by a touchdown or less. Plenty of people thought KU had a chance in this one, continuing to doubt Snyder and his Wildcats. Snyder and his Wildcats continue to prove them wrong.

Because K-State played so well, I really don't have a whole lot to say (sounds like the pessimistic/realistic K-State fan I am, right?). The first drive going 3-and-out was disconcerting, but after that K-State scored on seven consecutive drives. Klein ran when he needed to, found some big plays to his receivers including a HUGE day by Tyler Lockett, and Hubert ran the ball effectively, mostly off of pitches from Klein out of the option. Even Pease finally had another good game, running the ball 8 times for 61 yards, mostly out of wildcat. That formation and his athleticism is going to make a difference in one of these games coming up here soon. Klein still misfired on some wide-open tight ends, which I really wish he wouldn't do, but his long pass to Harper to get down to the five yard line and his lofted ball to Lockett in the end zone were both pretty throws, showing the indication that he really does have that capability. Again, we may need it sometime extremely soon. The defense had a good day as well, forcing two fumbles (which essentially put the game away after Lockett's opening-half touchdown return and Klein scoring on both the drives after the fumble recoveries), and sacking Webb twice, both by Meshak Williams. We probably need more pressure on the QB, especially with the QBs we are about to face over the next three weeks, but for the game it was fine. More blitzes in the future may help with that. The few drives where K-State looked confused and slow were the most concerning part of the game. Our sideline pass-coverage is horrendous. Tech took advantage of that and so did KU on their two first-half touchdown drives (their last touchdown drive when they scored with 1 second left against our backups doesn't count). Comeback routes are too easy to complete against our corners - they play 10 yards off the man and can't rely on their slow safeties if they play underneath. It's the biggest area concern for K-State right now and I'm afraid that the next three opponents are going to use that weakness to beat us up and down the field. The run defense is our biggest asset, and when Arthur Brown is at his best he's a tough man to beat. The other problem with the defense, however, is that Arthur is not at his best. It's probably due to injury, but his ability to cut is almost non-existent and he is much slower than he was in the Baylor and Missouri game. He can't cover the tight end very well and struggles even more when the running back goes out for a pass, which is how KU scored their second touchdown. So let's all hope he gets better health-wise and mentally. He'll need to be at his best for these next few games.

Speaking of the next few games, who would've thought we'd be the only undefeated team in the game against OU? K-State held up their end of the bargain to get College Gameday to come to Manhattan, but the Sooners played terribly against Texas Tech and their comeback fell short, losing 41-38 to go to 6-1, and actually falling BELOW K-STATE in the AP rankings - we're 10th, they're 11th. So no gameday. Which stinks. But perhaps it's for the best - I always think the less hype, the better. K-State will be coming in as underdogs once again (11points from what I've heard) and looking to pull of yet another upset. Unfortunately I just don't think it's possible. Even with OU's problems of turnovers and inability to score once they get into the redzone, they just have so much talent and are so well coached it's unbelievable. They may well be the most talented team in the Big XII, despite the loss to Texas Tech. Other than the two problems I mentioned earlier, OU's biggest problem in this one was their inability to defend the pass. Their defense is extremely stout against the run, however, which is not good for us. Klein is going to have to hit receivers when they are open, and the playcalling has got to help him get his confidence up, as I say every week. We're still going to run zone-reads, options, straight handoffs, and QB sneaks no matter what team we're playing, and I understand why. But you have to USE those plays to set up the pass, even if they don't work. And we've gotten away from the end-around the WRs a bit too - we should utilize that a bit more as well. This will be the best defense we play against perhaps all year, despite the point total they gave up the last game - never underestimate a Bob Stoops/Brent Venables defense. On the other side, our defense is built to stop the run and teams within the red zone, as I've discussed before. These strengths are going to be shown off against the Sooners, but where I fear our defense isn't going to be able to keep up are those outside passes. Landry Jones might throw in to Ryan Broyles 20 times or more and they may only get 10-12 yards every time, but I'm sure they'll take it. We've got to play aggressively on defense- move the corners up, and get pressure on Jones with some blitzes. The d-line has been great, but they need help against maybe the best offensive line we've faced all season. Hopefully Arthur being healthier will help with all these things. Finally, the extra things - special teams. It was how K-State pulled the upset against Texas Tech (which is now ranked 22nd and looking like an excellent win) and it's how K-State can upset the Sooners. It doesn't have to be Tyler Lockett (and it probably won't be, since no K-State player had ever returned a kickoff for a touchdown two weeks in a row and I doubt he can do it three in a row) but maybe a blocked punt, or even a good punt return from Tremaine Thompson, or maybe another blocked field goal from Ralph (who got his hand on another extra point against KU, though it still went through the uprights). Find someway of making those extra things count - and don't give OU any of those opportunities either. As important as turnovers have been in the past weeks, they are going to be even more important in this one. Home field advantage is going to be a hugely important factor in this one as well.

