On Cloud 9(-0)

4 Nov

Kansas State’s 44-30 victory over Oklahoma State last night was the first in a while.

When the Wildcats beat the Cowboys back in 2006, even the upperclassmen on the current rosters were still in high school. Accordingly, Kansas State was highly motivated – to win, of course, but also to vanquish a team it had not put away for several years.

When players spoke with the media on Tuesday, fullback Braden Wilson said the drought against the Cowboys was indeed something that was discussed.

“Collin said that nobody on our team has beaten Oklahoma State,” Wilson said. “That’s a big deal, especially after the heartbreak of last year. This is a game that we really want – like we really want. We’re serious about it.”

Apparently, what the Wildcats want, they get – and not by accident.

By extending their winning streak to nine games, the Wildcats showed they were serious about much more than avenging last year’s devastating 52-45 loss in Stillwater. Sure, Kansas State is just talking about the next game (and then the next, and then the next). Add all that together, though, and you get the feeling that something very special is possible for this team.

But I digress. Back to the here and now …

***

Obviously the main concern following Saturday’s game is the status of quarterback and Heisman Trophy contender Collin Klein. He left the game midway through the third quarter – much earlier than coach Bill Snyder would ever consider it safe to take him out of the game.

Klein sat on the bench and talked to a trainer. His brother, Kyle, sat next to him. Tre Walker and Ethan Douglas came over and prayed with him. Klein watched the rest of the game from the sideline, looking fine but without his helmet. He smiled and chatted with various coaches and players.

Snyder does not discuss injuries, but after the game, he said, “Obviously he was injured or we wouldn’t have taken him out.”

On the one hand, Klein did not appear to be seriously injured. On the other hand, we all know he was hardy enough to have been allowed to play through considerable injuries during last season. Maybe Kansas State is just being more cautious than it was with him last season. Maybe something more is wrong.

Either way, we likely will not know the extent of it until Saturday.

***

With the caveat that Oklahoma State’s quarterbacks are young and relatively inexperienced, the Kansas State secondary looked promising. It gave up too many long passes, but it also intercepted four balls and should have had another three or four.

In particular, defensive back Allen Chapman made a name for himself. He picked off three passes, including one in the Cowboys’ end zone. If that pass had instead been caught by Oklahoma State, it would have put the Cowboys within a touchdown of the Wildcats with several minutes still to play. Chapman returned another of his interceptions 29 yards for a touchdown.

His performance fell short of only that of Kansas State great Jaime Mendez, the Wildcats’ leader in career interceptions and a member of Kansas State’s Ring of Honor. Mendez once intercepted four passes in the course of a single game.

***

Of course, another positive on Saturday came in the form of a 100-yard kickoff return by Tyler Lockett. Looking at Oklahoma State’s stats, I discovered that the Cowboys have actually given up a 100-yard kick return already this season, so they might not be the best competition in this area.

Still, for Lockett to be able to take it from one end zone to the other means that the special teams unit did everything exactly right, and that is impressive. What is more amazing is that Lockett nearly broke another return for a score.

Lockett still gave the Wildcats great field position, but had he gone outside of a block instead of inside it, he might have gotten loose again. Tramaine Thompson recognized what could have been immediately, throwing up his hands right after the play.

The failure to break that return too was maddening, but that the rest of the special teams unit performed so well that the returner would even have the opportunity to take two kickoffs to the house … well, the potential is staggering.

***

As usual, there is plenty on which the Wildcats can still improve. As I mentioned earlier, Oklahoma State got too many long pass plays. In addition to enabling a Kansas State kickoff return for a touchdown, the special teams unit also allowed one by the Cowboys. The list goes on.

Everything taken into account, however, I think it would be crazy to think that the possibility of a visit to Sun Life Stadium is not in Kansas State’s future.

Indeed, even after his team’s defeat, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy had nothing but good to say about the Wildcats.

“They’re a good football team,” Gundy said. “They don’t make mistakes, we all know. They’ve got a very mature quarterback that makes plays, and they could be arguably the best team in the country in special teams.”

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3 Responses to “On Cloud 9(-0)”

  1. ecAr November 4, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Ashley great article. You might want to change Lopez to Mendez (Jamie).

    • Ashley Dunkak November 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

      Hey, thank you. You’re right about Jaime Mendez. Thanks!

      • ecAr November 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

        No worries. Go Cats!

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