Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bowl Recap & More Basketball

Okay, I know it's been awhile and everyone's moved on to basketball, but just a recap of my thoughts on the Cotton Bowl.

Get defensive stops: Absolutely yes. The defense was the only reason K-State was in this game. It might have even been the greatest defensive game of the season for K-State, holding the SEC's best offense almost 200 yards below their average and containing the SEC's best quarterback to one of his lowest outputs of the entire season. This is great news for next year, especially because leaders Arthur Brown, Ty Zimmerman, and Nigel Malone are all coming back. The bad news is Emmanuel Lamur, Tysyn Hartman, and Ray Kibble are all gone, though K-State has guys waiting to step in that should fill in all right. One of the biggest stories there is that highly recruited juco QB Justin Tuggle is making the switch to Linebacker, where he could make an immediate impact solely based on his athleticism. So look out for that next year.

Open up the playbook: Not really. I didn't see anything I hadn't seen before, though trying a flea flicker and reverse early in the game was a nice change of pace that just barely failed to work. The early offensive struggles (that were partly as a result of a few penalties that were questionable at best) was what put K-State in a hole here. They were unable to make up for that lost time, though in the second half they looked just as inept save on the opening drive of the half that looked like the K-State team we've been so used to seeing this year. Again, there is good news here because this offense that took advantage of every opportunity throughout the season is mostly back next year. Collin Klein may not put up the same numbers, but his decision making will only get better, and the same goes for John Hubert. Chris Harper is back, and don't forget about Freshman All-American Tyler Lockett who didn't finish the season because of an injury. Again, the future is bright.

Dominate on special teams: Absolutely not. This is where K-State lost this game no question. Arkansas dominated all day with field position and even had a punt return for a touchdown that really got their game going (again some questionable no-calls were made on this return, but them's the breaks. And K-State's been getting them all season, so maybe it was just time our luck ran out.) Once again, look for special teams to be even better next year with punter, kicker, and kick returners coming back next year.

So that's pretty much it for the game. I enjoyed Dallas/Arlington/Ft. Worth and I think most other K-State fans did too. The Arkansas fans were as nice as could be, as is my experience with other SEC fans, who are the very definition of southern hospitality (here's another area where Missouri does not fit the SEC resume haha). I was disappointed in the loss of course, but the fact that this team won 10 games is still amazing to me. The only thing I dislike about having a successful season like this is that it sets the bar pretty high for next year. Granted, O-State and Baylor lost their extremely talented QBs and overall the Big 12 is a big question mark for next year, but TCU and West Virginia are way better than A&M or Missouri, so that only makes the schedule tougher. Non-conference wise, K-State plays a couple of cupcakes at home (North Texas and Missouri State I believe) and then welcomes Miami to Manhattan for the return trip of a one-and-one. Again, if K-State wants to have another bowl appearance, it starts with that big game, just as it did next year. So look for that and much more next year. I'm excited.

Speaking of excited, this basketball season is yet another roller-coaster year in the tenure of Frank Martin. I wrote earlier about how K-State need to avoid the dreaded 0-4 start to Big 12 play. I also wrote about how they had a chance to win in Lawrence, but obviously I'd forgotten about how terribly every K-State team in my entire life has played in Lawrence. So yeah, forget about that. But then K-State beat undefeated Missouri and were up against Baylor until the very end. And of course I made the mistake of going to Norman expecting to beat Oklahoma. (Going to Norman wasn't a mistake - I had a lovely time with old friends named Tricia, Porter, Tumbleson and Billy and a new friend named Bobo - but expecting them to win was a mistake.) Lon Kruger had his team ready and K-State was obviously not ready. Or maybe it was Frank, who refused to play Angel or Diaz while JO and Martavious played sparingly all because of mistakes they'd been making in game and practice. The little they played and the minutes that Southwell, Victor, and Nino put in were the reasons for this loss. K-State couldn't stop OU from scoring and the only reliable scorer for K-State was Rodney, and Lord knows he tried, but there just wasn't enough he could do. K-State fell to 1-3 and all of a sudden there was a problem where there really hadn't been one. Sure, they'd made mistakes down the stretch that cost them against Baylor, but Baylor is a great team and losing that game was no shame. Frank created that problem, Frank made himself the focus of the team instead of the players, and once again I'm reminded of something I wrote about how basketball seasons reflect the posters for that season. Well look who's on this poster.

But then the Texas game came. And of course, #WeSTILLownTexas. And then K-State went to Stillwater and won for the first time there since 1993. And just yesterday K-State played the worst Big 12 basketball team I think I've ever seen in Texas Tech. Seriously, they have nobody. There was a stretch of time that K-State couldn't stop Texas Tech from getting the ball - TT got rebound after rebound, put-back after put-back, and yet nothing went in. K-State got the ball back and the score was unaltered. It was awful. K-State hasn't played particularly well on offense over these last couple of games, but that will need to change this weekend for the rematch with Oklahoma.

DO NOT LET OKLAHOMA BECOME THIS YEAR'S COLORADO. Last year we were a decent team but for whatever reason could not beat barely-better-than-mediocre Colorado. Sure, Colorado had a lot more talent than OU has this year. But OU has Lon Kruger for a coach and certainly has more talent than Texas Tech. They just need to be prepared. And key contributers Will and Angel have got to get off to better starts. We'll see if Angel or Diaz or JO or Martavious can make a bigger impact than last game against OU, or if OU truly has our number like Colorado did last year. I sure hope not. K-State needs to take advantage of games like this before difficult games like at Iowa State and at Texas really test them. Or obviously difficult road games against Baylor and Missouri and of course the home rematch with KU. It's gonna be a fun rest of the season, but trip up in the winnable games too much and it's going to cost them a tournament berth.

I also wrote last time about how the women always deliver an upset or two and sure enough, they delivered in their first Big12 game, knocking off defending national champion Texas A&M. The girls even went on to go 4-0 in the conference, beating a decent KU team on the road and a ranked Texas Tech team on the road. Then they came home and lost a winnable game to OU (sound familiar?), got drubbed by undefeated #1 Baylor and lost another winnable game at home to Iowa State. The girls struggle with depth, and when teams like Baylor and Iowa State take away K-State's best player in Brittany Chambers, the girls are in trouble. They play good defense most of the time, but when the scoring dries up they have to work even harder, and with few subs to give them rest it can turn ugly quickly. I still have faith they'll get a few more wins and may even make it to the tournament, but it's going to be close.

So that's all my K-State thoughts for now. I may write another Best Picture post later as the Academy Awards are coming up, but until then.... Go Cats!


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