Category Archives: THE MORNING AFTER

THE MORNING AFTER – Iowa State

Props to Ron Prince for closing his three years at Kansas State with a win. Well done, sir. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

But now on to other pressing matters, such as his replacement. A lot of people have wondered why I didn’t chime in more during this search, which is nearing its conclusion. The problem was there was a lot of misinformation out there, and verifying anything these days has been almost impossible.

What we do we know? Well, here’s what I know:

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THE MORNING AFTER – Oklahoma

They knew they weren’t supposed to win.

I thought for a while about how to write that, because it’s different than writing Kansas State’s players knowing they weren’t going to win, and it struck me – there are games this team realizes it has no chance of winning, and then that triggered these thoughts:

How many other times has this happened? How many more times will it happen?

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THE MORNING AFTER: Colorado

I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan. Hold on – this isn’t a gratuitous Bengals reference, so don’t click away.

All season long, through six losses and a likely seventh today against Pittsburgh, I keep reading quotes from my favorite players, all insisting it’s just a matter of time before it all comes together, or how it’s just a matter of execution, or something similar.

But you know what the truth is? As much as it pains me to say this – and if you know me, you know it does – the Bengals aren’t very good. And you want to know how I know? Because you only hear those types of comments from teams that aren’t very good. It’s all talk instead of action, instead of implementing good, sound, winning football.

Which brings us back to Kansas State.

Are you tired of hearing about the game played out exactly how the Wildcats expected, but a play here or a play there would have been the difference?

This is the rhetoric of losing football teams.

This is what K-State is. And I’m not bagging on the Wildcats, or Ron Prince. This is just the reality.

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THE MORNING AFTER – Texas Tech

Want the silver lining?

Kansas State would be atop the conference standings right now – if the Wildcats were competing in the Sun Belt Conference. Yep, they’ve beaten North Texas – which lost 42-10 yesterday to Florida International, which lost to Kansas, 40-10 – and Louisiana-Lafayette.

K-State would own the Sun Belt.

And not to be too flip, but was this the ultimate goal? To lower expectations to this degree? All we kept hearing in August was how this team was going to be compete for championships – in the Big 12 North and the Big 12 overall.

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THE MORNING AFTER – Louisiana-Lafayette

We get it – it’s hard to get a win, you can’t begrudge a victory, etc.

It’s all been said before, maybe too often.

Ask yourself this – how many more games can you see Kansas State winning?

Sure, it’s reasonable to expect a certain amount of improvement and growth from the Wildcats, but it was also reasonable to expect a certain amount of improvement and growth from the season opener against North Texas until yesterday, and have you seen it?

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THE MORNING AFTER – Louisville

I used the word “exposed” repeatedly last night to characterize what happened to Kansas State, but I’m not certain that’s correct.

This is who the Wildcats have always been, even during those two lopsided victories against feeble competition to open the season. Maybe exposed to a national audience, but this was hardly a surprise. Don’t believe me? Ron Prince said as much afterwards. He’d been saying for weeks how concerned he was about pass protection and the play of both lines.

Now, I believe pass protection can be shored up. And it’s simple – protect Josh, and he’s as good as anyone around with time to throw. Allow him to get hit and he’s a shell of himself. It is what it is. Just protect the man – he’s your best offensive weapon. What’s troubling, in my estimation, is the defensive line. Shocking, right? Hardly any push on Hunter Cantwell. Stopping the run? The next open-field tackle will be the first. And this is where I disagree with Prince, who said all of the problem areas could be fixed – I’m not sure there is an answer already on this roster. The defensive scheme – multiple, 3-4, or whatever other mumbo-jumbo Tim Tibesar and Co. have concocted – is in place, and abandoning it now would be a disaster. But the playmakers up front? Where are they?

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THE MORNING AFTER – North Texas

So, maybe it’s afternoon. Work with me…

I don’t see how you can criticize what Kansas State did last night. The Wildcats did what was expected, and they were very efficient in doing so. Would you have preferred 20 more points? A shutout? Neither of those things is going to help K-State get to where it wants to be, and after a relatively smooth opener, Ron Prince and his staff have a base, a foundation from which they can teach and move forward.