All of a sudden, K-State has hope in this game. Before the season there was no way they'd have a chance. Even the betters have us a 11 point underdogs, but we all know how that's gone all year. There are so many things that tell me K-State should win this game, yet there are almost just as many that tell me K-State has a chance. I'm nervous. I'm not ready for a win of these proportions. For as unbelievable as this season has been, this would be another level of unbelievable. Three keys to an unbelievable showing: Keep OU's defense guessing (time for some trick plays? or maybe just some screens and draws), get a non-offensive score (special teams or defense - it goes a long way), and keep the crowd in it (if we go down big and early, home field won't make nearly as much of a difference). So there ya go. This is most likely where the undefeated run ends, but even if it is over, it's been extremely fun. And we still have so much farther to go. But how fun would it be if K-State really pulls it off?....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Crazy (Train) Ride Continues

Get pressure on Doege: no sacks, but we did force some bad throws. Half a check.
Continue to be stable on offense: yes, but it almost got us into trouble.
Throw in the occasional mix-up: yes, but not until the second half.

These were things that certainly contributed to yet another unbelievable, inexplicable win for the Kansas State University Wildcats, but the biggest reasons are unbelievable as well. Time of possession: K-State wins it 33:33 to 26:27 (K-State leads the nation in time of possession, by the way - think that has something to do with 6-0?). Turnovers: K-State 0, Texas Tech 4. Even though we didn't score on every turnover, the scores we did get certainly helped and the others kept the ball away from Tech for that much longer. K-State also had unbelievable special teams performance, with Tyler Lockett returning a kickoff for a touchdown and Ralph Guidry blocking TWO field goals. Those were the keys to the win. And they certainly are unbelievable.

But now to the things that make sense. The game. The first half was awful. Period. If it wasn't for special teams and defense scoring and giving us short fields, we may not have scored at all. And the defense didn't even play that well. They played just about perfectly the first two Tech drives, with Malone's pick-6 (which happened on the THIRD play by the way, not the SECOND as the announcer said every time he mentioned it for the rest of the game. Drove me crazy) and a six-play drive that led to a punt. But K-State went three-and-out twice and did little to reward the defense for those efforts, making them have to go back out onto the field tired and facing another efficient Tech offense. They did enough to keep it tied 7-7 at the end of the first quarter, (which included Ralph's first field goal block) but Tech had obviously found the holes when they marched easily for another score to go up 14-7. Lockett's incredible kickoff return kept K-State in it, even though Cantele missed the extra point (the kid has got to find some confidence. If he doesn't, it could hurt us down the road). The defense came up big again with Ralph's second block (who blocks two field goals? the kid came to play), giving the offense a short field to work with, which they finally took advantage of to go up 20-14. The rest of the half, though, belonged to Tech. They scored easily on two subsequent drives and it was looking pretty dicey for K-State, down 28-20. Tech had 387 yard to K-State's 94. Needless to say, there wasn't much hope.

