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.