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.

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