Considering I said this in the spring, and the summer, and in the early muck of Saturday’s 51-9 win against Missouri State, and I’m about to say it again, stamp me as a broken record: Despite its “come hell or high water” wish for offensive balance, Kansas State does not need to throw the ball.
Well, no, that’s not right. Collin Klein does need to throw it some. However, throwing it 28 times as he did Saturday is too much. It appeared that maybe, just maybe, K-State grudgingly made that realization and conceded the point as Saturday’s game went on.
Through the back half of the game, the Wildcats focused more on rushing, and it led to a physically dominant fourth quarter that saw 35 unanswered points as a result of the opponent losing heart.
Rushing is what you do, K-State. Rushing is who you are.
Of all the rushing talent that has come through Manhattan – from Rock Cartwright to Thomas Clayton to even Ell Roberson’s and Michael Bishop’s legs – it is John Hubert who set a Bill Snyder Family Stadium record with a 95-yard touchdown run. Though it was later, your redshirt freshman backup quarterback ripped off a 46-yard touchdown run in the first action of his career. You even found a way to get Braden Wilson a couple of carries and a touchdown.
And, probably most importantly, Klein was allowed to settle in. After throwing 10 pass attempts in the first quarter, Klein threw the ball only 10 passes after halftime and instead was asked to do what he do – making option reads and getting his custom four and five yards moving forward.
Honestly, what’s so unsexy about 224 rushing yards in the second half and 35 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes?* What’s wrong with continuing to sharpen your best weapon until it becomes mostly unstoppable?
*Special teams had a part in that fourth quarter blitz, too, as Tramaine Thompson raced back an 89-yard punt return for a score. I think that’s part of it, though. As a team gets mentally and physically dominated, breakdowns in focus on areas like punt coverage happen. It’s one more reason I think KSU should start that wearing out process from the get-go. And, while we’re here… it was nice to see Thompson finally have a chance to show off his speed. The team hoped he would be Tyler Lockett before Lockett became what he is.
Hopefully, we can call Saturday’s first half a last-ditch attempt at making Klein an all-around QB. He was 19-of-28 for 169 yards and two touchdowns (including a 1-yd pass), but the long throwing motion is the same. The ball still wobbles badly on hurried or under pressure throws. The entire passing game doesn’t look comfortable; it’s not nearly as confidence inspiring as watching the Wildcats run.
That first half against Missouri State needs to be left where it was, and the offense needs to move forward.
AND OTHER THINGS
- No pass rush. I talked to Meshak Williams for a moment after the game about KSU’s lack of pass rush. He felt the defense played reasonably overall, and that the lack of sacks was more a result of Missouri State’s short drop-backs and quick passes than anything. The stats bear that out some considering the Wildcats weren’t even able to record a single QB hurry, let alone a sack, in 51 passing attempts. It was frustrating, Williams said, because he felt like the Bears QBs were always just outside of his grasp. Maybe that was the case, but regardless, it can’t continue.
- Not of a second-hand nature. The secondary was a question mark going into the Missouri State game as guys like Allen Chapman and Jared Milo saw starts. Between them and Randall Evans, the trio’s performances showed it may take some time for them to make the transition to full-time starters (Chapman and Milo, specifically). Bears receivers were decisive in their routes, and the QBs weren’t great but effective enough to rack up 323 yards against little pressure (see above). Nigel Malone did pick off a pass, and his experience in reading and reacting to the Bears offense was evident compared to his teammates in the secondary.
- I started seeing complaints roll in before the opening kick, but apparently K-StateHD.TV had its own opening-game jitters. Everything I read on Twitter said issues ranged from audio not working correctly, log-in credentials failing to allow access and some fans not able to enter the site at all. I don’t know what that all means, but the good news is that this weekend’s game against Miami is on national TV.
- At halftime, I had a chance to meet and talk with K-State Mask, who has become a bit of an overnight sensation after his YouTube video hit the Interwebs. A retired Army veteran, he is originally from southern Illinois. He’s now in love with Manhattan, and is, as you might guess, a giant fan of Bruce Weber since he has followed Weber’s career from the Saluki days. He admitted to me that if he ever has the chance to meet the head coach, he might cry. I have a feeling that if he keeps up his pep talk videos, and the character, he’ll get that meeting chance eventually.