A lot. That’s your easy answer to what went wrong, and unfortunately, it’s also true. Today we dwell on the bad, but tomorrow we can resume planning for the future. Yet while we brood, energies might as well focus on identifying the deficiencies. Safety play, line of scrimmage (both sides), and overall discipline lost in a well of dearth. Does that phrase even make sense? Neither does K-State losing by 28 points to a team with a losing record.
This piece isn’t intended to heap blame upon backup safety Dante Barnett. It’s not. However, there’s a marked decrease in athletic ability and decision-making in replacing Ty Zimmerman with Barnett. This was a tough spot to be in as Zimmerman has been a ball-hawk all year, hauling down interceptions and managing his assignments to make important tackles. Barnett was burned for two touchdowns in his first start, a consequence of both his abilities and occasionally finding himself out of position. If Zimmerman is still on crutches over the next two weeks, Barnett should benefit as much as anyone from the extra week of practice before Texas comes to Manhattan.
The line. Where does one start with the line? Collin Klein threw three picks and only completed 27 of 50 passes (K-State won’t win games it passes in 50 times). However, many of those throws were under duress and Baylor was in the backfield all night long. While many projected the offensive line as a weakness coming into the season, it gradually built into one of the team’s strengths. Part of the problem was assignment confusion – more than once a Baylor defender was being double-teamed while another blew by unobstructed. However, more often you saw linemen straight up get beat. While K-State won’t gain a lot of yardage on the ground if it’s passing 50 times, the 76 yards it did muster was awful (106 yards if you don’t count the 30 yards lost on sacks). The Wildcats averaged 2.5 yards per rush. Klein was consistently stood up at the line of scrimmage and couldn’t even convert a touchdown from the one yard line on multiple attempts.
On the other side of the ball, K-State’s defensive line was equally horrific. Baylor averaged seven yards per rush. Seven. Running back Lance Seastrunk was running well before this game, and there was the chance he’d help a balanced Baylor attack keep the game within range. However, Seastrank averaged 9.7 yards on 19 attempts en route to a 185 yard day. ESPN provides a telling statistic from the game:
“Kansas State allowed 16 rushes of at least 10 yards against Baylor and three touchdowns on those rushes. Entering Saturday’s game, Kansas State had not allowed more than six rushes of at least 10 yards in a single game and had not allowed a touchdown on rushes of at least 10 yards all season.”
ESPN also noted that Baylor averaged ten yards per rush when lining up with a tight end, and only 4.3 without. They were in the shotgun formation and had at least three wide receivers on the field for all but one of its 49 rushes Saturday (more on this tomorrow).
Finally, discipline was not on display Saturday night. Maybe the pressure from holding the number one ranking in the BCS turns the fear of a let down into a self-fulfilling prophecy. All week these 20-year-old kids read online and listened on tv about how the number one ranking makes teams complacent, cocky, or lazy. And all week there were coaches screaming at them not to let it happen. It’s easy to envision a kid overthinking his assignments and trying too hard in response to the pressure, and overcompensation can be just as problematic as inattention to detail. Regardless of what happened, last night was the most penalized game of the season for the Wildcats, with seven penalties for 60 yards. Add to that the three turnovers and it was a very uncharacteristic night. Granted, 60 penalty yards isn’t very significant when compared to the 580-362 advantage that Baylor posted in total yardage. However, the stat is emblematic of a team that’s not playing smart football. That means missed assignments, confusion about play calls, and increased frustration which often leads to even more mistakes (it’s a dangerous cycle). The team just didn’t play like it should.
Going forward, there are a lot more things to work on. Some problems can be fixed, others have to be masked. The wide receiver position suffered from injuries to Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton, who would have allowed Klein more confidence and open targets. Linebacker Tre Walker, out for the year, would have been a welcome addition during one of Seastrunk’s off-tackle runs. The key is, everything can be addressed. You don’t start 10-0 in the Big 12 with a bunch scrub athletes and idiot coaches. Texas is going to play a very talented and very angry team on December 1, and K-State will be rewarded for this season with an invitation to the Fiesta Bowl and a shot at going 12-1 with a BCS bowl game win – which is still pretty damned impressive.