Something we need to start learning, though, is that there is always going to be hope with this team. K-State came out with a brand-new offense in the second half and started their comeback ways from there. They called 6 pass plays to 2 runs, and Klein went 4/5 and a TD (he ran for 25 yards on the one he decided not to throw). Perhaps his best throw of the year was to Chris Harper in the corner and all of a sudden K-State had done exactly what they needed to do to be in the game, only down 28-27. K-State then forced a punt. More good signs. K-State offense stalls, but forces a long Tech field goal that Ralph couldn't block this time, putting Tech up 31-27. Then the real fun began. Klein connected with Tremaine Thompson on his second-best throw of the year for 35 yards. Hubert breaks off a great run to get to the three. Klein runs it in (big surprise, I know) and all of a sudden, K-State HAS THE LEAD in a game in which they were being outgained by almost 200 yards. Beginning of the fourth quarter. Meshak forces a fumble. K-State fails to convert 4th down (a dumb play call, by the way) but Tech still didn't have that ball for that time. Tysyn Hartman intercepts a pass. K-State Klein scores to go up TWO SCORES. I, and plenty of other people I'm sure (including plenty of poor Tech fans) were in shock. Could this be? Could K-State keep this up to go 6-0 for the first time since 2000 and win in Lubbock for the first time since 1997, especially after being down and looked as if there was no way? Doege threw another pick (his third of the day, when he had only thrown ONE ALL YEAR) and all of sudden I answered yes to those questions. Cantele missed a chip-shot field goal (seriously, kid, you need some confidence or one of these days you'll cost us a game). Tech drives, but is stood up at the goal-line in typical K-State fashion. I can't get enough. Tech kicks a field goal to go down a TD and recovers the stupid on-side kick. But remember about my very first blog post? K-State doesn't play overtime. Miami didn't score when down a TD in the fourth. And neither did Texas Tech. Four plays and out. K-State wins again. Unbelievable. Stats for the second half: Tech 200 yards, K-State 240 yards. Second half score: 21-6. Final score: 41-34. THAT IS HOW YOU WIN A BALLGAME.

Sorry for the long play-by-play, but it was such an exciting game I couldn't resist reliving it here in one of my favorite places to relive K-State sports. K-STATE IS 6-0!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??? Ranked 12th in the AP poll, 16th in the coaches. Unbelievable. Have I used that word yet?

And now, on to the next game, the first one we will be favored in since playing Kent State five weeks ago. And there names? The dreaded Kansas Jayhawks. Blech. I can't believe I just wrote that on my beloved K-State page. I visited their website today to look at tickets and my whole body was yelling: "What's wrong with you!? Why are you here!?" But enough about that. To the football team. Ok, so they're not very good. They are 2-4 with wins over pretty terrible teams. They gave up 66 points to Georgia Tech, 45 to Texas Tech, 70 to Oklahoma State, and 47 to Oklahoma. They rank last or close to last in almost every defensive category. Easy win right? Wrong. K-State has proven they will not pull away from opponents. They will keep the ball, limit your scoring opportunities, take advantage of your mistakes, but not to the extent that they are up any considerable amount of points. And further to that effect, KU's offense is no sham. Jordan Webb, KU's qb is one of the highest rated as far as efficiency in all of college football. For as sloppy as the rest of the team is, he doesn't make many mistakes. Granted, he didn't look as good against OU as he has the rest of the year, but that's OU. He's decent with his legs too, and he has a decent running back to enhance that in James Sims. These guys are no pushovers. I repeat: NOT PUSHOVERS. As soon as you start taking a team for granted, that is when they will surprise you and take advantage of your mistakes. I'm sure Bill Snyder will have his team prepared, telling them that same thing. Do not overlook them. They are a decent football team that only needs a few breaks their way, and they could win a ball game or two. And that includes the one against us. KU played OU tough for three quarters, which means they could certainly do the same this week. I hope not though. There should also be a good showing of K-State fans to make the confines a little more friendly, but we'll see. Part of OU's problem was the conservative play-calling. Sound like some familiar team? That's right, I'm going to say it again. Open up the playbook. But more than that, BE AGGRESSIVE. More drives like the one to open up the half against Tech. And the defense has to be better against the pass. The safeties need to quit tripping over themselves and linebackers have got to stay with the running backs and tight ends. Just play smarter. Oh yeah, and don't turn the ball over - that was another problem OU faced. So here we go: Be aggressive on offense, stay smart on defense, and DON'T TURN THE BALL OVER (your welcome Sam). Let's make it three in a row in the Sunflower Showdown. Go Cats.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Still Surprised- Still Not Complaining

