K-State football: The Dimel phenomenon

Neither opposing defense nor weather has stopped the Kansas State Wildcats from putting up points in bunches the past two weeks.

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KSU Co-Offensive Coordinator Dana Dimel

With 63 against Florida Atlantic and 35 in two quarters against Missouri State, there have been plenty of scoring chances for everyone.

Well, more so for one more than others.

After scoring six touchdowns in the past two games and matching his total from 2015, sophomore fullback Winston Dimel has bulldozed his way to the top of the Big 12 scoring list and is tied for 13th in Division I FBS – averaging 12 points per game. Through three games, he has 60 percent of K-State’s 10 rushing touchdowns. Nobody else has more than one.

Usually, this would just be kind of fun and worth celebrating the fullback still has a place in a college game bastardized by things like Kliff Kingsbury. But, this situation has a slight film on it to me, maybe because I’ve been on teams in my life where you knew plays were called because so-and-so was a coach’s favorite or a coach’s son. And, I know the reaction to those situations in those locker rooms were never a unanimous “it’s all good.”

The hard part about all of this, of course, is that calling Dimel’s number largely has worked the past two games. His success, plus the lopsided scores, have left some fans asking me why I would question something that’s worked so well. Usually, I would 100-percent agree with that line of thinking. However, that the calls worked isn’t really applicable here because any call should work against K-State’s recent opponents, and that’s the point: If you know that, why not spread the love?

In three games, the Charles Jones/Dalvin Warmack/Justin Silmon trio has combined for 265 yards on 45 rushes (5.9 ypc) and one lonely touchdown.* Inside the red zone, Dimel has had 13 plays called for him, outpacing the trio’s total of 5 play calls. Outside of the red zone, it’s the opposite. The trio has had 52 times where the ball was intended for them through rush or pass, with Dimel recording just 3 opportunities. My takeaway: It’s interesting that the weapons of choice up and down the field aren’t Dimel, who then reaps the reward.

*After three consecutive Dimel runs inside the five-yard line were stopped short of the goal against Missouri State, Charles Jones finally got the running backs a touchdown in the season’s third game … but nearly didn’t before replay had to prove he crossed the goal line before dropping the ball. Seriously dumb stuff, Charles, but hey, when you hardly ever get the chance to score, I can appreciate the want to celebrate.

Nobody legitimate is going to think less of Winston Dimel if he only scores two touchdowns instead of six. He was a preseason All-Big 12 selection, after all. And, to the argument that showing the entire Dimel playbook will give defenses more to think about in goal situations … maybe? But, how often is K-State really going to put Dimel in the Wildcat during Big 12 play?*

*I mean, they won’t do that, right? Someone tell me no … please? Please tell me no.

In the interest of sanity, let’s say this isn’t what the game plan will be in higher-leveraged situations. So, if that’s that’s the case, then why shy away from rewarding your running backs and giving them the satisfaction that comes with capping a great drive they played a direct role in?

Or don’t …

Don’t reward other guys and hope like hell in the short term that wins keep coming. And hope long term that future (legitimate) running back recruits aren’t paying that close of attention to how the scoring scales obviously have been tipped toward the sophomore son of a coach who likely will be in Manhattan for a couple of more years.

 

Big 12 Football power rankings – Power? What power?

All the sads, Big 12.

There have been seasons where the Big 12 unfairly took heat for not being a true contender on the national stage. 2016 is not one of those seasons.thumb-440352_960_720

After a second-consecutive weekend of getting put in its place, it is clear the Big 12 doesn’t belong in the College Football Playoff discussion. (Unless … we maybe pretend some other teams like Houston are part of the Big 12, kind of a “just the tip” deal, you know, with all that Big 12 expansion stuff happening.)

Yep, three weeks in and that’s where we are already. That’s nice.

*Houston* (3-0) — The Cougars have swag. They have support from J.J. Watt. They *appear* to have a good track on getting a Big 12 invite if and when that step is finally reached. That said, is it too late for the Big 12 to claim Houston as its own? 

1. Texas (2-1) — The Longhorns will need an immediate recovery to bounce back after losing to a Cal team it shouldn’t have. Tough performance, and with Notre Dame getting manhandled for most of its game with Michigan State, it looks like Texas may be just as Big 12 average as the rest.

