A week ago, 42 points seemed like all the Kansas State football team would need to defeat Baylor. Yesterday, holding Oklahoma State to 24 points seemed like all the defense it would need to hand the Cowboys a loss.
As it turned out, neither scenario led to a Wildcats win.
One week, the offense is good and the defense is bad. The next week, the offense sputters and the defense delivers. Clearly, K-State needs both to win games. Here’s a deeper look:
1. As the game went on, it was obvious K-State defenders were starting to figure out how to play against a spread offense. Instead of running 15 yards behind wide open receivers, the Wildcats defensive backs were swatting down passes. Stephen Harrison broke up four throws, David Garrett did all but pick off a pass late and Alex Hrebec and Ty Zimmerman knocked down a pass.
Are they ready to hold down a spread attack? Heavens no (see the 511 yards allowed). But the Wildcats’ defense only allowed the Cowboys offense to score 17 points. They no longer look inept.
“We’re showing glimpses of being good,” Zimmerman said. “We held a good offense to 17 points. We’re definitely capable. We’ve just got to keep working and finish.”
2. Speaking of Zimmerman, how good was the freshman safety on Saturday? He was everywhere and led the team with 12 tackles, two of which were for loss, and was easily the defense’s top performer.
Afterward, coach Bill Snyder was asked if an argument could be made that Zimmerman had passed Tysyn Hartman and Emmanuel Lamur to become the most consistent safety on the roster. Snyder laughed.
“I don’t think it would be an argument,” he said. “You wouldn’t get one out of me.”
3. Daniel Thomas was asked to handle a workhorse load on Saturday, and did so admirably. He carried the ball 29 times for 101 yards and led the team for a series as the quarterback.
4. Ryan Doerr was locked in a punter’s duel with Quinn Sharp, and kicked the ball just as well as his Oklahoma State counterpart. Doerr punted six times, and twice pinned the Cowboys within their 20-yard line. He averaged 45.3 yards per punt, and booted one 55 yards.
5. Aubrey Quarles didn’t end with a lot of receiving yards (just 59) but he did make nine catches. The senior continues to be a reliable target in the passing game.
1. K-State’s offense failed to show up to a shootout. It couldn’t build a big lead in the first half while Oklahoma State was fumbling the ball, and once the Cowboys took a two-possession lead in the second half, it panicked.
The Wildcats started going for big plays, which Snyder later admitted isn’t his team’s specialty, and turned the ball over.
Oklahoma State’s defense is dreadful. It allowed two Sun Belt Conference teams to score at least 28 points earlier this season. But K-State managed only 14. No team has scored less against the Cowboys all year.
2. K-State committed three turnovers. Regardless of what the Wildcats did in the two games leading up to Saturday, it isn’t explosive enough to overcome three turnovers. Especially when one of them comes in the form of a pick six.
Carson Coffman threw two bad interceptions and another pass into heavy coverage. He was playing though a minor injury, but he didn’t use that as an excuse.
“I just didn’t get it done,” he said.
Thomas also threw a pick while passing out of the Wildcat Formation.
3. The defense may be improving, but the 511 yards it allowed Saturday are still way too many.
K-State needs to find a way to put more pressure on the quarterback and defend the run. Brandon Weeden was sacked zero times, and Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle combined for 207 rushing yards.
“Right now we’re at the core,” linebacker Tre Walker said. “Sometimes when things go wrong you’ve got to go back to your basics and your core. So right now we’re at the core. We’re still building.”
4. In order for K-State to take the next step on defense, Snyder says his team needs to tackle better. During the week, he said he stopped practices and tried to teach his players the essentials, but the move didn’t work to his satisfaction on Saturday.
“In the second half we missed tackle after tackle after tackle,” Snyder said. “We haven’t got it yet.”
The worst tackle of the day has to go to Hartman. On one particular play, he wrapped his arms around an Oklahoma State player and was carried up field six yards until he ran out of bounds.
5. K-State’s offensive line isn’t the chest-pounding bunch it was at the start of the season. Back then Wade Weibert and Zach Kendall regularly talked about how they could push around anyone. Run-blocking was their specialty, and they were proud to clear the way. Now they are committing penalties left and right, and Thomas is no longer breaking free for big gains.
1. If anyone on the K-State roster was waiting for the North Texas game to clinch bowl eligibility, they aren’t anymore. Following Saturday’s loss, Snyder told his team that if it continues to think that way it will end the season with five wins.
The message was received.
“We can’t (go into) North Texas hoping for that to be our sixth win,” Thomas said. “They’re going to be gunning for us. They’re not going to be some pushover team.”
K-State will next have a chance to become bowl eligible this week against struggling Texas. Who knows? The Wildcats could be favored.
2. This loss truly seemed to bother K-State players. Snyder and several players said the postgame locker room was filled with motivational speeches to put an end to their losing streak.
The Wildcats are ready to come together.
“I’m seeing it already,” Thomas said. “We’ve got guys stepping up in the locker room that normally don’t.”
3. When K-State gets opposing teams into third-and-long situations, it likes to put Emmanuel Lamur and Walker on the field for their speed. But the duo are yet to be effective. Oklahoma State continually threw for big gains with them on the field.
4. Josh Cherry finally missed a field goal, and it was a biggie. After a string of Oklahoma State penalties put the Wildcats in easy field-goal range, Cherry missed a 24-yard kick that could have given K-State a 10-7 lead early in the third quarter.
The miss permanently shifted momentum toward Oklahoma State, and some blamed the loss on it.
“It was big, but at the same time we just kinda shot ourselves in the foot a little bit,” Coffman said. “I threw two picks and I feel horrible about that. That wasn’t the defining moment of the game.”
5. Two unusual names will be fighting for a Big 12 South championship this season. With Texas out of the picture, it comes down to Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State. How weird does that sound?