Open up the play book a little: not even close
Don't let Franklin get hot through the air: took care of that one on the first play
Get touchdowns not field goals: mostly a check, but one more TD instead of that FG would have made a huge difference

Once again, I didn't predict everything that was going to happen or how K-State was going to win. But win they did, against everything I've come to expect. This was the game that was going to define whether this season would be like last year or a special year. We started 4-0 last year. We started 4-0 this year. We had two difficult home-openers (though UCLA and Western Kentucky aren't even close to being comparable) but still won. We had an easy second game that told us very little about the team Missouri State last year and Kent State this year). We had difficult "road" tests that we edged out a victory (Iowa State was in KC, but still - it wasn't at home. Also, Miami is much better). And finally, we had a true test of a game against a team that was definitely going to a bowl game, though we did get them at home (again, UCF wasn't nearly as good as Baylor this year, but they went 9-3 nonetheless) and again won. So we were 4-0 going into big games at home. Nebraska last year. Missouri this year. MU probably isn't as good as Nebraska was last year, but it was going to be a tough game anyway - a true test of a team. Last year K-State folded, allowing Nebraska to do whatever they wanted to on the ground. This year, K-State wasn't going to let that happen and took control from the opening snap, ensuring that this year would be different, and beat Missouri 24-17.

Ok, enough comparisons. Let's talk about this game. The defense was nothing short of spectacular in the first half. Ty Zimmerman intercepted James Franklin on the first play from scrimmage, setting the tone for the entire game. MU had two three-and-outs in a row after that, and was held under 100 total yards for the half, only scoring 3 points, thanks in part to a now dysfunctional kicker (seriously, he'd missed four field goals his entire college career and he's already missed SIX this year - in FIVE games. He's all kinds of messed up in the head). Even when K-State did give up yards in the first and second half, they mostly held MU to field goal tries and even punts. That's how this defense is built, amazingly enough. All the speed and athleticism is up front. Ray Kibble, Adam Davis, Meshak Williams, Arthur Brown, Emmanuel Lamur, Tre Walker, are all built to make sure nothing gets past them. Henry Josey, the Big XII's leading rusher, was held to 55 yards on 12 carries. That is some stout defense. The problems lie in the secondary. Hartman and Zimmerman are tenacious tacklers but they lack the speed of truly great safeties. Garrett, Chapman, and Malone at the corners are quick but not extremely intelligent and get faked out way too often. This was where we started giving up yards, but once the tigers got into the red zone, those front seven I mentioned earlier took over. They weren't about to allow an easy score, and it took MU a fourth-down conversion at the goal line to score their first TD. I was nervous when MU scored their second TD so quickly, though, which was partly due to the defense being tired, but with 5 minutes left the offense took over and never relinquished the ball.

Oh the offense. So predictable yet so hard to stop. Zone-reads, options, and Honey Badger... I mean Collin Klein up the middle. It doesn't always work, and K-State had way too many three-and-outs for my liking on Saturday, but what it does better than any offense in the Big XII or maybe even the country is control the ball. That was a huge factor in the game yesterday. Missouri never had the ball to score points with in the first place. The other main factor was that we turned MU's turnover into a touchdown and when Collin Klein threw an INT (the biggest K-State mistake of the day), MU came away with nothing. K-State won by that TD. Klein was again not very good throwing the ball, but I partly blame the coaches. Where are the short passes, screens, and bubble screens to open up the offense and give Klein some confidence? They weren't there. But they should be. Chris Harper remains a great WR and made a huge catch on third down, though the drive didn't end in a score. He's also a great motivator and advicater of Snyder's system. Just a great all-around guy. But Mr. John Hubert was the player of the game. 126 yards on 26 carries, including a his best Darren Sproles impression on a nifty spin move that led to K-State's final, game-deciding touchdown. I'll take that every game, thank you very much.