2. Oklahoma (1-2) — Keeping Oklahoma at the No. 2 spot in these rankings – despite getting dominated at home by Ohio State – is a full indictment on the non-strength of the Big 12. More than a few times, Baker Mayfield looked like he was pressing, and after going 1-2 in the non-con, it’s too late for Bob Stoops to press the panic button. This season’s big potential is gone.

3. Baylor (3-0) — Remember that one time when programs would build excellent seasons by eating cupcakes? Baylor has found a way to screw that up like Baylor normally finds ways to Baylor things up. After slow-cooking Rice, the Bears have three wins, some questions after multiple slow starts against inferior opponents, and zero prestige — a championship-killing calling card of recent years.

4. TCU (2-1, 1-0) — The Frogs opened Big 12 play with a business-minded performance against Iowa State. It won’t wow anybody, but it’s a tough, efficient, unsung showing that never gets enough appreciation — kinda like Gary Patterson’s khakis on a hot day.

5. Kansas State (1-1) — Had the competition been a little better, the Wildcats would have jumped a spot or maybe even two in these rankings. Penalties aside, this was the most dominant effort from K-State in some time. If quarterback play continues to improve game-to-game, the skill positions are flush with talent, the defense is good to great, and special teams are again some of the best in the nation. It’s enough to legitimately put K-State up against anyone in the Big 12.

6. West Virginia (2-0) — The Mountaineers were off this past weekend, giving them some extra time to prepare for a BYU squad that has a stingy defense but isn’t nearly at the level it was overall two years ago when it smoked Texas.

*North Dakota State (3-0) – The Bison stampeded No. 13 Iowa to the tune of 239 rushing yards while only giving up 34 yards on the ground and 231 offensive yards overall. Yes, the game came down to a field goal in the final seconds, but that’s still some heavy domination that half of the Big 12 would love to be able to dish out but flat can’t.

7. Oklahoma State (2-1) — The Cowboys used a six-shooter’s worth of big plays, plus some, to out-gun Pitt. James Washington put up freak numbers with nine catches totaling 296 yards and 2 TD. He had a 91-yard grab, Jhajuan Seales had an 86-yarder, and the Pokes pulled out the win in the end.

8. Texas Tech (2-1) — If you poked your head into the defensive coaching staff’s office, would it be empty? Or, would it be filled with additional offensive coaches? Tech continues to be allergic to defense, and I continue to be amazed by it.

9. Iowa State (0-3, 0-1) — Wins will be few this year for the Cyclones, so it’s important to celebrate little steps of progress — like, for example, ISU won the fourth quarter, 10-3, against TCU’s backups. Little things, guys. Little things.

10. Kansas (1-2) — It was one play, but it was beautiful. A 3rd-and-1, 66-yd breakaway by freshman running back Khalil Herbert provided the lone bright spot in a six-turnover day. The game left head coach David Beaty trying to accept the blame, saying he had to do a better job in getting his guys ready to play. I watched the turnovers. NO coach can make up for quarterbacks handing the ball to the other team.

Big 12 Football power rankings – A WTF weekend

It feels too early in the year to have to have this talk, Big 12, but seriously, what in the ever-loving hell was that collective performance on Saturday?big_12_conference_logo-svg

Central Michigan (Mid-American), Ohio (Mid-American), Arkansas (SEC), Arizona State (Pac-12), and Iowa (Big 10) all proved better than their Big 12 opponents, and Youngstown State (Missouri Valley) was on the verge of doing the same. Overall the Big 12 went a putrid 4-5 in non-conference contests.

Aside from the top Big 12 teams, it was a deplorable showing, but it won’t stop us from ranking the conference this week and trying to say nice things — even if we feel as dirty as Elisabeth Schu in Leaving Las Vegas.

1. Texas (2-0) — Shane Buechele completed 71.7 percent of his passes through two games, and the Longhorns showed no letdown a week after knocking off Notre Dame. UTEP was shorthanded, but it wouldn’t have mattered even with a Miners full deck.

2. Oklahoma (1-1) — So begins the long, 11-step road to recovery. OU led Louisiana Monroe 42-0 at halftime and coasted the rest of the way. One win down, 10 more to go for a group that wants to believe it belongs in the College Football Playoff.

