Sunday, November 13, 2011

One of the Greatest Games in K-State History

Same offensive firepower as last week: Not really. In regulation, the numbers were quite ordinary, racking up only 31 points and just over 350 yards offense. Klein did have over 200 yards passing, which was like last week, but Hubert and the run game was awful, amassing less than 100 yards, with Hubert only getting 33 of them, so I guess I'll go half-check.
Win the "hidden yardage" on special teams and defense: Nope. Giving up 21 points on 3 turnovers nearly cost us this one, even though Tremaine Thompson did a decent job filling in for the injured Tyler Lockett on special teams.
Change the defense if it's not working: Finally we saw some blitzes and man coverages. They didn't do much, but we did
limit A&M to less than 400 yards in regulation and Tannehill only had 210 yards passing, the lowest total for any opposing QB other than Jordan Webb of KU, and the two QBs we faced in the first two games. Pretty solid there.

If you haven't already, you should probably read my very first blog post entitled "K-State Football Doesn't Play Overtime." Obviously I was proven "wrong" last night, but I did end the blog by saying this: "I’m not saying that K-State will never play another overtime game, that’s just ridiculous." Part of that of course was covering my rear, but I did a good job of it don't you think? ;) But of course, here's another interesting note. K-State has now only ever played two overtime games, BOTH of them against Texas A&M. The first, if you were too lazy to read my blog post, was in the 1998 Big XII Championship Game. K-State was undefeated and if they won, they would have gone to the National Championship, a first for K-State and the ultimate unbelievable dream for a program that was deemed the worst in the history of college football just 10 short years earlier. K-State was up 15 in the 4th quarter but a fumble by one of the greatest QBs ever to wear purple, Michael Bishop, led to A&M eventually tying the game and going into overtime. They traded field goals in the first, K-State kicked a field goal in the second, and A&M scored a touchdown to seal it, winning 36-33. The second overtime game against A&M comes 13 years after the most heart-breaking loss in K-State history, and most of those who were on staff or in pads are of course gone by now. Many of the fans remember, however, and it was not far from many of their minds as Klein took a knee to send the game into extra periods. And of course Snyder was there. And what better way to finally excise that demon than to play an overtime game against that same school THE LAST TIME YOU EVER PLAY THEM. A&M is leaving for the SEC, in case you haven't heard, and this would be K-State's last chance to put the past behind them, even a past that was 13 years ago. I'm not saying that they never got over that game, or that game has haunted K-State ever since and that's why they haven't even been close to a national championship, or any of that silliness. I am saying that this team has never played overtime since, and what better way of doing it than in a 4-OT thriller against the same exact team, but with a much different result.

So usually what I do here is recap the game almost play-by-play. Well, I've gotten some complaints about that, so let's just bring up the important ones- mainly the ones where I thought the game was over, K-State would go home in disappointing fashion, and I would be sorely depressed. The first was when K-State was down 14-0 AGAIN in the second quarter. (Seriously, guys, I can't handle this many more times. Can we please play well in the first quarter for once?). A&M had the ball again and K-State had done little on offense, amassing only 23 total yards and one first down, as well as a fumble that led to an A&M touchdown. The defense had been better, forcing an A&M punt and missed field goal (which, as I look back on it now, was in fact HUGE). But they obviously couldn't keep doing it, as "bend but don't break" defenses usually "break" if they're on the field for too long- see the game against Oklahoma. A&M was driving and I just thought, "Well this has been a nice season, but I guess it's all finally caught up to us. I hope they don't beat us by too many points." But then a man who has sparked K-State so many times this year sparked them again: Nigel Malone picked off a poorly thrown Ryan Tannehill pass and K-State was in business. Klein ran it down the field as usual and K-State was only down 14-7. Another defensive stop and an incredible two-minute drive in which Klein did his best Eli Manning impression by avoiding the sack and throwing it down the field to our Travis Tannehill at the five and eventually a tie score at halftime. Ridiculous as usual.

Another time I thought we were going to give up the game was when we were driving, still tied, maybe going to take the lead, and Klein miscommunicated with his receiver and threw it right to A&M, which led to another touchdown. Again I thought, "The offense just isn't consistent enough. We can't keep coming back from these deficits." This time it was Klein and Harper that proved me wrong, connecting on a 54 yard pass that eventually led to another tie game.

After another defensive stop, K-State had the chance to take the lead again but turned it over again, this time on a John Hubert fumble. A&M scored quickly, and after another 3-and-out by K-State, A&M got the ball back, ready to put the game out of reach. And when Cyrus Gray broke off a 63 yard run to the five, I thought that's exactly what the game was: out of reach. But this was one of the biggest plays of the game, and it happened on interesting circumstances. Earlier, K-State safety Tysyn Hartman had left the game from an injury. In for Hartman was Matthew Pearson, who isn't as hard a hitter as Hartman or as smart a defender, but has way more speed, and has at times filled in nicely for Hartman. Pearson was the one who tackled Gray at the 5 yard line. If Hartman is in the game, Gray scores. I almost wanted Gray to score, just so we'd have more time left to mount a comeback. I'm glad I was wrong. Instead, K-State came through with one of their "trademark" goal line stands and held A&M to a field goal, which of course was extremely important.

Down by 10, with 3rd and 10 at our own 20, and only 6 minutes left in the game. Of course, once again I thought, "No way this is happening. We are finally seeing a game that turnovers went against K-State and cost them the game as a result." Klein proved that he truly is the Honey Badger, doesn't care what the turnover ratio is, and hooked up with Curry Sexton for 27 yards for a first down and Chris Harper for 53 yards for a touchdown on the next play. Incredible.