Will we play MU again? I'm not sure. The SEC and B1G have been reluctant to extend an invitation towards the tigers, but you never know. If MU does stay, they may be the cause of instability for a long time to come. Or they may finally sit down and shut up. We shall see.

But back to things that really matter - this rag-tag team with an inexplicable 5-0 record. Seriously, how are they 5-0? The last three teams they've played have had more talent than them, have been favored, had better seasons last year, and yet somehow couldn't win. K-State is disciplined, yes. They listen to Snyder better than perhaps any team ever has and are maximizing every ounce of talent they have. They don't make killer mistakes. But even these things don't always lead to 5-0 with the amount of talent that's there. It's just amazing. And I hope I continue to be amazed. K-State is still ranked and yet still the underdog (seriously, K-State has opened up as 4pt underdogs again. Amazing). Good, I say. Let's just continue to show this country how the underdog does it. We haven't won at Texas Tech since the 90s, and haven't beat them period since the year 2000. Oh wait, that was the last year we went 5-0. Could history repeat itself again? I'm of course thinking in all likelihood not. Tech's defense is terrible, sure. They were down 20-0 against KU for goodness sake and has given up at least 34 to each of their last three opponents, one of which was Nevada. So the offense may be ok - as long as they open up the playbook, as I continue to say, and don't turn the ball over. But the defense...well... this will be another test. We have been shown to be vulnerable to the pass. We still rank 40th in the country, which isn't bad, but we gave up over 300 yards passing to the only real "passing" offense we've faced (Baylor) and Tech is going to throw the ball even more than that. And I'm just not sure our corners and safeties are going to be up for it, as I mentioned previously. This means that we HAVE to get pressure on Tech's extremely efficient QB Seth Doege. Their running game is no slouch either, and if the defense has trouble stopping the pass, that's only going to translate into an easier time running the football. And though the Tech defense has been sloppy, our offense is nothing special, which is why we have to continue to control the clock, not turn the ball over, and open up the play book just a little. So my three keys are: get pressure on Doege, continue to be stable on offense, and throw in the occasional mix-up to keep Tech's defense off-balance. Sound good to everyone? I mean, the only people that call me "coach" are seventh and eighth graders, but I like to think that these things will in fact help K-State. Or maybe not. Again, as long as they win, I couldn't care less. Go cats.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Coach McCandless Loses, K-State Still Wins

Get momentum early: nope
Don't turn the ball over: 1 interception is okay, but still more than none
Big plays on offense: There were a couple, but I'm still calling a whiff on this one

Okay, so I'm no coach. Or analyst. Or guru at all. But right now it doesn't matter because despite K-State's mistakes and miscues yesterday, they are still undefeated, beating Baylor 36-35 in one of the greatest wins in a long time.

From the outset it looked like Baylor was going to be able to do whatever they wanted. Robert Griffin III played pitch-and-catch with Kendall Wright all day. Over the middle, to the outside, deep, short, it seemed RG3 would not be stopped, which we all feared going into this game. But something else was happening that nobody was really expecting. Baylor was turning the ball over. First on a kickoff, then on a short pass with the receiver fumbling the ball. And the K-State offense was scoring touchdowns. Granted, they didn't take advantage of the two turnovers with only one field goal out of those two possessions, but they were still keeping pace with Baylor. Collin Klein was doing his Honey Badger thing. He ran the ball as usual, looked horrible throwing the ball as usual, but still made the plays he had to. Passes to Hubert and Harper for touchdowns were not quite as good as they could have been, but they were still touchdowns. And then K-State went for two at the half with a nifty play that almost worked, driving me crazy. No one should ever go for two until the fourth quarter - you put yourself out of the game too quickly if you miss. But it was still only 21-19 at half, putting K-State in position.

