Sunday Rewind: K-State 17, Texas 13

Overall Assessment:
Anyone who manages a fantasy football team can appreciate Kansas State’s 17-13 win over Texas on Saturday at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, and the Wildcats put up nothing close to the offensive numbers they have in recent weeks. But thanks to a strong defensive effort, zero turnovers and a few key plays they were able to win.

In fantasy football world, it was like one of those weeks when your team scores fewer points than normal but is matched up against another struggling opponent. Maybe you don’t see the 120 points you normally do, but the 90 you got was all you needed.

K-State coach Bill Snyder didn’t see things quite that positively. He was hot after the game, and had some choice words for his offense. Texas kept Collin Klein in check all night, John Hubert couldn’t get much going out of the backfield, the offensive line struggled and every first down was hard to come by.

The defense, which was able to go back to its preferred 4-3 look, looked great, though. Emmanuel Lamur and Ty Zimmerman both helped the offense by making key interceptions. Tre Walker and Nigel Malone made several important tackles.

Put it all together, and it was an important win for K-State. It has now won four straight over Texas. And with Oklahoma losing to Baylor, K-State can finish in a three-way tie for the Big 12 championship if it beats Iowa State and the Sooners beat Oklahoma State. Depending on how things go, it could also have an edge over Oklahoma for a BCS bowl invitation or a spot in the Cotton Bowl.

Here’s a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:

Player Evaluations

Five that were good:

1. Tre Walker. No one was happier to find himself in a defensive battle Saturday night than Walker. The sophomore linebacker has been taken off the field for extended periods of time in recent games so K-State could use its nickel formation. But with Texas focusing on running the ball, Snyder asked him to play more or less the whole way.

Walker took advantage of the opportunity. He made a team-high nine tackles, and gave the Wildcats’ defense a big boost just like he did at Miami early in the season.

When asked about his lack of playing time lately, he smiled and said Emmanuel Lamur had simply been the best man for the job. Walker always has a good attitude, and he is developing into more of a leader every day.

2. Chris Harper. His 16-yard touchdown catch at the end of the second quarter was arguably the biggest offensive play of the day for K-State. The score came in the left corner of the end zone, when he broke off a go route and found separation from his defender. Klein lofted him a pass, and suddenly the Wildcats led 10-3 at the end of a brutal first half that featured few big plays on both sides.

He caught another important pass for 11 yards that gave K-State a first down. Considering K-State only got eight of them all night, that was a big play, too.

3. Ty Zimmerman. The sophomore safety intercepted David Ash across the middle of the field and returned it 23 yards into Texas territory. It was a huge defensive play that set K-State up with field position it would use to score its only touchdown of the second half. He also made six tackles and limited the Longhorns’ downfield most of the way.

4. Adam Davis. The defensive end only had two tackles, but they were both important. His sack of Case McCoy on a fourth-and-long late in the fourth quarter went a long way toward helping K-State hold off Texas for the win. The Wildcats haven’t put any pressure on opposing quarterbacks lately. But Davis found a way to do it with the game on the line.

5. Ryan Doerr. Before leaving the stadium, I asked a few of my media peers who I should put in the paper as K-State’s player of the game. A few of them suggested Doerr. Not a bad suggestion at all. In a game of field position, the Wildcats’ punter played an important role. Doerr kicked 10 punts for 427 yards and pinned Texas within the 20 two times.

Five that were bad:
1. Collin Klein. He was flustered by a constant mixture of disguised and delayed blitzes from the Texas defense and was never able to find his groove. The junior quarterback completed 9 of 17 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown and was held to four rushing yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

Obviously, those are nowhere close to his normal numbers. Sure, he was hurt (so hurt that Snyder said he has been withheld from practice for two straight weeks and Klein said he has been taking “mental reps”) and he did enough to win. But when the Longhorns took away his ability to break loose from the pocket and pick up first downs with his feet out of passing plays, he seemed shaken.

He missed Sheldon Smith deep when he was open for a touchdown, and was stuffed two times on quarterback sneaks. It would have been nice to see him get creative, and maybe use the short passing game to his advantage in the face of all that pressure. He will probably have to get creative in K-State’s final game and bowl. When opposing coaches see the blitzes Texas used, there is a good chance they copy the strategy.

But Klein might be better able to do that. No one deserves a bye week more Klein. A week off should allow him to get healthy. When I asked if he was looking forward to the down time, he enthusiastically said, “Yes, I am.”

2. John Hubert. K-State used Hubert more than it has the past few weeks, and he didn’t take advantage of the opportunity as well as he could have. The running back rushed for 32 yards on 12 carries and caught three passes for 23 yards. With Texas blitzing so much, it would have been nice to see him and Klein connect in the flats for some positive yardage.

3. Offensive line. The Wildcats looked bad up front. Granted, they were dealing with a lot. Texas has a good defensive line, and came at them with extra linebackers and defensive backs on just about every play. But Klein often had little time to react. Anytime an offense runs for 38 total rushing yards, the offensive line didn’t play well.

4. Jordan Voelker. The defensive end had chances to make several key tackles, but only ended up with one. He didn’t have the greatest of games against Texas.

5. Braden Wilson/Travis Tannahill. Both saw action on Saturday, but didn’t look good blocking for Klein. That’s not exclusively their fault. Klein/K-State’s coaches might not have aligned them in the best positions to block. But when the defense is throwing blitz after blitz you, the full back and tight end need to step up and offer protection when they are in the backfield.

Coaching critique
Snyder was furious with his offense after the game, and he had a right to be considering it mustered eight first downs and 121 total yards. But coaching played a part in that poor play. K-State had no adjustments for Texas and its aggressive style of defense. K-State’s defense, though, looked good. Inserting Walker into the game gave the Wildcats a nice return to their 4-3 look.

One coaching decision that was interesting came on K-State’s final drive. The Wildcats faced a fourth-and-short at midfield. A successful sneak with Klein would have put the game away, but Snyder opted to punt and let his defense win the game. I asked him if he put any thought into going for it in that situation, and he said no. Never entered his mind. He was confident in his defense.

Love or hate Texas football fans, they showed great dedication to booing the officials on Saturday. When they flagged Texas for interfering with Tramaine Thompson’s ability to catch a punt in the second quarter (and replays showed the call was bad) UT fans booed after every play going into halftime. Then, for good measure, they booed after halftime, too.

Key play you may have overlooked
This will sound a lot like last week’s key play you may have overlooked, but Nigel Malone’s downfield tackle of Cody Johnson in the fourth quarter was very important. Johnson broke away for a 55-yard run on the play, but Malone ran him down and tackled him short of the end zone. K-State’s defense then held Texas to a field goal, and went on to win 17-13. If he scores there, the game would have been tied.

Statistically speaking
K-State gained 121 yards of total offense (nearly 200 fewer than what Texas managed) and still won the game. The Wildcats have overcome some crazy stats to win this season. That may be the craziest.

Quote to note
“They (the defense) played awesome for us the whole way. We were able to get barely enough points to win.” – Klein.