Turning the Corner

9 Sep

Unlike in 2011, there was no dramatic determining moment in this Saturday’s matchup between Miami and Kansas State. When one team wins 52-13, that tends to be the case. The Hurricanes would have liked to get revenge for last season’s defeat on the 1-yard line in Sun Life Stadium, but needless to say, the Wildcats made a very strong case that what happened in 2011 was not just luck.

After emphasizing a start fast for week one, Kansas State did not stress about that as much going into Saturday’s matchup. The resulting fast start felt a little bizarre to the Wildcats, but they certainly are not complaining.

“It shook us up,” Harper said. “We are not used to scoring as quick, so it is a little different. We came out more focused than last week, but we did not emphasize the start. Last week, we were anxious to start and then that slowed us down, so we did not focus on it as much this week and just played. That allowed us to start fast.”

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, most renowned for his rushing, racked up 210 yards on 9-of-11 passing.He hit five different targets, and three of them – receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson as well as tight end Zach Trujillo – recorded more than 50 receiving yards. Klein got sacked just once.

On the ground, the Wildcats amassed 288 yards. John Hubert led the way with 106 yards and a touchdown, and Klein totaled 71 yards while doing his usual damage near the goal line. He had three rushing touchdowns – two 1-yard scores and another from six yards out.

Overall, it was a solid effort by the offensive line. Coach Bill Snyder even said he was very pleased with the unit’s performance, saying the guys up front did a pretty decent job.

“We had some good plays and not-so-good plays,” Snyder said, “but they were competitive, spirited, and they fought the battle.”

Defensively, the Wildcats did equally as well. They limited the Hurricanes to just 40 yards on ground and 222 yards through the air. Miami did not score a touchdown until less than four minutes remained in the game. It converted just 5 of 13 third down opportunities. Kansas State sacked quarterback Stephen Morris five times on the way to 10 tackles for loss, and the Wildcats forced three fumbles.

The Hurricanes’ trouble establishing the run made it difficult for them to finish drives. They got to the red zone four times, but two times ended with field goals, and just one produced a touchdown. Snyder said the Wildcats did not do anything different defensively but just executed best in the most critical situations.

“They just stiffened up, so to speak, when they got down there,” Snyder said. “The schemes are not any different, but it is a little tougher for an offense to go in down there because the field tightens down so much. We certainly found that to be true.”

Perhaps one of the few aspects not comforting to Kansas State fans about the game was the performance of the secondary. Morris completed 19 of 26 passes for 215 yards. Six of those 19 completions went for 10 yards or more. Three of those were 20 yards or more.

“You are going to give up a little passing yardage,” Snyder said, “but there were just a couple of schemes that we had difficulty with, and Miami was very consistent in being successful with those schemes, which allowed them to get out of those third and longs to keep possession of the ball. Overall, I thought we improved defensively.”

Really, the Wildcats looked as though they had improved across the board. Kansas State might not have proven itself in the same way it had to last season, but the resulting confidence boost could have a similar impact. For a team that opens its conference season with a road game against No. 5 Oklahoma, confidence is a very helpful characteristic.

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