Klein fulfilled one of my predictions for "big plays" with a 63-yard run to kick things off in the second half and the drive ended with a touchdown to put K-State ahead 26-21. And of course, Baylor came right back to take the lead, making it look just as easy as always. But K-State came right back, that it until a late flag cost them a first down. (One of the latest flags for holding I've ever seen - he threw it after the play was over). The next play Klein threw a pick. A few plays later it was fourth-and-five and RG3 threw a bomb to the end zone for one of the most amazing touchdowns I've seen. (I'm channeling my inner Jon Gruden here with all these "best I've ever seen" phrases.) And then Baylor was up by 9 (two scores) and looking as if they would never be stopped, despite the K-State defense's best efforts. On top of that it was the fourth quarter and the cats hadn't scored since the beginning of the half. I was convinced it was over. I'm so glad I was wrong. K-State put together a wonderfully long touchdown drive that put them within two. Klein made horrible throw after horrible throw but hit Harper on a bit 3rd-and-10 and pushed forward for a first down on a 4th-and-inches. He scored the ever-important touchdown as well, and all of sudden there was hope if we could somehow get a stop.

Baylor for some reason got conservative and in came the conquering hero Arthur Brown. First of all, it was the incredibly improved Ray Kibble that hit RG3 on the play, forcing the bad throw that ended up in Brown's hands, RG3's first of the entire season. It truly was a team effort. The K-State offense was just as conservative, but was nonetheless close enough for Anthony Cantele to attempt a field goal, one that I couldn't watch. Amazingly enough, it went through, giving K-State a 36-35 lead and the fans at Snyder Family Stadium the greatest thing to cheer about since beating Texas in 2006. But it wasn't over yet. RG3 was about to come back out on the field, and if he was ever going to solidify himself as a Heisman candidate it would be right here. A few long passes to Wright, a run or two to run down the clock, and a field goal would truly write a another happy chapter in this already wonderful story. Instead, a happy chapter was written in K-State's story. A sack by Arthur Brown, an incompletion, a completed pass short of the first down, and Jordan Voelker's knockdown on fourth down gave K-State the win. As my dad said it, the first "special" win since the aforementioned Texas in 06.

So that was what happened. K-State turned the ball over, never really had momentum (early or late) and only one huge play on offense. But they still won. They forced a couple critical turnovers, Cantele made 3/4 field goals, Klein made throws when he needed to, and not to be forgotten were great games by Hubert, Pease, and Harper. Teamwork, discipline, and hard work - Snyder's philosophies almost always pay off.

So now we are ranked. And going to be favored in a game against Missouri for perhaps the first time in a long time. I'm not sure I like that, as K-State has enjoyed playing the underdog for most of the season so far. Plus K-State hasn't beat MU since 2005, Snyder's last game in his first tenure. And just because the tigers are 2-2 does not mean they are a pushover. In the two games I've seen (the two losses, actually), their offense has looked pretty efficient. The qb James Franklin is an incredibly talented runner and has enough of an arm and quick enough receivers to make defenses respect the pass. And despite giving up 37points to Arizona State and 38 to Oklahoma, the defense is stout, especially the run defense. This all spells trouble for K-State. Even though K-State's run defense ranks in the top 10 in the country, the cats have yet to be tested by a good ground game. And if James Franklin can get hot through the air, that will make defending the run even more difficult. On offense K-State may have trouble if the MU run defense gives Klein and Hubert problems. Klein has to be more accurate through the air, which may be helped if the coaching staff calls more screens and short throws. Open up the playbook a little, don't let Franklin get hot through the air, and score touchdowns not field goals (as they did too often in the Baylor game). Those are my three keys this week. I was 3/3 against Miami and 0/3 against Baylor but K-State won both. So I'm not sure I put much stock in them. But as long as K-State wins I could care less.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reflections and Predictions

Win the turnover battle: check
Create holes for Klein and Hubert to run through: check
Play solid defense: check

Three things we needed to do to win, and three things we did to win. But enough about my amazing coaching abilities... haha just kidding. Seriously, when I wrote those things I did not expect K-State to accomplish them or even win as a result if they did. Which they almost didn't. Thankfully they did and we were all on cloud nine for a few beautiful hours. Bowl games now seem within reach as we are halfway there and 3-0 is obviously the best start we could have hoped for. Then I had to watch the terror that is Robert Griffin III destroy Rice and realized as tough as this week's game was, next week's is going to be tougher. But more about that later.

