1. Tyler Lockett is matchup proof.
This is a term fantasy football experts use to describe the best wide receivers in the NFL. They are so good that you can count on them putting up big numbers every game, even against talented cornerbacks. Lockett proved he was matchup proof on Saturday by grabbing eight passes for 123 yards and a touchdown against Jason Verrett, the best cornerback in the Big 12. He did most of his damage on a beautiful stop-and-go route, in which he convinced Verrett he was coming back for the ball and then turned up field for a 74-yard touchdown. Jake Waters also found Tramaine Thompson for a 79-yard touchdown in the first half. So K-State had a big day against TCU’s strong secondary.
Lockett, though, was the main reason why.
“What more can you say,” Waters said. “He is going up against one of the best cornerbacks in the country one-on-one and he got open. When you have a receiver like Tyler you want to get the ball to him no matter who is guarding him.”
2. Winning a close game for the first time will help K-State in its final three games (bowl included) and beyond.
The biggest knock on Kansas State, other than a 2-4 start, was that it couldn’t win close games. North Dakota State, Oklahoma State and Baylor all came from behind to beat the Wildcats in the fourth quarter during the first half of the season. Poor defense and turnovers hurt K-State in all three games. On Saturday, though, K-State made all the plays when it mattered most. It ate up all kinds of time on a short drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a go-ahead field goal. It forced TCU to attempt a 56-yard field goal on the following drive. And it marched down field and kicked a game-winning field goal in the final two minutes. K-State players said they knew they were going to win at the start of their final drive. They didn’t have that confidence early in the season. Expect it to stay with them now.
3. It wasn’t all good news. Ty Zimmerman, a senior safety and K-State’s top defender, was injured in the first half and spent the remainder of the game on crutches
Snyder said he didn’t know the extent of Zimmerman’s injury (right ankle) but it is potentially season-ending. Zimmerman wore a medical boot on his foot during the second half and hobbled around the sideline on crutches. He suffered a similar injury against TCU last year and missed the final two regular season games before returning for the Fiesta Bowl. K-State’s defense will face a difficult transition if Zimmerman is unable to go against Oklahoma next week. But the Wildcats responded admirably to his absence on Saturday.
– “Jack Cantele for President!” A friend sent me that text early this morning. Countless other positive things have been said about K-State’s kicker since the end of Saturday’s game. Deservedly so. Not only did he make four field goals, he booted a 41-yarder with all the pressure in the world on his shoulders.
It was a no-doubter. Some have wondered how much confidence Bill Snyder had in Cantele. He has opted to punt and go for first downs several times at the edge of Cantele’s field goal range. But Snyder believed in him against TCU, and that trust paid off.
He is a clutch kicker.
– It was entertaining to see how quickly Snyder pointed out the fact that TCU committed an equipment error in the fourth quarter. Two TCU players took the field for a punt return wearing the No. 2, and K-State coaches noticed it immediately.
TV replays showed Snyder holding up two fingers on the sideline, and the penalty allowed K-State to pick up a first down on the next play. TCU coach Gary Patterson took blame for the error. It’s safe to say other Big 12 coaches will work to avoid the same mistake moving forward.
– Snyder turned to Waters to lead the offense on K-State’s game-winning drive. I’m sure that was a difficult decision for him to make, but Waters embraced the opportunity and completed several passes when it mattered most.
– K-State gave up on John Hubert awfully early in this game, giving him just six touches. Hubert, a senior running back, has been on a tear lately and he averaged 4.2 yards a carry on Saturday. Yes, Daniel Sams rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, but the Wildcats have to let their starting running back carry a larger load.
– It might be a while before K-State calls Zach Trujillo’s number again. The Wildcats threw to him three times on Saturday. He was wide open all three times. And he dropped the ball all three times.
K-State fans can cross the Pinstripe Bowl off their list of potential bowl games. The Big 12 will only have six bowl-eligible teams this season, so the Wildcats can’t drop lower than the Texas Bowl. The Holiday Bowl will be in play with one or two more victories. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl becomes a possibility with two more wins.
K-State’s defense made big plays at opportune times on Saturday, holding TCU to six third-down conversions on 15 attempts.
K-State opened as a small favorite over Oklahoma, and that sounds about right. It should be a toss-up game. The Sooners have been hot and cold all season, and now they are using a different quarterback every week. The Wildcats will benefit from home-field advantage.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“The biggest thing is that we have matured. This game was a prime example of not everything going our way. At the beginning things started to go our way, and then we faced adversity in the second, third and even fourth quarters. It just shows that those first couple games that we lost showed us what was going on that we needed to fix.” — Tyler Lockett.
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