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?....