Big day of football so far. Northern Illinois defeated Kent State last night in the MAC Championship Game, knocking Kent State out of a likely BCS berth and opening up a spot for another team – possibly the Big 12 runner-up in the Sugar Bowl. Stanford also defeated UCLA for the Pac-12 championship and Alabama is going to its third straight national championship game. But you’re not here to read about the SEC – it’s the Big 12.
So how are the Wildcats doing on their march to secure their first conference championship since 2003?
Texas opened up the game with two straight runs – one up the gut, and then a left sweep. Both were swarmed at the line and set up third and long, where the ball was tipped at the line to force a three-and-out. It was a beautiful way to start the game. The first evidence that the defense has put the Baylor game behind them.
K-State then decided to demonstrate to Texas that it is capable of running up the middle, using their first play to run John Hubert straight forward for five yards, followed by a Klein run straight forward for 4 yards.
This is where the Wildcats get a little predictable, which has hurt them a couple times this year. Texas sells out on the run, and the handoff to the fullback goes nowhere as the offensive line is overwhelmed by defensive numbers. When the defense shows that, there has to be a willingness to audible for a quick out route. Klein is capable of making the throw, and Harper is capable of catching it. K-State should execute it if the opposition decides to crowd the line like that.
So two three-and-outs. Then, with 11:45 to play in the first, the game got an injection of excitement. Case McCoy throws an interception on first down and Nigel Malone steps immediately in front of the receiver for an easy pick-six. At least, it seemed easy until the play was reviewed because Malone casually dropped the ball as he was crossing the goal line, believing he’d already scored. The referee considered the play for several minutes and eventually overturned the play. However, since the play was blown dead when the officials thought Malone scored, the ruling on the field was what’s known as an inadvertent signal. Even though the ball traveled into the end zone and would have been a touchback for Texas if it rolled out of bounds or into the back of the end zone, it stopped rolling in the middle of the end zone. Kansas State was spotted the ball at the half yard line where Malone dropped the ball, and Klein was able to punch it in on the next play.
On Texas’s next possession, they seemed to be headed for their third straight three-and-out before an eight yard pass preceded a series of throws that seemed to continually put the Wildcats back on their heels. The defense was saved by a chop block that set the Longhorns back 15 yards and eventually caused them to punt. One thing the drive demonstrated is that Texas will have to air it out to keep up. The passing game was very successful, but the running backs have been held to one yard on five rushes. That’s right, Texas is averaging 0.2 yards/carry.
Kansas State had an interesting drive on their next possession. Texas downed their punt at the one foot line. On the first play, John Hubert was wrapped up two yards into the endzone, and drove just hard enough to get the ball back to the original line of scrimmage. Then Collin Klein is flushed out of the pocket and tight ropes the back of the end zone before throwing incomplete. On third down Travis Tannahill caught a bomb over the middle and a helmet-to-helmet should have tacked on another 15 yards. However, K-State was hit with offensive pass interference and the play was nullified. The pass interference was bunk – the defender hit a Wildcat in the facemask and when the defender was shoved away, the flag was thrown. Fortunately, Klein threw another bomb and hit Chris Harper for 36 yards. This drive is where we leave the first quarter with K-State looking to extend their lead, the ball sits at the Texas 22 yard line with the Wildcats driving.