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.

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