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.

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