3. Baylor (2-0) — The final score didn’t look all that out of whack, but if you paid attention, the Bears struggled pretty hard with SMU’s defense. BU quarterback Seth Russell said SMU provided some looks that the Bears hadn’t seen before. Gotta believe Big 12 defensive coordinators are scrambling to secure that film, even more than normal.

4. TCU (1-1) — The Horned Frogs have given up 82 points in two games. They were getting shut out at halftime against Arkansas before mounting a big, but short, fourth-quarter comeback. Two weeks does not a season make, but things feel a little too unsettled for comfort right now in Fort Worth.

5. Kansas State (0-1) — Everybody else in the Big 12 played games this weekend. Bill Snyder Family Stadium played host to a concert. People showing up to Bill Snyder Family Stadium in September for something other than football? Some things aren’t wrong, but it doesn’t mean they feel right.

6. West Virginia (2-0) — Slow start, but the Mountaineers were much stronger in the second half against a game Youngstown St. In any other week, WVU probably doesn’t move up a spot in the rankings based on that performance, and that takes us to the next team on the list …

7. Oklahoma State (1-1) — Did OSU get screwed? Yes. Should they never have been in that position to begin with? Taking on an inferior opponent in Stillwater? Yes. Bad form, Mike Gundy’s guys. Real bad.

8. Texas Tech (1-1) — It’s flat amazing how predictable Texas Tech has become in terms of fun offense and zero regard for defense. And, like so many years before, that combination will mean another season of the “L” standing for Loss in Lubbock.

9. Iowa State (0-2) — Matt Campbell already has indecision at quarterback — just two games in. That’s not the hard part, Coach Campbell; it’s the constant heartburn and eventual apathy in Ames that become the real doozies.

10. Kansas (1-1) — On a positive note, the Jayhawks defense was better. The only thing about that is the improvement came after Ohio racked up the majority of its 329 rushing yards in the first half. On offense, dreadful was the word. KU had 26 rushing yards on 15 carries, to go along with 0-11 combined on third  (0-9) and fourth (0-2) downs.

Big 12 Football power rankings – Looking Strong

It’s time to do one of my favorite things and start making weekly sense (as much as possible, anyways) of the Big 12 Conference’s football programs. If you’ve never followed my rankings, I try my best to leverage week-to-week performance in tandem with overall expectation. Rankings that purely go week-to-week drive me nuts, and polls that attempt to shrug off a poor performance do the same.

So, away we go …

1. Texas (1-0) — The only reason the Longhorns top thiCharlie Strongs week’s ranks? Oklahoma lost. Past that, Texas beat a ranked, established Notre Dame in exciting, believable fashion. Charlie Strong has been building talent for the past couple of years after purging attitudes. It appears Burnt Orange Nation may finally have something legitimate to cheer for past October. Scary.

2. Oklahoma (0-1) — Well … at least OU fans didn’t have to wait until midseason for their Sooners to inexplicably faceplant. Nope, this year, those fans can now pray the worst is over and Bob Stoops can motivate his guys to win the next 11, which is doable provided OU can emerge from its usual mental quagmire.

3. TCU (1-0) — It was only South Dakota St., but Hill looked ready to lead the Horned Frogs to something great this season. Does it stick?

4. Baylor (1-0) — We really won’t get a good feel for the Bears until late September, but it’s hard to imagine the potentially program-wrecking off-season won’t have some immediate effects.

5. Kansas State (0-1) — The Wildcats played like a Top 20 team against Stanford — especially on defense. Keep up that kind of effort, and K-State could make some noise in the top half of the Big 12 before things are said and done.

6. Oklahoma State (1-0) — OSU is another program we won’t really know until conference play opens. Until then, enjoy the sweet, fattening diet of cupcakes.

7. West Virginia (1-0) — I know WVU received votes this week, but I can’t help it … beating a sinking Missouri program by 15 in Morgantown just ins’t very inspiring compared to other first-week performances. It leaves something to prove for me. Guess we’ll see.

8. Texas Tech (1-0) — Safe to say, if this was basketball, Tech wouldn’t have scored 69 against Stephen F. Austin. But, it was all guns up all the time last Saturday against an inferior opponent. Congrats, or something.

9. Iowa State (0-1) — 13 freshmen took the field for the Cyclones, including six true frosh. It’s going to be a long season (again) in Ames for the new staff, but maybe it leads to something good down the road.