First I have to say that Collin Klein is the real deal. He's fourth in the Big XII in rushing yards per game and the first three are running backs. He finds holes where there are none and executes the offense as well as Bill Snyder could hope for. He even showed off his arm a bit on Saturday, hitting Tyler Lockett with a PERFECT pass for a touchdown in the first half and amassing over 100 yards through the air. He also had a nifty little jump pass to Travis Tannehill for a touchdown. Miami defenders did say before the game that Klein reminded them of Tim Tebow- maybe that gave Snyder some ideas....

Hubert finally showed why he is the featured back in a running back race that was extremely close in the off-season with 166 yards and the go-ahead, stay-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. I was a little scared going into this game that we had no running attack besides Klein, but Hubert shows we can still be a force on the ground. The offensive line had a lot to do with that too, as they played incredibly well. Not overlooked was BJ Finney (the center) recovering TWO offensive fumbles and keeping possession at critical points in the game. The receivers and tight ends played well enough, making catches when we needed them and NOT fumbling. Let's keep that up shall we?

Now on to the defense. Oh the defense. The run defense is incredibly improved. Besides the one sixty-yard touchdown they gave up, they were solid and stiff against the run. That running back was getting hit from all sides and couldn't even lift his arms midway through the fourth quarter. Arthur Brown, Tre Walker, and Emmanuel Lamur are starting to look like the Lynch Mob of old. I probably just jinxed them by saying that, as that seems to be what happens whenever we use those words, but I couldn't help it. They are FAST and PHYSICAL and gosh darnit THEY TACKLE!!! The d-line didn't get any sacks, but Adam Davis had a bunch of tackles and Kibble continues to fill the middle. They also were a huge part of that goal line stand. Oh yeah, the goal line stand. When has anyone ever seen that from the K-State defense? Tre Walker tackling Jacory Harris short of the goal line on fourth and goal from the 2 was one of the best defensive plays I've ever seen. Period. He ran him down! A quarterback known for his speed and strength! And Tre caught him AND tackled him! Just amazing. Now to the worst part of the game- the pass defense. They did not look good. Besides Nigel Malone's INT there was no pass defense. They got some good tackles in there but were consistently beat deep. That's scary. Miami took advantage of that often, and I'm surprised it wasn't more. Baylor will take advantage more.

On to Baylor. Best Baylor team maybe ever. And it's all because of their quarterback Robert Griffin III. The man has MORE TOUCHDOWN PASSES THAN INCOMPLETIONS. Read that again. He is 70/82 (12 incompletions) with 13 touchdowns. Not 12 interceptions, 12 INCOMPLETIONS. He actually has ZERO interceptions. So yeah. I'm scared. Granted, they haven't played anyone with much of a defense (TCU, Stephen F Austin, Rice) but still. You have to be good to put up those numbers against anybody. So really, I don't see us stopping Baylor. Even with a solid defensive performance, we're going to give up some points. One key, as usual, would be turnovers. But so far Baylor hasn't been very prone to those, so I'm not sure we can count on any. The difference in this game will be Baylor's defense, which is worse than Miami's. That might not mean much though. We're good enough to stop Baylor at times. But it's going to be up to our offense to play BETTER than they did against Miami. I'm not sure that's possible. Like I said, Baylor's defense is worse than Miami's, but it's still up to the offense to execute. And not only execute, but throw the ball deep and get some long runs. Get momentum early, don't turn the ball over, and get some big plays on offense. There. Those are my three keys for next week. Will Coach McCandless prevail again? I'm about as optimistic as last week, which is not very. So we will see...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some K-State Comparisons

So I was trying to figure out if K-State really did get better in their second game of the season when I decided to "crunch some numbers" (as Michael Scott says). Sure the scores were vastly different- you can't very well argue that a team didn't play better when one week they scratch out a 10-7 victory over an FCS school and their 3rd string qb while the next week earn their first shutout in five years and score 37 points. Nonetheless, the results of my number crunch were interesting though I'm not sure they really tell us much.

