Kansas State vs. Texas Tech: The Breakdown

16 Oct

(AP Photo/The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Stephen Spillman)

Is it really fair to keep calling the Wildcats underdogs? Week after week the line favors the other team, and week after week Kansas State finds a way to triumph. It makes many mistakes, it misses opportunities here and there, but the coaches and players overcome all that. The result? The team’s first 6-0 season since 2000, when many of the college juniors – like myself – on this year’s team were just 10 years old.

On Saturday, the Wildcats took on the Red Raiders in Lubbock. They had not won there since 1997. They hadn’t beat Texas Tech in the last five seasons. But yesterday, Kansas State did exactly that, 41-34. The team won the game and bowl eligibility even though it gave up 30 points  – only the second time that has happened in a conference road game since 1989.

During his on-field interview at the conclusion of the game, coach Bill Snyder lamented the inconsistencies of the team across the board and pointed out times the Wildcats could have put away the ball game but did not. At the end, however, he did concede this:

“A lot of it was good.”

For example, Nigel Malone’s pick-six to start the game – not the worst way in the world to grab some momentum and put a hostile crowd on its heels. Of course, two more interceptions – one by Tysyn Hartman, another by David Garrett – boosted this defense’s credentials even more. On special teams – long an emphasis of Snyder squads – the Wildcats had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman Tyler Lockett, son of his school’s all-time leading receiver Kevin Lockett. (For more on Tyler, check out my AP article on him.) Oh, and Raphael Guidry blocked not one, but two field goal attempts by the Red Raiders. Offensively, there weren’t massive fireworks, but the Wildcats did score 41 points while amassing just 339 yards of offense … as opposed to Texas Tech’s 461 passing yards and 580 total yards.

Like Snyder said, though, it was not a perfect performance by any measure. The coach values discipline, and the Wildcats committed 10 penalties for 78 yards, including multiple false starts. He also wants the team to preserve a “bend but don’t break” mentality and avoid giving up the big plays that will really sink the ship. While it could be argued the Wildcats did ultimately accomplish that, the secondary got torched on several huge pass plays – including the 40-yard strike that got the Red Raiders their first six points – and the defense allowed nearly 600 yards of offense. Also, kicker Anthony Cantele missed on the extra point attempt that followed Lockett’s touchdown, and he couldn’t convert on a 31-yard field goal attempt with under five minutes to play.

(AP Photo/The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Stephen Spillman)

With those pros and cons listed, here are some quick thoughts and final takeaways:

  • Can we go ahead and recognize what a talented quarterback Collin Klein is? Completing 12 of 18 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown is something that will catch Heisman voters’ attention, by any means, but stats mean a heck of a lot less than wins do. For example, Texas Tech’s Seth Doege connected on 43 of 63 passes for 461 yards, but he had 3 interceptions, and the Red Raiders lost. Plus, with Klein’s 110 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, he has numerically moved into the same conversation as Michael Bishop and Ell Roberson, the only other two Kansas State quarterback to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Klein now has 1,002.
  • Texas Tech had 10 receivers who caught a pass of 10 or more yards. Four of those caught one for more than 15 yards. Two of those caught one for 40 or more yards. Obviously, defenses will give up a big play now and then, and those big plays are much more likely to be pass plays than run plays. But giving up 461 yards through the air is not something the Wildcats can afford to do long term. Shoring up the secondary will be key to beating teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, whom Kansas State faces in back to back weeks on Oct. 29 and Nov. 5.
  • Of course, since the AP now has Kansas State ranked No. 12 in the nation, that whole “underdog” persona might be difficult to hold on to, at least next week when the Wildcats face the poor, hapless Jayhawks. Obviously, the team should not overlook anyone, but if there was any team Kansas State could overlook and get away with it … Wait a minute, remember Eastern Kentucky? Better not to underestimate anyone.
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