10. Kansas (1-0)I watched this one in person. Rhode Island was so terrible that many KU fans got bored and left early — missing the team’s first win in almost two years. It was like watching a nerdy kid smack an armless mannequin in the faceless face with a pillow and celebrating it as a win. But hey, at least KU’s head coach cried.

KU football: When even a win didn’t matter

Students barely hit the field at KU before the public address announcer had firmly tucked in his shirt, hiked his pants, and scolded, “This is a new era in Kansas football, an era in which you should EXPECT to win.”

The Memorial Stadium game clock reported just under 11 minutes left in the first quarter as I began hopping two cement stairs at a time.

I was on my way to the west side of the stadium, headed to pick up a will call ticket and take my seat, where I would spend the next three hours witnessing the Kansas Jayhawks earn their first football win since Nov. 8, 2014.

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A timestamp marking the first KU Football win since Nov. 8, 2014.

Favored by nearly four touchdowns over Rhode Island, KU didn’t disappoint as it racked up a 55-6 victory against a downtrodden Rams program allergic to size, speed, scheme, and inspiration. Such dominance later brought tears to KU’s second-year head coach David Beaty.

And, that’s not even the weirdest part.

Just after the game ended, before Beaty’s press conference, tens of hyped students, who had not yet left in search of ongoing neighborhood house parties,  stormed a small section of the field. Once there, they barely had time to congratulate everyone in the group by name before the public address announcer had firmly tucked in his shirt, hiked his pants, and scolded, “This is a new era in Kansas football, an era in which you should EXPECT to win.”

We heard the message while walking out of the stadium – still able to see the field, but just far enough away that you could hear the disbelief and collective eye-roll from fans who didn’t see a problem with kids who were capable of little more than bending a few blades of turf.

This all served as the cap to an evening I spent witnessing other fans around me drowsily check the field before diving back into their smartphone browsing. That’s not to mention the general lack of interest in the concert-level music of today blasting throughout the stadium during timeouts — as if to say “See? Look! We’re fun! It’s FUN to be here! Are you not ENTERTAINED!?”

The answer to that was apparently not, as fans filtered away from a game that served less purpose than a KU intra-squad scrimmage would have. Even for a team that went 0-12 in 2015, it was too easy, this win, and fans felt it.

Still, while KU is on point at any given moment when it comes to basketball, Saturday’s events combined left me with a sense of nobody really knew how to handle a win, or even handle football for that matter. The music was a hedge bet toward needing to create some artificial fan experience outside of enjoying the football in front of them. Those who wanted to celebrate the first home win in nearly two years were told to stop. A coach said the right things regarding expecting to win but in the same breaths showed stress cracks caused by the immense weight of changing such a culture.

It was something to behold, and will be something to watch if and when a win happens again … whether in this season’s life or the next.

K-State football: “Delay of Game – Offense”

No. 8 Stanford Cardinal 26, Kansas State Wildcats 13.

The first-blush takeaway was that K-State did itself proud in Palo Alto. While not good enough to win — there simply wasn’t enough consistency from the quarterback position to overcome an early deficit — the defense’s performance in the second half had me thinking this team could wind up with nine wins if some things went right.*Coach_Bill_Snyder

*Actually, before the game, I told Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison over at 610 Sports KCSP I thought if everything went right, K-State might even win 10. Chalk one up to over-optimism. It happens.*

Speaking of what went right, despite 26 points on the board, let’s start with that defense.

Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey broke loose twice for big runs, and Duke Shelley got burned on a long touchdown pass, but all in all, Dante Barnett, Jordan Willis, and friends were better than good for much of that ballgame.

Barnett was a sight for sore eyes — repeatedly assassinating running plays from his safety position. It will  be interesting to see how fast Big 12 offensive coordinators try to exploit Barnett’s dominant run-support mindset, but if they can’t or don’t, we may be watching an All-America campaign.

Willis and the defensive line showed impressive assignment discipline and consistency for it being the first game of the season. It led to a pretty solid showing in slowing McCaffrey, even if Superman finally won in the end.

Now, as for what didn’t go right.

“Delay of Game – Offense”

For the love of God — and, I know I’m asking an old-dog program to learn a new trick — why can’t this coaching staff figure out play clock management?

