There were good plays. There were bad plays. You could take this game in a number of different ways.
For now, let’s just focus on the most pertinent question: Is K-State ready for its Big 12 opener against Texas?
On one hand, the Wildcats could use some work on defense. And Jake Waters needs to stop throwing interceptions. On the other hand, what’s going on in Austin right now is a soap-opera. The Longhorns are coming off back-to-back brutal losses and the fan base is furious. Coming off back-to-back wins, the Wildcats are in much better shape.
Again, you could answer the question in a number of different ways.
Here is what K-State coach Bill Snyder said Saturday night: “We need to get a whole lot better real quick. Real quick. Texas is good. I understand they are going through some tough times, but don’t dare underestimate the University of Texas. They will be a handful for anybody.”
And with that, here is a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:
1. The opponent was bad, but K-State’s rushing game was good
Yes, Massachusetts can’t stop the run. But 329 yards is 329 yards. The Wildcats pulverized the Minutemen on the ground with a number of different players. John Hubert was the top running option, as he piled up 118 yards. He looked like a completely different runner than the guy who totaled 79 combined yards in his first two games. He got up field and ran with a purpose. That needs to continue. Daniel Sams was his usual self. Robert Rose added a nice lift. Even Jake Waters got going. The offensive line played its finest game.
2. K-State’s defense still has improvement to make.
Senior linebacker Blake Slaughter had a telling response when I asked him about K-State’s defensive improvement as the game went on. I pointed out that Massachusetts moved the ball well in the first quarter and took a 7-6 lead, but didn’t score again. He seemed a little surprised to hear that. “I don’t think we played as well as the score shows,” Slaughter said. “Seven points, I don’t think we played that well. They were able to score early on. The rest of the game we were able to get stops. We played better, but we aren’t where we need to be. We still have a long way to go.” The Wildcats’ biggest improvements need to be made in coverage and on third down. They missed too many tackles.
3. K-State vs. Texas is going to be a VERY important game for both teams.
Forget K-State’s five-game winning streak over Texas. Forget the Longhorns’ recent run of suck. Both teams need to win next week’s game … Bad. If K-State wins in Austin, no one is going to remember that loss to North Dakota State anymore. The Wildcats will be 3-1 with a road win in the Big 12′s largest stadium. If they lose, they are 2-2 with a daunting game at Oklahoma State next on the schedule. If Texas wins, Mack Brown can better sell the Big 12 championship hopes humorously tried to sell Saturday night. If the Longhorns lose, they are 1-3 and everything continues to get worse.
A few that were good:
He was K-State’s best player. Hubert not only rushed for 118 yards on 18 carries, he also caught a 43-yard touchdown pass. He was much more aggressive, and focused on finding the holes in front of him and getting up field as much as possible. This was a nice step forward after two sub-par games.
The sophomore quarterback rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and completed two passes for 12 yards. He sparked a much-needed touchdown drive in the first half and continued to provide instant offense whenever he entered the game. He was once again a change-of-pace QB to Waters, but that could change next week against Texas and its tissue-soft run defense.
The cornerback made two interceptions and took one of them to the house for a touchdown. Daily had a very nice game.
K-State’s best linebacker made 10 tackles, including one for loss. The senior is the clear leader of this defense right now.
First he blocked a kick. Then he swatted down a pass on third down. Then he made one and a half tackles for loss. What a game from the defensive tackle.
I’ve always thought he would be able to help K-State in the passing game, and he did on Saturday. The freshman fullback caught a 50-yard touchdown.
A few that were bad:
He got better as the game went on, but he was consistently beaten in the first half and missed at least one tackle.
Miller is an excellent down-field blocker, perhaps the best on K-State’s roster. But, once again, bad things happened when Waters targeted him. Until he proves he can catch passes when he is open, he shouldn’t be trusted in the passing game.
He played well overall, rushing for 74 yards and throwing for 115 yards and two touchdowns, but did bad things in the passing game. He threw an interception in his third straight game and fifth of the season on a bad pass he intended for Tyler Lockett. He seemed timid afterward. He only completed five of 10 passes, and never got Lockett or Tramaine Thompson involved. At one point, Waters had good protection in the pocket and Thompson streaking open across the middle, yet he chose to run instead of throw downfield. He needs to be more confident against Texas.
They don’t deserve all the blame here, but Thompson, Lockett and Curry Sexton combined for 27 yards. That is unacceptable.
K-State coaches finally got the running game going, but the passing game struggled and the defense needs improvement. Snyder has out-coached Mack Brown in previous years. Let’s see what kind of surprises he has for Texas this time around.
After two sub-par games, John Hubert got back on track with 118 rushing yards. After two superb games in which he topped 100 receiving yards, Tyler Lockett managed eight yards on one catch. K-State is still seeking balance.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“We played our best defense when our number twos were on the field.” — Bill Snyder