If you’re not impressed with Josh Freeman, well, just wait. That’s all I’ll say on that subject.

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THE MORNING AFTER… Missouri, Western Illinois

Ron Prince said yesterday he felt Missouri was the best team K-State had played all year. He knows his team better than I do, without a doubt, but I remain convinced Kansas is better than Missouri.

Anyway, that’s the only definitive conclusion I reached based on yesterday’s football events. What more needs to be said? This program is in need of something, a jolt of some kind. Right now, things have gotten stale, which is kind of odd considering Prince’s relative newness.

Instead, I’m going to focus on the basketball team. I watched the first half and listened to the second half on the radio. For the people concerned about how the Wildcats don’t do this or don’t do that, all I can say is relax. None of this is lost on Frank Martin, who was bothered immensely by last night’s performance. He’ll get it corrected, if it even needs to be corrected.

Here’s my theory – I believe, especially with young kids like this, there is a tendency to play to the level of the competition. Without a doubt, these kids are winners, and they’re competitors. They’re also 18 or 19 years old. It’s going to be difficult to get up for the Pittsburg State Gorillas and Western Illinois Leathernecks of the world. It’s not the way it should be, but it’s the way it is. There isn’t enough of a strong, veteran presence on the court – because David Hoskins is still sidelined – to maintain the necessary focus needed for 40 minutes.

My guess is, wait until Orlando. This group of kids, loosely labeled a team right now, will come together and surprise folks. We saw it a little last year in Las Vegas, and really, I expect the same type of effort. I believe, with this group and especially Mike Beasley, the higher the stakes, the better the performance.

I saw nothing last night to alter my stance that Ron Anderson is going to be a player. He can play – he just needs to become more fluid, a better athlete. That will come under the direction of Scott Greenawalt. The guards will knock down shots – they’re not as bad of shooters as we saw last night and they’re not as good as we witnessed in the season opener, either. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

For some reason, there is some hesitancy by some fans to embrace this team as something special. Maybe it’s the Wooldrigde effect, or perhaps a Huggins hangover. I don’t know. But this team, already, is drastically different. For instance, K-State can get a basket virtually any time it needs one – if the Wildcats can deliver an entry pass to a double-teamed Beasley. He’s simply too good for this level – it had to be said.

As for Bill Walker, don’t worry about him. He’s trying to find his way back. I’m certain the coaches are encouraging him to be ultra-aggressive in the first half, knowing that Beasley is going to get his points whether K-State runs anything for him or not. Remember, this has to be difficult for Walker, who, as we’ve been told, is all about winning but hasn’t had a chance to really show what he can do for what? Two years now? He’s accustomed to playing at a high level, but that hasn’t quite happened yet. He’s playing Robin to Beasley’s Batman, and I’m certain Walker is in contact with his buddy O.J. Mayo, easily the most hyped freshman in this year’s stellar class, and all Mayo did in his debut was score 32 points.

Granted, the Trojans lost. Walker and the Wildcats haven’t lost yet, and I don’t see that happening this week in Orlando, either. Call it blind faith, but when you have the best player on the court every night in college basketball, you’re usually in a good place to start. It just takes the rest of the guys around him to stop watching and start playing, Walker included.

To the rest of the Wildcats, the message is: get yours. Beasley has certainly gotten his and will continue to do so. I suspect the best of the Wildcats will be on display this week, and what better time than on the national stage? Wait and see…

THE MORNING AFTER… Nebraska

I ran into Zac Diles last night. The Houston Texans rookie linebacker watched the “Laugher in Lincoln” on television in Manhattan, and he was embarrassed just talking about it hours later. A number of topics were touched upon briefly, but the one that left him shaking his head was the 3-4 (although the Wildcats played some 4-3 yesterday, I believe).

“They don’t have the personnel,” he said.

