Kansas State squeaks out 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky

4 Sep

Of all the score predictions made by fans, talking heads and sports writers leading up to the Wildcats’ season opener, 10-7 probably did not have too many takers. Though Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder had said during the week that the Colonels would play excellent defense, no one could have foreseen the Wildcats being held scoreless for 49 minutes and 49 seconds. This game simply baffled just about everyone watching.

The score was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter, and it was still 0-0 at the end of the half.

The Colonels, sans regular quarterback T.J. Pryor and all-conference wide receiver Orlandus Harris, struggled offensively throughout the game, converting on just 3 of 15 third down opportunities. While true freshman quarterback Jared McClain did a fairly decent job – 119 yards on 9 of 26 passing – filling in for Pryor, he threw two interceptions and was sacked four times. Head coach Bill Snyder said he thought Kansas State’s defense did a great job, and players said their success in stopping the Colonels gave them some vindication for their offseason efforts.

“We got an outstanding amount of confidence because it showed us that our summer work, our spring work, winter conditioning, it wasn’t in vain,” said Wildcat linebacker Tre Walker. “We worked hard. It’s been a long time coming. We put in every day offseason to not be what we were last year and to not go where we went last year. So it was great confidence.”

Surprisingly, Kansas State’s offense struggled as much as that of Eastern Kentucky. While the Wildcats had 21 first downs to the Colonels’ 7, the team still only gained 175 yards on the ground and 128 through the air. Wide receiver Chris Harper had four receptions for 61 yards, and running back John Hubert had 17 carries for 91 yards, but overall, the offense was not effective.

It’s one of those things where we just, across the board, did everything you can’t do when you’re trying to win,” said Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. “We had way too many penalties, turnovers, busted assignments across the board. It’s not, obviously, where we hoped we were, but at the same time, give credit to Eastern Kentucky for having a good game plan.”

Eastern Kentucky finally got the ball into the endzone with under 5 minutes to play in the third quarter, it did so from the 1-yard line, where the team began its drive after recovering a fumble by Kansas State running back Bryce Brown. With 10 minutes left in the game, the Wildcats got a field goal (Anthony Cantele was 1-2 on the night), and it was 7-3 Colonels.

The clock would wind all the way down to 1:39 before Kansas State finally breached the goal line. Klein hit Harper with a 33-yard touchdown strike to complete the comeback and give Snyder his 150th win.

“We knew it was going to be open all night,” said wide receiver Brodrick Smith. “We knew we could run by the [defensive backs], and our line did a great job holding up, Collin obviously did a great job throwing the ball, Chris did a real good job catching the ball to get the game-winning touchdown.”

Although the game went in a manner Snyder probably would not have preferred, his message about the impact of it for the team going further was a positive one.

“I shared with them that it’s probably a blessing in disguise,” Snyder said. “We probably thought – I think, offensively, a lot of people thought we were better than we really are, and it showed up tonight. The other good thing is we’ve got two weeks, if we invest ourselves in trying to correct the problems that we have, then we’ve got two weeks in order to do that. I hate to have an open date this early in the season, but maybe that works in our behalf. We’ll see.”

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