Cats squeak by Division 1-AA Eastern Kentucky in Opener

Where do we begin?? The five turnovers? The 303 yards of total offense on 77 plays? Bryce Brown’s fumble in front of the end zone? The 0-0 halftime score? Or the fact that the Cats snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, 10-7, in front of a sellout crowd of over 52,000 rabid fans at Bill Snyder Family Stadium?

How should we feel? Frustration with the offensive ineptitude? Anger with the turnovers and penalties? Incredulous at the lack of star-quality performances from potential stars Collin Klein and Bryce Brown? Satisfaction with the stout play of Jordan Voelker, Arthur Brown, Nigel Malone and the defense in general? Relief at the fact that K-State is 1-0 after pulling out a narrow victory against a far inferior, FCS (or, if you prefer, Division 1-AA) opponent?

“I would have felt terrible losing to this team. It would have been like a tragedy. I don’t want to use that word, but that’s kind of what it would have been had we lost.” -Junior Wide Receiver Chris Harper

It truly was a tale of two sides of the ball. The Wildcat offense sputtered throughout, netting an average of only 3.93 yards per play, fumbling five times and losing four of them- including Brown’s disastrous drop in front of his own goal line to set up the Colonels only score. Most of the damage came as a result of a porous offensive line. Klein was hurried most of the night, and the backs struggled to find holes. However, the defense played well, especially up front, allowing only seven first downs, 146 total yards and just 27 on the ground. Pressure from Voelker, Brown and Meshak Williams got to Eastern Kentucky’s QB for four sacks and two interceptions by Nigel Malone, one of which came in the endzone and the other clinched the game.

“As a defense, we were flying around and playing with more passion out there,” Voelker said. “That makes me really proud, putting the game on our shoulders. We never really came through like that last year.”

Despite it’s obvious struggles, the ‘Cat offense came through when it mattered most. Klein threw for 128 yards on 13 completions in 21 attempts. The final completion was the biggest, as Klein found Chris Harper in the back of the endzone for a 33-yard touchdown strike with just under two minutes to play. Harper had four catches for 61 yards including the game winning grab. John Hubert led the ‘Cats with 91 yards on the ground, while Klein added 78 rushing yards of his own.

“We did all the things you can’t do if you’re trying to win,” Klein said. “Penalties, turnovers, I mean it was just across the board. Busted assignments, you can’t have that if we’re going to win, especially at the level we want.”

The much anticipated debut of the Brown brothers also yielded mixed results. Arthur played well as a key component to a defense that was flying to the ball on nearly every play. Younger brother, Bryce, however had only sixteen yards on just three carries in his first game since transferring from Tennessee and gave Eastern Kentucky their first and only score of the night by fumbling in front of his own endzone.

So where do we begin? How should we feel? Maybe Coach Snyder knows. After the game in the subdued locker room, he told his players they were “the most fortunate people in the state of Kansas,” and that the game film will give him a “list of 110 things” with which to critique.

That’s a good place to start.

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Tags: Arthur Brown Big 12 Bill Snyder Bryce Brown Chris Harper Collin Klein Dan Cavender Eastern Kentucky John Hubert Jordan Voelker Kansas State Kansas State Football Kansas State Wildcats Meshak Williams Nigel Malone

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