The 2016 Kansas State football season began with a resounding grunt against the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal. Here’s what we learned from this game.
It wasn’t the way Wildcat fans wanted to see the season begin, but in truth, it wasn’t all bad despite the 26-13 score. Actually, it’s hard to say if the game wasn’t as bad as the score looks, or if it wasn’t as close as the score looks.
The fact that Kansas State was opening the season against the number eight team in the nation is a feather in their cap right from the start. Most didn’t give the Wildcats a chance against the powerful Stanford offense, but K-State was in it until late in the game.
With every game there are always positives and negatives to take away from the final gun, and we learned some things about this team tonight.
We didn’t get to see enough of Byron Pringle to know if he’s going to live up to the hype. Charmeachealle Moore, Will Geary and Dante Barnett are going to hear their numbers called a lot this year, and special teams needs some work.
Beyond those talking points, here are the three big takeaways from the first game of the 2016 season.
Jesse Ertz is Still Healing
KSU quarterback Jesse Ertz is coming back from the ACL tear which sidelined him all last season, and it showed in the season opener. While he didn’t play terribly (16 of 34, 207 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), it was obvious there was rust there. Ertz looked tentative, both when running the ball and in trying to find a receiver.
Kansas State Wildcats
Granted, playing against a defense as talented as Stanford didn’t help Ertz’s cause, but this wasn’t the quarterback we wanted to see.
The young offensive line has to find their groove if they want to keep Ertz comfortable in the pocket. When he wasn’t being indecisive, Ertz was running for his life from Stanford defenders.
The K-State Defense Has Heart
Don’t let the 26 points on the scoreboard fool you. This Kansas State defense has been heralded as one of the best Bill Snyder has ever had, and they played like it against some pretty impressive offensive weapons on the other side of the field.
Despite a massive advantage in time of possession in the first half by Stanford and a 14-point halftime deficit, the Wildcats defense stood up to the Christian McCaffrey and the Cardinal offense and held them scoreless in the second half for five straight possessions until McCaffrey finally broke through to score the lead-stretching touchdown late in the fourth.
But there were a lot of good things going on, and when most defenses might have given up when the offense continued to sputter and turn the ball over, this group rose up and kept giving the Wildcats a shot in the game.
Christian McCaffrey is Just That Damn Good
Getting away from the Wildcats, we can’t ignore the primary weapon they faced – Heisman Trophy hopeful, Chrisian McCaffrey.
The Stanford running back was present in every offensive phase of the game, and ended up with 32 touches and 210 all-purpose yards (including 44 return yards, with his biggest punt return being called back for an illegal block).
The K-State defense showed that McCaffrey can be held to mortal numbers, but eventually he’s going to find a way to hurt you. This time is was a 41-yard touchdown run with 2:12 left in the game to ice it when it seemed like the Wildcats might be crawling back into it.
The Wildcats (0-1) will now come home for two games against Florida International and Missouri State, before opening the Big 12 schedule on the road against West Virginia on Oct. 1