Tag Archives: Kansas State Eastern Kentucky

Déjà Vu All Over Again

5 Sep

Kansas State found itself at a crossroads going into last season’s Miami game, and this season the situation feels similar.

Although the No. 21 Wildcats defeated Missouri State 51-9 in their season opener, the score did not tell the whole story – not even close. At halftime, the ball game that should have been a blowout was tied at 6. Kansas State did not score a touchdown until midway through the third quarter.

That it took the Wildcats so long to get to full throttle did not please coach Bill Snyder. He made it an emphasis throughout the offseason that the team needs to get going faster this season after winning eight games by a just touchdown or less last year. His frustration was evident in a sarcastic statement after the game.

“I said that when I came back, I did not think there would be any generation gap, but I am beginning to believe there is,” Snyder said. “It seems like we are not very good at explaining what we are talking about. I am going to tell the team to have a really slow start next week and see what happens.”

Kansas State started the 2011 season slow as well, just barely scraping by Eastern Kentucky, 10-7. Though they defeated Kent State 37-0 the next week, the Wildcats had given credence to the prediction that they would finish eighth in the Big 12. When they went on the road to Miami, Kansas State had a lot to prove.

The same is true this year.

The Wildcats’ secondary struggled in 2011 to contain the high-octane offenses of the Big 12, and after losing safety Tysyn Hartman and cornerback David Garrett, the unit looked vulnerable again on Saturday night. Missouri State scorched Kansas State for 323 yards through the air. The team averaged just 176.2 passing yards per game last season, but it had nearly that amount by halftime against the Wildcats.

“We did not necessarily start the way we wanted to, but at the end it is bend but do not break,” said cornerback Nigel Malone. “We took that motto from last year against Eastern Kentucky.”

Offensively, Kansas State failed to score touchdowns several times when it got in the red zone. Kicker Anthony Cantele got a significant amount of practice in the first half, going 3-for-3, but obviously field goals are not going to cut it going forward.

“There were critical downs, a couple third downs [receiver] Chris [Harper] and I weren’t able to get on the same page,” said quarterback Collin Klein. “Third and eight … there’s a drive killer. We weren’t able to connect on the touchdown in the first half, there’s another one. I underthrew [receiver Tyler] Lockett on the one post route down the middle, so there’s always those little things that you look back and it’s like, ‘Darn! I wish I could have that one back.'”

Mistakes were made, but the Wildcats are moving on. Their experience against the Bears could help them with more than just getting first-time jitters out of the way. The no-huddle offense Missouri State runs gave Kansas State real-time practice against the sort of offenses they will see all season long. Miami will be another test in that regard, a higher-level one.

It is a valuable opportunity for preparation considering the Wildcats do not have the tools to replicate the speed of such offenses by themselves in practice. In fact, linebacker Arthur Brown said the coaching staff this season has used a new technique to get the Kansas State defense accustomed to the reactionary nature of playing against no-huddle offenses. The defense has to turn its back to the play, and then when the whistle blows, the offense is already set up and the defense has to scramble to get into the correct formation.

Though the high-tempo offense is not something Kansas State has adopted, the system has its advantages.

“It definitely gives the offense more control over the tempo of the game,” Brown said. “It causes us to react and respond to what they do, so we definitely have to prepare and condition throughout our preparation for those types of teams.”

Against the Hurricanes last season, the Wildcats held a 28-24 lead going into the final minutes of the game. Miami had first and goal at the 2-yard line. Kansas State kept the Hurricanes out of the end zone four straight times, recording a valiant goal line stand that Brown called the defining moment of the season.

This Saturday will mark the first time ever that Miami has visited Manhattan, and the Wildcats hope it will be another one to remember.

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Players ready to redeem themselves from near-loss in 2011 season opener

1 Sep

Kansas State’s only touchdown of the 2011 season opener against Eastern Kentucky came in the final minutes of regulation. (Photo by Travis Heying / The Wichita Eagle).

Eastern Kentucky.

It is a day most Kansas State football players would like to forget, but far be it from coach Bill Snyder to allow that to happen. Instead, he reminds the team of its near-loss in last season’s opener … daily.

