Bill Snyder’s return to the Kansas State sideline didn’t go as well as he wanted it to, but it went well enough.
With 50,750 fans on hand (the largest crowd to ever witness a home opener at K-State) to celebrate his comeback to coaching and the grand pregame festivities involving more than 300 former players, the Wildcats took an 18-point lead and then sputtered to the finish.
They hung on for a 21-17 victory, but it left fans, players and coaches alike sweating.
Here’s how Snyder summed it all up: “We began to put things together … Then it all fell apart.”
Snyder, as he should have been, was pleased with how K-State performed in the second quarter.
The Wildcats put together three scoring drives in that 15-minute period and took a 21-3 lead.
Junior running back Daniel Thomas looked as good as advertised, running for 104 yards on 23 carries. His backup, Keithen Valentine looked impressive, too, picking up 89 yards on 11 touches.
Kansas State used both of them extensively in that second quarter, and at one point ran on 10 straight plays. The strategy worked, and it allowed junior quarterback Carson Coffman (who played the entire game other than one series in the fourth quarter because of leg cramps) to open up the passing attack.
He shrugged off two early turnovers, a fumble and an interception that both occurred because he was hit in the backfield, and connected on 14 of 27 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
At times he looked good, and, when he hit Attrail Snipes for the second of two touchdowns with 3 seconds remaining in the first half, it looked like the Wildcats were ready to roll.
But when they got the opening kickoff of the second half things changed. That’s when Snyder stopped liking what he saw.
Here’s also where most people seem to differ on how Kansas State performed.
Some left saying that Kansas State looked very bad and needed lots of improvement. While I can’t disagree that the Wildcats need improvement in some areas (special teams) I never thought they looked all that awful in the second half.
True, they didn’t score. But without two costly special teams errors (a muffed punt return from Brandon Banks and a blocked punt that got returned for a touchdown) the game would not have been close.
And it’s always hard for teams to keep pushing when they feel the game is over. At halftime, I’m pretty sure everyone in Snyder Family Stadium figured this game was over.
K-State shut down UMass’ offense all night. The Wildcats’ defensive unit didn’t give up any hard-earned points. All of UMass’ scores came after, or during, turnovers. And that was good. Though it is worth pointing out that the Minutemen had no passing game to speak of. They only got 102 yards through the air.
When they tried to pass, Tysyn Hartman was there to make an interception. He grabbed two INT’s his first night out, and dropped what would have been a sure third one. Pretty good day for the Wichita native.
And when the game did get close, Kansas State did what it had to in order to win the game. No points allowed. Key first downs picked up.
Senior defensive tackle Jeffrey Fitzgerald put it like this: “We wanted a blowout, but this might do us better in the long run, showing that toughness and grit we did today.”
We may find out if that’s true next week, when Kansas State will face a much tougher test on the road against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Kansas State had 225 rushing yards.
Kansas State rushed the ball 48 times.
Kansas State had eight third down conversions.
UMass’ longest scoring drive was 18 yards.
Kansas State scored all 21 of its points in the second quarter.
UMass took the first lead at 3-0.
UMass running back Tony Nelson ran for 107 yards.
Grant Gregory picked up 21 rushing yards when he was in the game.
Six tackles was all it took to lead K-State in tackles.
Tyler Holmes led UMass with 12 tackles.
Kansas State’s record is 1-0.
Oklahoma’s record is 0-1.
Quotes of note:
“I still knew we were going to win, but we put ourselves in a pretty bad situation there at the end.” — Carson Coffman.
“We’ll be able to run the ball anytime we want. We’ve just gotta keep getting better.” — Daniel Thomas.
“I would give myself a D,” — Daniel Thomas when asked how he would grade his 104-yard rushing performance.
“I am tremendously disappointed for all the wonderful people who came here tonight. I would have loved to have had a far better performance.” — Bill Snyder.
“There are always butterflies. I had ‘em. They didn’t go away until the end of the first quarter.” — Eric Childs on playing in the first game.
“I don’t want to comment about that,” — Tysyn Hartman on Bill Snyder’s reaction to the narrow win.
“We had a great turnout. It was a sellout crowd, the first one I’ve been a part of here. I’m just glad we came out on top and got the victory.” — Tysyn Hartman.