At halftime, the Wildcats led 9-6 and everyone feared this could be Eastern Kentucky all over again.
Early in the third quarter, the Bears tied things up at 9-9.
As the clock ran out, it was a blowout.
So how did K-State turn a game that was tied in the second half into the lopsided victory all BCS conference teams hope for on opening night?
Here’s a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:
1. K-State’s secondary doesn’t look any better than it did last year.
The Wildcats were weak against the pass last season, and allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for more than 263 yards per game. On Saturday, Missouri State easily topped that number. K-State struggled to cover Missouri State receivers across the middle of the field and gave up 323 passing yards. Ashton Glaser threw for 257 of those yards, with Kierra Harris coming off the bench to throw for 66. They could have had more if not for drops and overthrows. The Wildcats used several new players on Saturday, and coaches often asked defensive backs to line up 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. Maybe that had something to do with the poor performance. Jarard Milo and Thomas Ferguson both played at safety and Ty Zimmerman briefly left with an injury, and plenty of different cornerbacks saw the field. Nigel Malone played well, Milo led K-State with 10 tackles and Randall Evans broke up two passes, but everyone else covered poorly. When asked what K-State’s secondary needs to improve before playing Miami, Bill Snyder didn’t hold back. “Take your pick,” he said. “… I think they played with effort, we just didn’t react well to the thrown ball.”
2. K-State can run the ball without Collin Klein
The Wildcats rushed for an impressive 324 yards on Saturday, with senior quarterback Collin Klein only accounting for 54 of them. That’s a nice change from a year ago, when Klein was the team’s leading rusher. John Hubert churned out 152 yards and a touchdown, with a 95-yard run in the fourth quarter highlighting his night. Angelo Pease looked solid with 38 yards on eight carries, and Braden Wilson was effective running short yardages. He scored a touchdown. Even backup quarterback Daniel Sams got in on the fun with a 46-yard touchdown run. The key to that success was strong blocking up front. K-State’s young offensive line won the battle of the line of scrimmage, and Wilson provided some devastating blocks when he was in the game.
3. Deja vu?
There were plenty of comparisons to last year’s opener against Eastern Kentucky, but even though it took K-State more than three quarters to pull away from Missouri State these Wildcats look further along than they did at this time a year ago. The offense handled itself much better. Even when it was struggling in the first half, it put together several nice drives. It simply settled for field goals. That’s a relatively easy problem to fix, considering K-State scored 35 points in the fourth quarter. The defense didn’t look nearly as good as it did in last year’s opener, but the Wildcats defended the run well. Shoring up the secondary looks like the main key.
A few that were good:
1. John Hubert
On top of 152 rushing yards, the running back reeled off the second longest run in school history Saturday night in the fourth quarter. His 95-yard touchdown run was also the longest ever at Snyder Family Stadium.
“Once I saw daylight I just went,” Hubert said.
He surprisingly didn’t start the game, because he said he did something on Friday that cost him his starting spot. But he played the majority of the game after missing the opening series.
“I was kind of motivated and kind of mad, but at the same time I did something that I shouldn’t have done. That was my consequence,” Hubert said. “I just made a mistake, but I’m all right.”
2. Anthony Cantele
K-State’s kicker did everything he was asked Saturday night. He made three short field goals in the first half to give the Wildcats a 9-6 lead, and pinned Missouri State close to its own goal line with two perfectly placed kickoffs. You can’t ask for a better game from your kicker.
3. Braden Wilson
The senior fullback scored a touchdown on a four-yard run in the fourth quarter, and celebrated like he had just won the game.
“It’s been a while,” Wilson said, “so I was one excited individual.”
His end-zone dance must have motivated his teammates, because it ignited a 35-point fourth quarter. Wilson blocked extremely well on running plays, and allowed Klein and K-State’s running backs to break free for big gains. Along with a solid effort from the offensive line, the Wildcats were strong up front.
4. Arthur Brown
The stats show a relatively quiet game from K-State’s top linebacker: Five tackles and two pass breakups. But I thought he played very well. His presence in the middle of the field helped stuff Missouri State’s running attack all night, and he made several nice plays on short passes. The Bears did not want to challenge him.
5. Nigel Malone
Everyone wanted to know what Malone could do for an encore to his brilliant junior season. Well, he already has an interception one game into his senior year. He didn’t play perfectly on Saturday, but he broke up two passes and picked off another.
6. Tramaine Thompson
His 89-yard punt return for a touchdown made his night special all by itself, but he also caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. He should give K-State a nice three-man rotation at receiver along with Tyler Lockett and Chris Harper.
A few that were bad:
1. Defensive line
One of the biggest complaints Snyder had after the game was that K-State didn’t sack Glaser a single time. Though he was hurried a time or two by Meshak Williams, the Wildcats defensive line didn’t mount much of a pass rush. K-State coaches experimented with different players at defensive end, and John Sua and Vai Lutui combined for two tackles in the middle.
2. Allen Chapman
The cornerback didn’t break up any passes, and could have done a much better job in coverage.
3. Thomas Ferguson
The safety came into the game listed as a starter, but ended up splitting time with Milo. But while Milo led the team with 10 tackles, Ferguson made zero. It will be interesting to see who starts against Miami. Ferguson does deserve props for jumping on a fumble in the end zone in the first half. That prevented Missouri State from taking a lead.
4. Tre Walker
Without Emmanuel Lamur around, I expected Walker to take on a bigger role in K-State’s defense. Maybe he will as the season goes on, but he didn’t do much on Saturday. The junior linebacker made one tackle, and had no impact on the game.
Bill Snyder spent all week talking about how he wanted K-State to start fast against Missouri State. When it didn’t happen, he said: “When I came back I did not think there would be any generation gap, but I am beginning to believe there is. It seems like we are not very good at explaining what we are talking about. I am going to tell the team to have a really slow start next week and see what happens.” While the slow start wasn’t ideal, K-State still won the game by 42 points. So the Wildcats used a good enough strategy. They didn’t use many complex plays on offense and survived. That’s always good. The defense could have been better prepared, though.
This and that
– Collin Klein called his own plays at times during the game. He hopes he can continue doing so throughout the season. “I love it,” he said. “It’s a chess game.”
– Ryan Doerr was battling an injury and Mark Krause handled K-State’s punting duties. Doerr dressed for the game, and still served as the team’s holder on field goals. Cantele said fans can expect Doerr to punt in future games.
– Daniel Sams’ first game with K-State was a memorable one. The freshman quarterback saw time in the fourth quarter and broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run. “My time finally came,” Sams said. “I was just standing with everyone on the sidelines, before I knew it they said, ‘Twos get ready.’ I was calm, but when the commentator said Daniel Same is in the game and the crowd went crazy I was like, ‘OK, I’m probably nervous now.’ But it worked out.”
Key play you may have overlooked
Late in the second quarter, Klein dropped back to pass and had Thompson open across the middle of the field for a potential 30-yard gain. But Klein didn’t want to risk a poor pass and took off running. He still managed to pick up 21 yards, so he didn’t exactly make a poor decision, but that’s a throw he needs to attempt in future games. That play was a good example of how Klein looked hesitant on opening night.
K-State allowed 323 passing yards, a step back from last year’s average of 263.
Quote to note
“We just need to make sure we start better. That’s our thing. We finished well today, I would just like to see us play like that for a whole game.” – Braden Wilson.