K-State is off to a 2-2 start to the season. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Sure, North Dakota State is loaded by FCS standards, but they’re still an FCS school. The Wildcats should have started the season 3-0 in nonconference play, then gone down to Austin to take a sixth straight victory over a reeling Longhorns team. That’s not the way it played out. What ifs don’t win you squat, but here are my top five woulda, coulda, shouldas for the Texas game that could have turned the game around.
1. The Butt Fumble
It was hilarious when that cocky NY Jet Mark Sanchez ran into his tackle’s butt and fumbled the ball and we all called it the butt fumble. Apparently, it’s not nearly as funny when it’s your own quarterback committing the error. That was bad form by Jake Waters – he was holding the ball swinging out to the side just waiting to be knocked away by a defender, and when he swiped Cody Whitehair’s rear end he simply lost it. It was the play that killed the comeback. Waters had a decent lane to run through otherwise, the Wildcats were at first and goal from the seven, and a touchdown puts the game within 31-28 with a little under three minutes to play. That’s a manageable deficit. However, that play killed a shot at taking the lead or at least forcing overtime.
2. The Sack Fumble
K-State’s defense came up big and forced Texas to punt following said butt fumble, and Tramaine Thompson had a huge (HUGE!) 40-yard return to the Texas 11 with about 90 seconds to play. However, a sack by Jefferson Jeffcoat killed some clock as K-State got back to the line. Another sack by Cedric Reed forced another fumble by Waters, the Longhorns got the ball back with 17 seconds left, and the game was completely over at that point.
3. Pass Interference On Dorrian Roberts
K-State started the fourth quarter in the red zone with the team’s best momentum of the night. 90 seconds later, John Hubert found the end zone to cut the score to 24-14. I could feel the comeback coming. Texas got the ball back and made it into K-State territory at the 44 yard-line. However, consecutive rushes by Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown were absolutely stuffed, leaving Texas at third-and-10. Yet a pass interference call on Roberts on an incomplete pass gave Texas new life on the drive. The Longhorns proceeded to chew up four minutes of valuable game clock en route to their final touchdown, giving them a 31-14 lead.
4. Texas Fake Punt
Facing fourth-and-two at about the midfield line, Texas knew it had three options. The first was go for it: its running backs were having a field day and Jonathan Gray was primed to plunge forward for two yards. The second was punt, gaining about 35 yards of field position and praying the punter is successful in kicking away from Tramaine Thompson without kicking way out of bounds. Lastly, Mark Brown could fake it. The quick snap to the blocker not only gained the two necessary yards, but netted 19 total yards. Texas used the opportunity to score the first points of the second half and go up 24-7.
5. The “John Hubert Kills Halftime Momentum Early” Fumble.
It sounds crazy to say this, but the Wildcats had the momentum going into halftime. Texas scored the first 17 points of the game in a cringe-worthy 27 minutes worth of football. Then, the Wildcats used just two minutes to drive 82 yards for a touchdown and cut the score to 17-7. Texas attempted to drive for one last score before 0:00, and the defense forced a turnover on downs towards the end of the half. K-STATE HAD THE MOMENTUM!
Getting the ball to start the half, a 17-yard run by Waters and nine yard pass to Tyler Lockett had K-State in Texas’s territory. I could feel it – the Wildcats were about to score again to close within 17-14 and take control of the game from there. However, Hubert fumbled the ball on a hit that had no reason forcing a fumble, handing possession back to Texas. Texas faked a punt on that possession (see #4), and went on to win the game.
Of there are plenty other issues to point to. Roberts was burned for a 63-yard touchdown reception by Kendall Sanders. When Lockett had a 40-yard kick return, 15 yards was nullified by a personal foul on Laton Dowling. Then, on the first play from scrimmage, Whitehair was nailed with a 15 yard facemask penalty. Both were unnecessary, provided zero strategic value, and caused K-State to punt at its 47. You think those 30 yards couldn’t have made a difference? However, these were the top-five momentum changers that stopped K-State cold whenever it tried to get back into the game. Fortunately, the team has a bye this weekend to prepare for a visit by Oklahoma State. I envision Waters and Hubert running through gauntlets of defenders over and over again as their teammates try to punch the ball out. Ten push ups for every fumble.