Before Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State, we looked at the five most important components of the game to watch. Some of them flew under the radar going into contest, but all played crucial roles in the devastating 33-29 loss Saturday afternoon. Today we revisit those components, and examine exactly what happened.
The Quarterback Situation: Until the final drive, K-State used Jake Waters as a distraction more than a weapon. He took the game’s first snap, making think Oklahoma State think pass, and Daniel Sams was brought in on the subsequent play. Sams took the reigns until committing turnovers on two straight drives in the second half (although the first was a fumble that even the announcers said was a bad call as Sams was clearly down when the ball came out). Waters came in at that point, but promptly threw an interception that brought him back to the bench. He also came in earlier in the game for a play as Sams lined up in the backfield – seemingly to confuse the defense – but the play was a simple handoff to Sams that only went for a yard.
Who Oklahoma State Tests: The point of this inquiry was to indicate that there are strengths and weaknesses across the Wildcat defenses, and asking what Oklahoma State would try to exploit. However, Oklahoma State’s running attack has struggled to get off the ground this year and that situation did not change Saturday. The Cowboys only rushed for 85 yards, starting running back Jeremy Smith only had 11 carries, and Oklahoma State attempted 40 passes to just 25 rushes – and quarterback J.W. Walsh had 11 of the carries, with some coming on called passing plays.
Turnovers: I knew this would be a factor in the game. I didn’t realize it would decide the game. I’m still fuming over the Sams fumble, and overall the Wildcats committed five turnovers (two fumbles and three interceptions) while only forcing one. 5:1. In a game decided by just four points, this was absolutely the difference.
Tyler Lockett: I also wanted to know how Tyler Lockett was going to perform in this game. Then, when Tramaine Thompson didn’t suit up due to mono, I knew Lockett would need a big game. Lockett started off the game with a kickoff return for 22 yards. That’s not great, but not bad. He had a six yard run, but came up a little gimpy at the end of the run. And on the next play he caught a short pass and exited the game on the hit, lost for the night. This was killer. With Lockett in the game, 1-3 of those turnovers probably don’t happen, and I sincerely believe K-State wins.
Red Zone Scoring: I can’t begin to describe how impressed I was with K-State’s defense when Oklahoma State had the ball in the red zone. This was one of the country’s best teams in red zone scoring, and I knew the Wildcats wouldn’t stand a chance without getting a big stop inside the 20. They got more than one. During the awful stretch of turnovers in the second half, the offense twice coughed up the ball in Oklahoma State’s red zone. Once on the six-yard line. The defense stopped the Cowboys both times to force field goals. K-State forced five field goals on the afternoon – and blocked one! – to execute exactly what a bend-but-don’t-break defense is expected to do. Without the performance of this defense, the final outcome would have been a lot uglier.
Well folks, that’s it. Those are the five things I wanted to watch. The quarterback controversy will rage all year, but that doesn’t mean it’ll ever get dull. The turnovers and losing Lockett were the reasons this team lost. I don’t like the high number of interceptions this team has thrown in 2013, but I’m not ready to give up on the season. I won’t give up on this offense. Ball security remains an issue I look forward to being rectified. It may be time to make this team’s identity as a running/option team, taking the occassional shot down the field to keep defenses honest. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, with the conference’s (and possibly nation’s) best offense next up when Baylor comes to town. I’m ready for some retribution. A surprise upset in Manhattan, and then two wins against West Virginia and Iowa State (all at home), and K-State suddenly has a winning record. There’s still a lot of football to be played, and I look forward to it with pleasure.