If nothing else, that was a great game. It’s incredibly tough to lose the way that Kansas State did but it showed how good the Wildcats can be as a team and the final three games of the season look extremely winnable. After watching Oklahoma State jump out to a 14-0 lead, K-State got it together and rattled off the next 24 points. OSU hit back with their own flurry of 20 unanswered and the rest of the game became a back and forth battle that came down to 3 final throws into the end-zone by Collin Klein that all fell incomplete. While K-State is now on a 2 game losing streak, there’s no shame in what took place Saturday. Things are still looking great for the men in purple and a 10-2 season is within reach. Continue reading to see what was good, bad, and ugly in the loss.
Beast Klein – Every time that Oklahoma State seemed to land a knockout blow to the Wildcats, Collin Klein found a way to bring his team back to life. He was beaten and bloodied just like every other game this season and finished with 231 yards passing and 144 yards on the ground for what was easily his career best performance. But the numbers are only half the story. Despite his faults, (which seem to be fading as the season moves on) Klein is the undisputed leader of the offense and the lifeblood that keeps them going. He’s the poster boy of Bill Snyder’s do what works style. The biggest question coming into this season is who was going to grab a hold of this position and I think Klein has more than proven why he’s the guy.
Beast Lockett – Speaking of playing huge, Tyler Lockett is going to be an animal for the next 3 years. In case you forgot, this guy is a true freshman who expected to redshirt this season. Instead, he’s starting to light up opposing defenses and forcing teams to second guess whether or not to ever kick to him. Lockett finished with 315 all-purpose yards, which included 193 from kick returns. He was the second leading rusher behind Klein with 84 yards, most of those coming on a great double reverse call, and had a receiving touchdown. Lockett also provides K-State with great field position even when he doesn’t touch the ball as evidenced by Oklahoma State deciding a few times to short kick and take their chances with someone else. Big stage, big game.
Opening It Up – One of the keys to getting another Wildcat victory was opening the playbook up and co-offensive coordinators Dana Dimel and Del Miller did not disappoint. Kansas State busted out all sorts of new plays and kept the Cowboys on their heels the entire game. The wildcat formation made its way back into the rotation for a rushing touchdown by Angelo Pease. There was a great double reverse for a huge gain. The option pass was brought out a couple of times. A new wide receiver sweep wrinkle was thrown in. And a well-timed shuttle pass was found in the playbook. This game was a far cry from the vanilla offense that has been working all season and it should be here to stay.
Fight – Just like the game against Oklahoma, the score at half was close. Unlike that game, K-State came out of the locker room and continued to battle until the final second. Against the number 3 team in the nation and on the road in Stillwater, the Wildcats had every reason to feel good about just keeping it respectable but they showed they were out to win. It wasn’t necessarily pretty all the time, but the offense and defense continued to give maximum effort on every play. While they ultimately came up short, Kansas State showed they’ll compete with anyone in the nation for a full four quarters. That’s going to go a long way heading into the final quarter of the season.
Turnovers – Even though K-State finished the game ahead in the turnover margin, the two they had were costly. When you’re playing one of the best teams in the nation, mistakes can’t be found. The first turnover came right after Kansas State had held the Cowboys to a 3 and out on their first possession. Klein fumbled the ball on K-State’s own 4 yard line and Oklahoma State quickly put it in the end-zone for 7 points. The second turnover came after a big defensive hold that limited the Cowboys to a field goal. K-State had the ball up by 7 with just under 8 minutes left in the half. That’s the perfect setup for an offense that thrives on long, clock eating drives but instead Klein tossed a quick interception on the second play of the possession that once again eventually resulted in 7 points for Oklahoma State on their next play. 2 turnovers equaled 14 points for the Cowboys and that certainly made the difference in the end.
Forgetting the Blitz – For all the opening up on offense that took place, the defense seems to remain on stubborn lockdown. There couldn’t have been any expectation to see massive change but some new twists would have been nice. In a repeat of last weekend, the front four was horribly ineffective in their pass rush and there was little help from anyone else on the field. The most frustrating thing about that was watching one of the few blitzes of the night cause an interception. Cosh dialed up two extra men to pressure off the left side and Arthur Brown forced Weeden into throwing before he was ready and an interception. For some reason, extra pressure was basically abandoned from that point on. As much as I hate the type of bend don’t break defense K-State plays, I don’t believe it should be abandoned quite yet. But there still has to be a willingness to bring more pressure. When it’s obvious the d-line can’t get anything at all going you at least have to try something new.
Late Audibles – How often has Kansas State had to waste timeouts on plays coming in too late this season? That’s got to account for ¾ of every timeout taken this season and it’s getting absolutely ridiculous. This is exactly why you don’t find many teams with co-offensive coordinators. There is no question that before each snap the team is going to check with the sideline and make adjustments if necessary depending on the defensive set. It’s happened every single snap of the season which is why by this point you’d like to think somebody has figured out that the initial call can’t go in with less than about 20 seconds left on the play clock. For all the perfectionist talk that’s thrown around this team, this is a gigantic weak spot. More than a few times, Klein had to change the blocking or routes with just a few seconds left to snap the ball which resulted in mass confusion and Oklahoma State defenders walking through the o-line. It’s the most annoying part of K-State football and it’s got to change.
Back to Back Records – In the past 2 games, the K-State defense has given up over 1,000 yards passing. That’s 10 trips up and down the football field through the air. Both OU QB Landry Jones and OSU QB Brandon Weeden put up career and school highs for passing in their games against Kansas State and have provided a blueprint to handing it to the Wildcats. The Wildcats defense isn’t designed to hold passing yards down by any means but back to back 500+ yard performances is unacceptable no matter the scheme. Oklahoma State found way too many receivers in wide open areas of the zone and got behind the defense too much. Nothing demonstrated that better than the final minutes of the fourth quarter when the Cowboys scored on 2 drives that totaled 6 plays, 129 yards, and 1:31, and 2 touchdowns.