1. This game showed the importance of a balanced offense.
Tyler Lockett didn’t just play the game of his life. With 440 all-purpose yards, 278 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns, he played the finest game of any K-State receiver … Ever. When he went off in the second quarter, catching touchdown passes of 48, 30 and 90 yards, the Wildcats looked unstoppable. But when Oklahoma adjusted and put top cornerback Aaron Colvin on him in the second half, K-State couldn’t adjust back. Jake Waters threw two devastating interceptions, while Daniel Sams and John Hubert were essentially bystanders. Sams attempted three runs and no passes. Hubert touched the ball nine times. K-State rushed for 24 yards.
The Wildcats didn’t have a balanced offense, and, much like a loss at Texas when Lockett went crazy for 237 receiving yards while the rest of the offense was quiet, they lost by double-digits. Oklahoma, meanwhile, ran for 301 yards and threw for 171 yards. That balance kept K-State’s defense guessing. That was the difference in this game.
2. Without Ty Zimmerman, K-State’s defense has taken a step back.
There was no way the Wildcats were going to continue playing at the high level they were once Zimmerman went down. The senior safety is the team’s top defensive player and leader. Still, it was surprising to see them struggle the way they did against Trevor Knight, Brennan Clay and Oklahoma’s zone-read offense. Ryan Mueller continually guessed wrong on who had the ball, but the rest of the defense was so out of position that he often had to back track and make the tackle himself. Oklahoma did a good job of spreading out K-State’s defense and running up the middle. Dante Barnett and Dylan Schellenberg were often out of position, and didn’t do enough helping the front seven.
3. Daniel Sams spent too much time on the sideline.
When K-State had the wind at its back, Bill Snyder was right to play Waters every single snap. When K-State was going against the wind, it should have used Sams at least half the time. Waters struggled throwing into the wind and turned the ball over. Perhaps Sams, with his running ability and athleticism, could have done more. Snyder said Oklahoma’s defense completely took away the run, so he didn’t see Sams as an effective option. But he could have done damage with scrambles and play-action. He was underused in this situation.
– The formation K-State used on Lockett’s first touchdown was brilliant. It stacked receivers on both sides of the ball, and completely fooled Oklahoma’s defense in the process.
Torell Miller and Lockett lined up on the left side, and three OU defenders were in position to cover them. Miller ran a short route, and all three defenders in the area closed on him. Lockett went deep for an easy, wide-open touchdown catch.
K-State players said they had the formation in their playbooks all season, but thought it would work well against Oklahoma after watching the Sooners on film. It convinced Oklahoma’s secondary to defend K-State’s worst receiver and ignore K-State’s best receiver, so it was a perfect play call.
– Lockett’s big day broke single-game records and put him in elite season-long company. The junior receiver is the sixth player in K-State history to top 1,000 yards in a season and the first to do it during Snyder’s second tenure.
– How bad was Mark Krause’s punt from his own end zone at the start of the fourth quarter? K-State snapped the ball from the 3. The punt traveled 30 yards. Oklahoma returned the punt to the 3 and scored on the next play. In retrospect, the Wildcats might as well have gone for it on fourth down.
– Ian Patterson handled kickoff and field-goal duties for K-State instead of Jack Cantele. Snyder wouldn’t say why Cantele didn’t play, but he has been battling injuries all season.
The scenarios are simple from here. If K-State wins its final game at Kansas and Texas Tech loses its regular-season finale at Texas, the Wildcats are headed to the Holiday Bowl. If K-State loses at Kansas it is headed to the Texas Bowl no matter what Texas Tech does. If both teams win this week, the Holiday Bowl will have a difficult choice on its hands. K-State and Texas Tech are tied in the Big 12 standings. The Wildcats own a head-to-head victory, but the Red Raiders have a better overall record. K-State (at 7-5) could edge out Texas Tech (at 8-4) because of its strong history at the Holiday Bowl and its large traveling fan base. But there are no guarantees. It would be hard for the Holiday Bowl to pick K-State (at 6-6) over Texas Tech (at 7-4).
Oklahoma gained 301 yards running the football. K-State gained 24 yards running the football.
K-State is an early 17-point favorite over Kansas in next week’s Sunflower Showdown. That might seem a little low, considering the Wildcats have won the last three in this series by a total score of 174-44 and Kansas just got pounded at Iowa State. Bill Snyder owns the Sunflower Showdown, and there is no reason to expect that to change Saturday. But the Jayhawks do have one thing going for them: they can run the ball out of spread formations the same way Oklahoma did. K-State’s defense could once again be challenged.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“We had our chances and kind of just let it slip. It kind of just proves that we are almost there, but not quite where we want to be.” — Jake Waters.
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