Sunday Rewind: K-State 53, Texas A&M 50

Overall Assessment:
Kansas State was without one of its top offensive playmakers, its quarterback was clearly in pain when the game began and several of its defensive players had to fight through injuries in the second half.

Not an ideal combination for a team trying to bounce back from disappointing losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

But, in typical K-State fashion, the Wildcats found a way to win. In four overtimes! Yes, I just used an exclamation mark.

Saturday’s game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium was one of the strangest and most exciting of the season. Combined with last week’s entertaining 52-45 loss at Oklahoma State, the Wildcats are delivering must-see TV to ABC/ESPN.

At 8-2 overall and 5-2 in Big 12 play, plenty of bowl games are starting to look at them. With a strong finish, they could end up in the Cotton Bowl.

K-State still has plenty to work on if it hopes to get an invitation to the Big 12’s top non BCS bowl. It continues to start games slowly, and was once again unable to sack the opposing quarterback. But as long as it continues to play with the resolve it has all season, K-State will have a shot at a 10-win season.

“With the exception of one ballgame, they’ve done it week in, week out,” Snyder said. “… It’s all about how we respond to things, and I think with the exception of kind of getting a little full of ourselves prior to the Oklahoma ballgame, I think we’ve responded quite well.”

Against Texas A&M, the Wildcats rallied from a 14-0 deficit, a 31-21 deficit and won in quadruple overtime. It was a fitting end to the series before the Aggies jump to the SEC. The only other overtime game K-State has played came against Texas A&M in the 1998 Big 12 championship game.

Collin Klein once again led K-State’s offense to the victory, and the defense came through with big plays when it had to behind Nigel Malone and Emmanuel Lamur. Here’s a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:

Player Evaluations

Five that were good:

1. Collin Klein. The two main things people will take away from the junior quarterback’s performance are that he showed incredible toughness and that he scored five rushing touchdowns.

That’s fair. When asked if he was more banged up than usual after Saturday’s game, he had this to say: “I am, but it’s the kind of thing where you’ve got to rise to the occasion and make plays.”

But what Klein did best against Texas A&M was throw the ball. By passing for a career-high 281 yards and a touchdown, he forced the Aggies to respect his arm even though he rushed the ball 35 times for 103 yards.

He spun out of trouble and hit Travis Tannahill for a long gain the first half, and connected with Chris Harper on a 53-yard bomb for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Those big plays kept Texas A&M off-balance, and it showed in the four overtime periods.

In the third overtime, Klein (aka the Honey Badger) dropped back in the pocket, faked a pass to his right and took off running to the left. The Aggies respected his passing ability so much that they left that side of the field undefended, and Klein went 25 yards untouched into the end zone.

He gave the Wildcats’ offense noticeable balance late in the game.

“You never know with the Honey Badger,” receiver Tramaine Thompson said. “… Collin has had some good performances this year. When he wants to, he can throw the ball out there.”

2. Chris Harper. He played better than any receiver in this game. The junior continually got open and made tough catches, finishing with four grabs for 134 yards and a touchdown. His highlight play came on a 53-yard touchdown catch from Klein in the fourth quarter, where he absolutely burned his defender up the left sideline.

Even without Tyler Lockett in the lineup, he was able to stretch the field and make big plays.

3. Nigel Malone. The interception expert made his seventh pick of the season on Saturday. He intercepted Ryan Tannehill at the best possible time. With K-State trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, he gave his team a spark by jumping a route and returning the ball up field and setting up the Wildcats with great field position they would use to score their first touchdown.

4. Anthony Cantele. K-State’s kicker came through in the clutch on Saturday. When the Wildcats needed him most, Cantele drilled a 44-yard field goal to force overtime and then made a 38-yard field goal to force a third overtime.

Exactly what you want out of your kicker.

“Anthony did a very nice job,” Snyder said. “Not just in the sense of field goals and extra points, but he kicked the ball well on kick offs.”

5. Tramaine Thompson. With Lockett out for the season, Thompson has emerged as K-State’s No. 2 receiver. On Saturday, he caught four passes for 37 yards, and impacted the game in several ways. He was open in the end zone in the fourth overtime, which forced Texas A&M to commit a pass interference penalty against him. And in the first overtime, he hopped on a Klein fumble in the end zone for a touchdown that saved the day.

“I saw the ball coming my way on the ground,” Thompson said. “I happened to be in the right spot and was able to dive on it for a touchdown.”

Honorable mentions:

Emmanuel Lamur. The senior linebacker made a team-high 10 tackles and broke up two passes … Allen Chapman. The cornerback made seven tackles and broke up three passes.

Five that were bad:
1. John Hubert. K-State’s top running back has been a nonfactor in back-to-back games. That needs to change. Against Texas A&M, he rushed for 33 yards on 13 carries and dropped a perfectly thrown pass that would have gone for a nice gain. He also lost a fumble.

Hubert needs to return to his early season form to help take pressure, and hits, off of Klein.

2. Angelo Pease. K-State’s backup running back didn’t impact Saturday’s game in a positive way. He rushed two times for zero yards and lost a fumble.

3. B.J. Finney. The freshman center delivered a poor snap on K-State’s two-point conversion try in the third overtime, which led to Klein bobbling the ball and the play failing to work. The offensive line as a whole didn’t do a good job protecting Klein in the passing game. He was sacked four times.

4. Tysyn Hartman. He missed much of the second half with an injury after making six tackles, but K-State’s defense seemed to play better with Matt Pearson taking his spot at safety.

5. Brodrick Smith. When he warmed up Saturday, most in the press box assumed he was ready to play a larger role in K-State’s offense with Lockett out. Boy, were we wrong. K-State coaches seem to have no interest in playing the receiver. He didn’t see the field against Texas A&M.

Coaching critique
K-State coaches got the Wildcats to respond to their loss against Oklahoma with a noble effort at Oklahoma State and then got them to respond from that loss with a big win over Texas A&M. All with some key players fighting through injuries or out. They know how to motivate their players. One thing they need to work on in their final two games, though, is starting with a lead. K-State has fallen behind 14-0 in three straight games.

Only 46,204 fans attended Saturday’s game, but the smaller than usual crowd still provided a nice atmosphere. As the game went into overtime, the stadium got rowdy and several fans left saying it was the most intense they have ever seen a crowd in Manhattan.

Key play you may have overlooked
Cyrus Gray broke away from the pack for a 63-yard gain in the fourth quarter, but he didn’t score a touchdown. Pearson, K-State’s backup safety, was the reason why. Pearson flew up field and managed to tackle Gray from behind in the red zone. If that tackle isn’t made, Texas A&M would have taken a 35-21 lead. Instead, K-State held it to a field goal and forced overtime at 31-31.

Pearson made four tackles in relief of Hartman, and may have done enough to earn extended playing time in K-State’s final two games. Snyder said he is the fastest defender on the roster.

Statistically speaking
K-State was fortunate to commit three turnovers and win. The Wildcats have been good about taking care of the ball all season. But they struggled in that area Saturday. Klein threw a bad interception, and Hubert and Pease both fumbled.

Quote to note
“It feels good to get our rhythm back so that everyone knows it is not a fluke. We really do have this kind of record, and we can do great things.” – Tramaine Thompson.