Tight end Travis Tannahill said Snyder regularly uses as a motivational tactic the name of the school the Wildcats almost lost to in last season’s opener. More often than not, the players hear it after less than stellar practices.

“‘Remember Eastern Kentucky,'” Tannahill quoted the coach. “‘You took them for granted, and it almost nipped you in the bud. That would’ve been a terrible, embarrassing night.’”

Of course, winning 10-7 against a should-win, nonconference opponent is almost as bad as losing, particularly when it is the first impression a team makes on its fans.

“It was still embarrassing,” Tannahill said. “Luckily we had that bye week to get things together, but we don’t have that this year. We’ve got to get things together right now.”

***

Starting fast is one of the emphases for the Wildcats in 2012. The idea is twofold: Kansas State wants a good game to begin the season, and it will also strive for solid starts to each individual game – and each individual half.

Tannahill said the focus on starting well has appeared because the Wildcats did such a good job finishing games last year.

“When Coach first got here, that was his big thing, ‘Finish, finish, finish,'” Tannahill said. “We couldn’t finish any games. We got that under control last year. I think we proved that. Now we’re working on starting, so we’ll see how the year goes. We’re conscious of it. We can’t have any laggy starts.”

With the sluggish performance versus Eastern Kentucky in 2011, the Wildcats put themselves in a position to play catch-up throughout the season. As has been discussed ad nauseam, Kansas State also had to come from behind in many individual games. Obviously, it would be nice to not have to go down to the wire in every single contest this year as well.

“We put ourselves behind the eight ball last year,” said quarterback Collin Klein. “If we were able to start a little sooner, we may have ended even further down the road than we did. That question is always looming. It’s something that Coach has put to us, of making sure we start a little further ahead so we can still progress and end up further down the road.”

That is easier said than done, of course. Snyder said the numbers showed that a disproportionate amount of Kansas State’s scoring happened in the second and fourth quarters compared to the first and third, and as usual, he is a proponent of balance when possible.

Accordingly, starting faster is a goal this season, one that should enable the Wildcats to function with some breathing room from time to time. Tannahill said the execution of that goal comes down to a mindset to take advantage of every opportunity.

“You can’t assume there’s going to be another drive,” Tannahill said. “If we get good field position, we have to take advantage of it right now. If we don’t have good field position, we’ve just got to move the ball. We’ve just got to get it done.”

***

Needless to say, Kansas State is not looking past Missouri State. Even though the Bears went 2-9 (2-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference) last season, the Wildcats know from experience that anything can happen. The Bears want to win just as much as anyone else, and if taken for granted, they very well could.

“They feel very strongly that they’re going to be a vastly improved football team,” Snyder said. “I would suggest that that’s probably accurate. It’s a defensive unit that returns nine starters. They have some high-quality players within that group. They’re a little different schematically than most of the teams that we play in our conference.”

Snyder describes Missouri State’s defense as one characterized by constant movement and blitzing. He said the setup allows the Bears to cause some negative-yardage plays, but it also makes them vulnerable to big plays. To exemplify this, he mentioned the last time the Wildcats played the Bears.

“We really didn’t move the ball consistently against them, but we manufactured, fortunately, some big plays,” Snyder said. “All of our scores were big plays, long-distance plays. They also slowed us down in regards to continual movement of the football … so they really stopped us from doing what it is we wanted to do. And that’s just the way they play, that’s the nature of their defense, and I think with the experience they have back, I don’t anticipate that that would change.”

As far as Missouri State’s offense – which returns four of five starters on the offensive line – Snyder expects the Bears to try to spread out Kansas State’s defense, play an up-tempo, no-huddle offense and get as many repetitions as they can. To deal with it, the Wildcats need to be alert and well-conditioned.

With what nearly happened versus Eastern Kentucky last season fresh in the minds of Kansas State players, alertness should not be a problem.

“When you have an offense that takes control of the clock, then that’s definitely something you’re going to have to prepare for,” said linebacker Arthur Brown. “There’s no telling what to expect the first game of the season, so we have to be ready for everything.”

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.”