That’s kind of where I am right with this, the Ron Prince Experiment. And make no mistake, that’s precisely what this is because it’s become a dangerous time for K-State athletics. I can’t state this enough – if the Wildcats don’t finish with a winning record (more on that in a second) and KU somehow, improbably plays for the national title, does K-State become completely irrelevant in football? And does it happen only two years A.B. (after Bill)?

Hey, I’ve jokingly said to people who would listen that I think Ron Prince is going to be a great coach – the second time around. My point is, he needs to find out what works well, and really, this is trial and error. He’s going to make mistakes. He’s going to have successes. But, and we’ll be saying this about Frank Martin this winter, too, he’s going to be inconsistent, and every team follows its leader’s lead. My point is, some times, in order to become good, you have to fail. Look at Pete Carroll – he couldn’t hack it in the NFL. Went to USC, became arguably the best coach in college football. Bill Belichick struggled in his first go-around as a NFL coach in Cleveland, but look at him now.

I’m not comparing Prince to either of those men. The only thing he has in common with them is the fact that he is a coach. And he’s breathing. That’s not an insult. My point is, Prince doesn’t have a large enough body of work for us to give an accurate assessment of how he’s doing. Oh, you can be emotional and say he’s arrogant, and you might be right. But that’s a subjective “analysis,” if you could even call it that.

All he has is his record. He is 12-11 in two seasons. That is almost the definition of average. But for someone without head coaching experience, being average isn’t bad. Think of it like this – if you were immediately handed your boss’s job, and for the next year or two, as you got acclimated to the new job, you were “average,” would you be disappointed by that?

Maybe, maybe not. But there might be disappointment expressed by those beneath and around you, when really, their disappointment should be directed at the person who deemed you ready for the promotion.

If the Ron Prince Experiment doesn’t work – and at this point, again, the evidence is inconclusive – is it Prince’s fault because he was a novice head coach given an upper-tier job at a BCS school?

Do you turn down a date with Halle Berry because you’ve never, ever dated out of your league?

The answer to both questions is the same – of course not.

What Diles said is correct. Prince knows how he wants his team to play, but if you don’t have the personnel, doesn’t it become moot? Isn’t coaching also being able to make adjustments?

Clearly, he’s learning on the job, which had to be expected – given his inexperience. What happens now, though, might alter the football balance of power in the state. Maybe it’s already happened. And no, I’m not being too dramatic. Watch and see.

Usually, I tend to stray from predictions. But I truly believe K-State is in significant trouble the next two weeks. You can draw your own conclusions about Missouri, but the Fresno State game that everyone thought was such a sure thing when the season began? The Bulldogs battered Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan late Saturday night, but lost, 37-30, in Honolulu. They held Hawaii to THREE points in the second half, on the road. They have the week off, and you think Pat Hill isn’t geared up for that game? Here was his quote last night:

“We have two weeks to get ready for Kansas State. Kansas State is a good football team from the Big 12. They beat Texas earlier this year and I know they will have a lot to play for. They will be playing for their bowl life. It will be a big-time game at Bulldog Stadium.”

Pat Hill lives for these moments. He has a distinct coaching personality – he loves to play the underdog role and show up the big-boy programs. We know what Pat Hill is, so we feel like we know how his Bulldogs will play in the regular-season finale.

We’re still struggling with what to expect from Prince. And his team.

THE MORNING AFTER… Iowa State

Here’s Levi’s thoughts on the “Abomination in Ames.” He was there, after all. I like the middle part, by the way:

All of this is compelling, I give K-State that.

Then again, I’m on the outside looking in and have zero invested in this team. The frustration oozing from this fan base, at least from what I’m gathering in the hours following this loss, is immense, and by all means, it’s warranted.

The Cats had too much to play for Saturday to play the way they did. They got beat by an inferior team. They got out-played and out-coached — Prince’s words, not mine.

What do you take away from this? Or should you take anything away? In other words, do you just forget it and move on to Lincoln?

