The regular season has reached the halfway point for Kansas State, and the Wildcats sit at 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big 12 play. That is a thoroughly disappointing start for a team that was upset about being picked sixth in the preseason conference poll and has possessed a fourth-quarter lead in five of its games.
Losing close is clearly frustrating to this group. Each loss has come in slightly different ways. The defense couldn’t get off the field against North Dakota State. A horrible start doomed K-State at Texas. Fourth-quarter turnovers hurt K-State at Oklahoma State. And a missed field goal and another interception cost K-State the game against Baylor.
After Saturday’s 35-25 loss, I asked several players if they had spotted a common thread in those losses.
“We had the game in our hands and just coughed it up,” quarterback Jake Waters said. “I had fumbles at Texas. Daniel (Sams) had some picks (against Oklahoma State) and made some mistakes too. We just have to figure out how to win at the end. We will. We have some great players on this team.”
“I’ve got to finish,” Sams said. “Coach (Bill) Snyder says we all make mistakes, but the type of player I am I put this on me. I’ve got to finish.”
“Anytime you get a lead you just can’t get comfortable,” added receiver Curry Sexton. “You have to put your foot down. If you’ve got a lead in the fourth quarter you have got to find a way to kill the clock, take the ball and go down and score and put the ballgame away. that’s something we haven’t done this year. It’s something we have to learn how to do. I don’t know what it takes, but we will find a way. Hopefully you won’t see us losing anymore tight games in the fourth quarter, because that’s not what we do.”
And with that, here is a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:
1. K-State safeties shouldn’t have the option of coming up to stop the run/quick out passes when unproven cornerbacks are covering the fastest wide receivers in the conference.
Bill Snyder described the problem as letting “somebody just run by you.” That’s what happened on all three of Baylor’s long touchdown passes. Tevin Reese burned Randall Evans by a country mile in the first quarter and then slipped past Carl Miles and Andre Barnett in the fourth quarter. Antwan Goodley slipped past the entire defense on his 72-yard catch. Against Baylor, big plays are bound to happen. But why weren’t K-State’s safeties anywhere to be found on those plays? Barnett came up to help defend the run on the big play in the fourth quarter and Evans had no backside help in the first quarter. Given K-State’s struggles at cornerback, it makes you wonder why the Wildcats lined up in certain defensive packages.
2. John Hubert should be more involved in the running game.
The senior running back averaged six yards a carry and gained 100 yards before taking away blown up assignments and lost yardage. This was by far his best game of the season. He made an argument for more carries. Maybe he should start getting them. When K-State handed him the ball on misdirection plays, he picked up big yardage. He was also excellent as a lead blocker. He should probably see more than 15 carries in future games. As good as Daniel Sams was on Saturday, he carried the ball 30 times. That is too high for a quarterback. Hubert could bring more balance to the running game.
3. K-State can’t get Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett back soon enough.
The Wildcats didn’t attempt a deep pass or a punt return on Saturday. Without their fastest two playmakers, they seem lost and low on confidence in certain areas. Snyder said he expects both receivers to play in two weeks against West Virginia. Their return will open up the offense and return game.
A few that were good:
The defensive end brought nothing but energy to the field. He sacked Bryce Petty twice and made a spectacular play on the ball against Petty outside the pocket in the second half. His leaping strip was the defensive highlight of the year.
His 199 rushing yards were the second most of any quarterback in K-State history. He also had three rushing touchdowns and 41 passing yards. He gave K-State a shot in this game.
This was arguably the offensive line’s best showing. Sams continually had big holes to run through, and Hubert took off with nobody around him on certain plays.
He came through with an important blocked punt on special teams.
A few that were bad:
This was an ugly game for Evans. Reese beat him by 15 yards in the first quarter, then, instead of tackling Goodley on his long touchdown catch, he accidentally pushed him forward. Good news for him, the defensive matchups all get easier from here.
Without several blatant drops from Baylor receivers, his day would have looked much worse.
The safety spent too much time near the line of scrimmage.
The kicker missed his first pressure field-goal attempt, booting a ball wide left from 41 yards that could have tied the game in the fourth quarter.
K-State has been an underdog in three straight games, and had a shot at winning all three. Give Snyder and his coaching staff credit for that. But the decision making in the fourth quarter continues to be suspect. Why ask Sams to throw with the game on the line? Coaches will prove their value the rest of the way. This team can still make a bowl game and rally for a decent season, but its room for error is gone.
Baylor was averaging 70.5 points and 779.5 yards before Saturday. K-State held it to nearly half those numbers, and still lost.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“I was really pleased with the effort of our football team. With one exception in the entirety of the ballgame, I thought we played as hard as we have at any time during the course of the year.” — Bill Snyder.