As you can tell by now, I'm a pessimist. I couldn't watch when Cantele was attempting to tie the game just a few short minutes later. I'm so glad he made it. And then when we went to a knee to go to overtime, I couldn't believe what was happening. I wrote my finest piece of writing ever about how we didn't go to overtime, and here we were doing it, and I was once again at the game, and it was once again against Texas A&M.

I'm not sure anyone can imagine what a four-overtime game was like for a fan base that had only ever experienced one that went to two overtimes, and never in our home stadium. Rules were explained around, questions were asked and answered, the crowd went from being extremely quiet to one of the loudest crowds I've ever heard in a matter of minutes. It was unbelievable. Have I used that word yet? Unbelievable. That's what this game was, that's what this team is, and that's what its greatest leader Collin Klein is. Unbelievable.

Trading touchdowns in the first overtime, trading field goals in the second (which again, I couldn't watch as Cantele lined up for it - maybe the kid has finally found some confidence), then when we scored a touchdown in the third but didn't get the 2pt I thought we were sunk again. For the briefest moment I had hope when K-State was chasing Tannehill around the pocket on 4th down, but he found his extremely athletic receiver Nwachkwu for a touchdown and I felt sure that it just wasn't meant to be. A&M would get the 2pt conversion easily and we would lose another heart-breaker. But Tannehill zipped one in so hard that it hit off of Fuller's facemask and out of play. K-State fans breathed a sigh of relief. When A&M was held to a field goal, we could all tell that this was K-State's opportunity. If they didn't do it here, it would never happen. After picking up a first down, K-State boldly threw it into the end zone and drew a pass interference penalty. Two plays later, Collin Klein was in the end zone for the fifth time that day (tying Jonathan Beasley's K-State quarterback single game touchdown rush record) and K-State had won one of the greatest games in K-State history 53-50.

So I know that was really long, and a bit more recap than many of you probably wanted to read, but I had to give that game as much attention as it deserved, which may be more than I can actually provide. Plus, I nearly died of heart failure and hyperventilation, so recounting my possible last moments was important as well. So how did K-State win this game if it was again outgained in yards, sacked and held to three-and-outs more times, and turned the ball over more? First of all, they won time of possession AGAIN, played better defense at key points in the game, including a fourth down stop with one yard to go and at the goal line on third down later on, and we have one of the toughest quarterbacks ever in Collin Klein. Guts. Pure Klein guts. That's how we keep winning these games. Snyder doesn't give up, Klein doesn't give up, this team doesn't give up and never will, no matter the score or the situation. There's always a play call to be had, a throw to be made, a defender to be Honey Badgered all over, and Snyder, Klein and the rest of the Cats will make the most of those opportunities. They will keep coming out as winners in Snyder's eyes, the fans eyes, and each other's eyes, no matter what the final score says, no matter what the media says, and no matter what some silly Las Vegas spread says.

And though I and many I know will never forget that game and everything it meant to the program, to the fans, and to so many more, there are more weeks of football to be played. And the next game K-State plays will be its 8th of the season where they were the underdog. That's right folks, even though #WeOwnTexas, have a better record than Texas, and are consistently beating the spread, the Longhorns are favored by a touchdown. I think Snyder may have something to do with this... Anyway, Texas is another of those teams that look dominant against some teams, and extremely poor against others. They destroyed Texas Tech and KU in successive weeks, which given the state of both programs may not be saying much, but then make their final trip to Columbia and fail to score a touchdown for the first time since 2004, losing 17-5 to Missouri. It didn't help Texas that their leading two rushers were hurt for the game and then halfway through the first quarter they lost their third-string back as well. Their QB Ash seemed to have been pretty poor, completing less than half his passes, throwing one pick, and being relieved by McCoy late in the game. The defense didn't play much better, and even though they only gave up 17 points, they gave up more than 300 yards to an offense that lost their best running back (and the Big XII's leading rusher) Henry Josey in the first quarter as well. Despite all their struggles in this game, there is no official word on any of the Texas' three running backs, and if they're all back for Saturday, then the K-State defense is in for one of its toughest rushing tests of the season. On the other side of the ball, Texas has the statistically best defense in the Big XII, ranking 14th nationally, 10th in rushing defense and 48th in passing defense. It may seem another game where we look to Klein's arm to get things done, which will of course open up room for his legs. After two consecutive weeks of setting personal bests in passing yards, it certainly seems like that might be possible. Texas is even on turnover ratio for the season, while K-State is still ranked in the top ten even though they lost last week's battle 3-1. Turnovers are much more important on the road, where K-State has used that ratio to win games at Miami, KU and Texas Tech and keep it close at Oklahoma State. Texas' quarterbacks would seem to be young and prone to these turnovers, so getting to the quarterback is going to be key, no matter who is playing running back, so let's keep up those blitzes. And Texas isn't known for their crowd noise, but I think a lot of them are tired of losing to K-State, so they may be in this one early, meaning we have to get off to a better start if we want to win yet another difficult Big XII game. So here we go: Keep Klein passing in order to keep Klein running, get pressure on the Texas quarterback whoever it might be, and keep the crowd out of it by having a good first quarter and first half. Let's keep #WeOwnTexas alive, win a fourth straight in the series, and get an inexplicable 9th victory. How bout it? EMAW

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