Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Yikes, folks. Yikes. North Dakota State was the nonconference game I’d been hyping all summer, and it didn’t disappoint. Holding K-State to only 19 yards rushing in the first half, the Bison rushed for 104 yards themselves in demonstrating how to both run block and control the line up front. The teams essentially matched each other in yardage during the first half, but the Bison appeared to be the better team with an interception of Waters and a missed field goal away from a 10-7 lead. But that was the first half.
The first 30 minutes can’t be discounted – they did not look good for K-State. The Wildcats failed to put together consistent drives and the run defense looked bad. Walter White bad, as North Dakota was running inside with impunity. At least they did up the middle – I liked Ryan Mueller a lot and Marquel Bryant did his job at the defensive end position. K-State couldn’t seem to keep drives going, as Waters did a solid job passing but never seemed to figure out how to pick up yards with his feet and Hubert was essentially overlooked.
K-State looked incredible starting off the second half, and needed three (passing) plays to take the lead 14-7 on a 56 yard strike to Tyler Lockett. The team need just one minute to take the lead, and extended it to 21-7 just four minutes later. Daniel Sams came in for his first play of the game after Jake Waters was forced to take a time out to avoid a delay of game penalty (it was actually the second time this happened, and both times the time out was called from the sideline, implying the occasional lack of awareness). Sams took the ball 17 yards for a touchdown, and the momentum seemed to be swinging solidly K-State’s direction.
Or so it seemed. North Dakota State’s run game seemed to fall away in the second half, but Bison quarterback Brock Jensen looked like an NFL talent during the final two quarters. He found Kevin Vaadeland for a nine yard touchdown to close the gap to one score, and a 41-yard field goal by Adam Keller three minutes later closed the gap to 21-17.
K-State looked to score early in the fourth quarter, but Jake Waters was absolutely swarmed on third down and took a sack even the most experienced and talented of quarterbacks would have trouble avoiding. The Wildcats were at least in position to kick a field goal before the sack, but the play forced K-State to punt and return the ball to North Dakota State. The ball bounced into the end zone for a touchback, but should have been downed at the five as Mark Krause was spectacular all night long in his first game replacing All-Big 12 punter Ryan Doerr.
With the ball at the 20, Jensen engineered another brilliant drive, completing his first seven passes while his only “bad” play was a sack by defensive end Ryan Mueller, who tried his damnedest to help K-State fans forget about Meshak Williams with two sacks on the night while dominating his area of the field. (Jensen also had a keeper for seven yards to the K-State 35 yard line).
North Dakota State reverted to what it did well during the first half, rushing for chunk after chunk of yardage inside the two minute mark in an attempt to upset yet another FBS opponent. Brock Jensen then took another run to the one yard line with 32 seconds left. And on the next play, after time outs from both sides, the MVP of the FCS championship game, Brock Jensen, punched it in for a touchdown and put the Bison up 24-21 (Blake Slaughter debatably had a chance to come up with a stop there, but shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place; K-State should have been up 44-21).
Question: at 32 seconds left and second-and-goal at the one, K-State called a time out to get a look at the offensive formation and make adjustments. I seriously question(ed) this decision. Should NDSU score the touchdown (which they did), you’ve got less than thirty second to get Jack Cantele in position to kick a field goal.
North Dakota State played smart until the end of the game. Pooching the kick-off all night long,Tyler Lockett was playing far up to get a chance at returning the kick, but NDSU kicked it as hard as it could and the ball landed safely in the endzone for a touchback. Jake Waters was intercepted on his first pass in trying to lead the team to a 28 second comeback victory, and the Wildcats began the season 0-1.
- North Dakota State outgained K-State in total yardage, 380-328
- Third downs were killer – NDSU converted on 11 of 17, K-State on two of 10.
- Jake Waters looked good most of the night, completing 21-of-29, throwing for 280 yards (9.7 yards per pass and 13.3 yards per completion). However, he threw two interceptions while Bison quarterback Jensen didn’t throw a pick.
- Very clean game – NDSU had one penalty for five yards, and K-State had two for 10 yards.
- NDSU dominated time of possession, 36 minutes to 24 for the Wildcats.
- John Hubert ended the night with 23 yards on 10 carries. So did Jake Waters. Inexcusable.
- Tyler Locket had seven receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown, Tramaine Thompson had six for 108 yards and a score, and Curry Sexton had four for 45 yards.
- K-State allowed an averaged of 29 yards per kick off return.
Lot of holes to fix before the game against LA-Lafeyette. No one seemed to really step up. I don’t know if the run blocking was that bad, or Snyder simply refused to show much, but Hubert’s longest run was 17 yards. The rest of the night, he had 6 yards on nine carries. Lot of holes to fix. Check back tomorrow for what it all means – and yes, Wildcat fans, there’s enough good to take away from tonight to believe this team can still compete for a Big 12 crown. Don’t give up the faith just yet. EMAW!