(This would not be a fun game to watch, by the way)

First, the most glaring similarity:
K-State offense week 1: 303yrds-21 first downs, week 2: 335yrds-24 first downs.

Granted, thirty yards different is nothing to scoff at, but I think it's safe to say that the offense played relatively similarly to the first week as far as production is concerned.

Opponent offense week 1: 119yrds-7 first downs, week 2: 199yrds-13 first downs.

Again, an eighty yard difference isn't that similar, but it's still under 200 yards, allowing the similarity to be drawn yet again that the defense played about the same.

The final similarity: K-State takeaways week 1: 2, week 2: 2

In both games K-State was able to intercept two passes, two by Nigel Malone in week 1, one by David Garret and Tysyn Hartman each in week 2. Here's where the differences start: David Garrett's first quarter interception was returned for a touchdown, getting the score out of the way and giving K-State some early confidence.

Now for the differences that I think made the most difference.

K-State turnovers week 1: 5, week 2: 0

I think it's pretty safe to say that we'll win a lot of ball games if we don't turn the ball over and our defense gets a few of our own. 303 yards of offense in week 1 just wasn't enough to compensate for giving the ball away 5 times, thus the late score was needed to pull out the victory.

Opponent penalties week 1: 8-68yrds, week 2: 11-136yrds

Kent State was called for EIGHT PERSONAL FOULS. You're not going to beat very many teams doing that, unless it's the Oakland Raiders who get called for a similar amount. I don't know if they were just frustrated from an already poor 0-2 start, but they needed to keep their heads on straight if they wanted to avoid 0-3. Guess that didn't happen.

Collin Klein's stats week 1: 13/21 128yrds 1td 1int, 25carries 78yrds, week 2: 9/18 74yrds 1td 0int, 19 carries 139yrds

Obviously the difference here is the rushing yards and yards per carry. Klein really showed what he can do with his feet in the second game, which I think does point to some improvement by the offensive line. He also threw the ball less, which is partly because we were ahead the whole game, but it's also nice to see our true offense being used.

John Hubert's stats week 1: 17 carries 91yrds, week 2: 9 carries 29 yards

Here is where the offensive line concerns me. If they can't run block for our starting rb (and the backups didn't have much either), then we are going to be in trouble. Maybe it was the lanes he was picking, or maybe it was because he didn't get as many chances as he did in week 1, but regardless the line has to do better. If they would have, we might have scored a couple more touchdowns and felt better going into next week's big game at Miami Fl.

Finally, the one that probably makes the least difference in terms of score, but is nice to see nonetheless: Anthony Cantele field goals week 1: 1/2 (made 36, missed 39) week 2: 3/3 (long of 49)

Our kicker has got to have some confidence and I was really worried when he missed the first field goal of the year in the Eastern Kentucky game that he was going to struggle this year and start some kicking battles. Fortunately for him and for K-State, he proved he can be big time and made some big field goals to keep it rolling in the the Kent State game, sealing the deal for him as our starter.

So what does this all mean? Well we did get better, but maybe not in the areas where we most need it. The offensive line has got to get off the ball and get some push or Miami will be all over us. They hounded Ohio State's qb into going 2/14 and only gave up 6 points. That's scary. I think as long as we avoid turnovers and get some of our own, Klein and company will be able to score enough points to win this game. The defense has to be as solid as they have been and keep Jacory Harris from breaking big plays. Arthur Brown has the speed to do it and hopefully he'll be even more motivated than usual playing against his former team. Win the turnover battle, create some holes for Klein and Hubert to run through, play solid defense. Easier said than done, but I think they might just do it...