On a side note, this is interesting. … I have last week’s “Morning After” pulled up and J-Mart wrote this: “The Wildcats are fortunate they played a flat 30 minutes against a team (Baylor) that was powerless to take advantage.” Prince said essentially the same thing after the game yesterday, adding, of course, that Iowa State was good enough to take advantage. The players indicated they weren’t flat; that they practiced well and Jack Trice’s mostly stale environment didn’t hinder them. But how else do you explain back-to-back first halves like the previous two we’ve seen?

Granted, James Johnson’s fumble on the opening kickoff changed the game’s complexion right away. But if you’re K-State, you can’t allow yourself to get down 14-0 on the road, and you certainly can’t give up a 90-yard drive to a team with as poor of an offense as Iowa State’s. This team’s margin for error so small –again, Prince’s words, not mine — they can’t get away with that against anybody, except for Baylor, I guess.

I thought the Wildcats abandoned the run too early in the first half and stayed with it too long when trying to rally in the second.

I’ll end with this: We’re running out of superlatives to describe Jordy Nelson. He put together another record-breaking day yesterday (your paper or online box score might not have had it right, but Nelson had 14 catches for 214 yards, which is a school record — the ISU stat crew gave a 20-yard reception of his to Marcus Perry). And we in the media get frustrated sometimes because Jordy isn’t flashy — almost dull — and is pretty cliche overall, but he’s a great kid, and we all respect him. A lot.

All that said, Jordy — the first player to show up to the post-game press conference, as usual — showed some fire after the game, and I loved it. He was asked — not by me, by the way — something along the lines of, “With the Big 12 North title out of reach, what’s a reasonable goal for this team?”

Nelson glared at the reporter and said as forcefully as I’ve ever seen him answer a question before, “Win on Saturday.”

That was it. It took a few seconds for the next question to be asked because we were so thrown off by the direct answer and the manner it was given. Good for him. He’s a senior and should be frustrated with this season.

What else can he possibly do?

That’s good stuff, especially the part where he quoted me. Seriously, it’s nice to hear Nelson say the Wildcats need to come out and win because, let’s not forget – that should be the motivation. Winning every Saturday.

My reaction? Read my Q&A. I’ve answered several questions about this. If you’re upset at Ron Prince, this is the same Ron Prince some of you were touting as a great coach following some earlier wins. If you’re upset at Josh Freeman, this is the same Josh Freeman who was locking onto receivers in earlier wins. If you’re upset at the defense, this is the same defense that surprised teams earlier in the season but by now has been exposed to every team remaining on the schedule.

College football is an emotional game. And with how the Wildcats have played all season — get off to fast start, virtually everything in the first quarter scripted, with minimal room for error — a fumbled kickoff is going to be deflating. It was. And an inexperienced head coach didn’t know how to get his team out of its funk.

I’m in the weird position of kind of defending Prince. He’s still learning on the job, folks. His overall record is now 12-10, which is almost the epitome of mediocrity, but he’s been better than that, hasn’t he? Maybe he hasn’t. I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll hear plenty from all of you.

One last thing – Mike Beasley is the goods. You know how everyone groaned when Frank Martin was telling people Beasley would have a similar impact as Kevin Durant had at Texas? Martin wasn’t stretching the truth. He might have undersold it, to be honest. Listen, I know it was Fort Hays State, but that’s not even the point. Martin said Marquette coach Tom Crean said Beasley was “efficient,” and that really is the perfect word to describe him. He figures out ways to score – I was told he took 26 foul shots in the scrimmage against Marquette. Last night, he took 25 shots, which might seem like a lot, but he got 35 points out of it. Oh, and he made 15 of those shots.

And defensively? That was a treat. He’s real active, out on the wings, pressuring his man. Helping out Luis Colon and blocking Colon’s man’s shot.

He’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent, just like Durant was. If you have a chance to see him in person, you’d better do it soon before you have to pay those inflated NBA arena prices. It’s your own fault if you miss him, and it’s your own fault if you don’t fully appreciate what he is. I got the sense some people still don’t understand how good Beasley is. The man sitting next to me in those expensive floor seats – I was on press row – was harping on Beasley’s missed free throws. He hardly had any reaction when Beasley scored, or started a fast break, or made a steal, or found an open man, etc.

Tough crowd.