The dust has settled, the shock is now a reality. As the week has past, the realization that the Wildcats, a Bill Snyder led team, got upset in their own building, did happen. Gone with the loss, a 20 game season opening win streak. An upset before the second largest crowd in K-State football history, 53,351 in attendance to be exact. Last week, my key matchup was the receivers. While Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett both had over 100 yards receiving and each had a huge TD, only Curry Sexton caught more than one ball (4 catches for 35 yards). Torell Miller was the only other receiver with a catch, catching one pass for only five yards. The loss showcased two main matchups I wanted to look at this week going into the game against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, the running backs and linebackers.
A Bill Snyder -built team does two main things in order to win, control the clock and play mistake free. Against North Dakota State, the Wildcats could not get their run game going, never really controlling the clock. Credit the North Dakota State front line for controlling Kansas State halfback John Hubert, who was limited to 23 yards rushing on 10 carries for a measly 2.3 yard per carry average. The Ragin Cajuns were manhandled in their previous matchup last weekend, falling to the Arkansas Razorbacks 34-14. In the loss, the Cajuns struggled to stop the run, giving up a whopping 302 yards on the ground, 537 yards of total offense. Does this help put the Cats run game back on track? Let’s discuss. Hubert, the two year backfield starter alongside running QB Collin Klein, will have to adjust to new signal caller Jake Waters pass first, run second approach. Defenses will now understand that Hubert is the main running threat, and his athleticism will have to come into account, with his knack for making the first tackler miss.
The team will have to look to replace Angelo Pease, the change of pace back that the Wildcats used to their advantage the past season. Pease has since graduated and spent training camp with the Green Bay Packers. Do the Wildcats have a clear answer at the running back after Hubert? Junior DeMarcus Robinson (5-7 210 lbs) and senior Robert Rose (5-4 170 lbs) look to fight for carries after Hubert, but both are smaller sized similar style backs to Hubert. Will someone step up behind Hubert? Will John himself see his numbers drop with the loss of former quarterback Collin Klein? Does this mean that we could see increased time of Daniel Sams to help the run game? All things to consider this Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Defense wins championships. It’s an old saying but it still carries merit. Last year’s Wildcat squad helped the Cats control the clock and force turnovers. A major part of that defense was the linebackers, a major strength of the team. Three of the top four linebackers are now gone. Arthur Brown, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last year, no longer runs the defense. Justin Tuggle and Jarell Childs are both gone as well. Only Tre Walker remains. Senior Blake Slaughter and junior Jonathan Truman join Walker at the top of the depth chart. Brown’s leadership will be sorely missed and his knack for big play ability will not be replaced easily. Brown was one of the better linebackers to ever play under Snyder, who has recruited his share of talented linebackers. I have always been a fan of Tre Walker, and believe he can fit the mold of the senior leader of this core.
Against Arkansas, Louisana-Lafayette only gained 105 yards on the ground. The Rajun Cajuns were led by Alonzo Harris, who contributed 56 yards on 10 carries on the ground, while quarterback Terrance Broadway added 171 yards through the air on 15 of 28 attempts. Broadway was sacked 3 times, while adding -1 yards rushing on 13 carries. Much different than the Bison team that visited Manhattan last week.
Here is my issue. Rewind to Friday. North Dakota State traveled 80 yards on 18 plays with 8 and a half minutes left to take the lead 24-21. Someone needs to step up and make a stop during that drive. North Dakota State averaged 5 yards per carry, rushing for 215 yards and making 19 first downs, 11 rushing. Someone needs to step up and make a tackle. If the game comes down to one final drive against the Rajun Cajuns, who will?