A lot can happen in 40 seconds – full meals can be warmed up; a Jamaican (or South African) can run nearly a quarter-mile; pregnancy (okay, that one is actually 30 min., but a risky decision takes far less time). So, why can’t a team of coaches assigned to coordinating plays avoid test anxiety and not repeatedly fail to answer in time, especially in inexplicable situations, like, say, in the red zone or after new quarter just began?

FOX Sports color analyst Joel Klatt said it best during Friday’s broadcast: When more than one quarterback has an issue getting the ball snapped on time, that’s not a quarterback issue; it’s a program failure. And, if you listened hard enough right after, you could almost hear a collective “amen” from the K-State congregation.

Here’s hoping, against all historic evidence and logic, things improve on this front as the season goes forward.

Byron Pringle/passing game

Up front, it’s unfair to pin a multi-person process on one player. But, there was a lot of hype on K-State’s shiniest new weapon heading into Stanford, and the result was disappointing. Pringle was targeted 10 times (by my count) and finished with one catch for 14 yards.

Is Stanford’s experienced defense great? Yep. Did K-State’s young, overmatched offensive line give up eight sacks? Yessir. Did KSU’s QBs — Jesse Ertz and Joe Hubener — struggle because of average protection, plus the fact they just aren’t that great of passers in general? Indeed, if you believe, like I do, what you read out of 19-of-41, for 243 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT.

So yeah, it’s not all on Pringle. A few passes were realistically uncatchable and others forced when they shouldn’t have gone his direction. But, one catch isn’t awesome. Still, the emergence of Isaiah Zuber should help loosen things up against defenses not named Stanford.

Alright, time to put the whip away for a bit. In all, K-State was competitive, trailing 19-13 with 2:20 remaining, and judging by reactions afterward, had K-State been ranked No. 15 going into that game, nobody would have blinked at it based on how things played out.

It’s a start. Not a fantastic one, granted, but if K-State plays at that level all season, eight wins seems well within reach.

Crowdsourcing: What K-State fans hope to see against Stanford

The Kansas State Wildcats open the 2016 season on the road against AP No. 8 Stanford on Friday. With good experience (and talent) returning defensively but questions at quarterback and on a new-look offensive line, it’s hard to say, exactly, what the expectation is regarding performance.*Coach_Bill_Snyder

*Unless you are a disciple of K-State’s 16 Goals For Success, of course, and choose to live by No. 13: “Expect to win.” For the sake of the rest of this piece, though, let’s leave that perfectly reasonable thought to the side for now.

K-State head coach Bill Snyder shared his thoughts with the media on Tuesday.

“Stanford is a great challenge, and our players are excited about playing the game, that’s a positive thing,” Snyder said.

As for his made-over young o-line?

“They will probably see the brunt of Stanford’s defense and movements and all that goes along with it,” Snyder said. “They’re drilling diligently on that right now and they’ve went through spring practice well. They’ve earned the right to be there.

“They don’t have the experience that you’d like, but they’ve had a significant amount of practice experience. So we’re doing the kind of work that we need to be doing and the practice with the environment and how we organize it. I think there will be some carry over for them into the ballgame.”

Snyder also laid out his thoughts on Stanford’s Heisman hopeful, running back Christian McCaffrey.

“I have not met him personally, but I like the way he conducts himself. I would say the hidden ingredient is his leadership on that team in a very humble fashion,” Snyder said. “I just like that nature of his character.

“Aside from that, on the football field, it’s just being able to identify where he is and why he’s there becomes important. He can line up in a lot of different positions and not get baited out of position because of where his linemen are.

“[Our players] have to understand what he can, but also equally important, what he can’t do from certain positions. He can be a deceptive runner, he can be a powerful runner, and obviously he’s got a good deal of speed. We have to be great on our cover units – our punt units and kickoff units – because he offers those things on the return units as he does in their offense.”

Outside of the team, as anyone would in today’s day and age, I asked Twitter what it expects.

“Competitive, with McCaffrey being the X-factor. K-State matches up well otherwise.” – @bclaymoore

“Think KSU defense can keep it close just not sure about how efficient KSU’s offense will be, too many unknowns.” – @jswabash

“Expect a competitive game but not a W.” – @bmalcolm88

“I like our team but I think we’ll struggle to stay in the game. Close at half but we fall 31-13.” – @MultiTodd

“Snyder Goal #13” – @MichaelKBerges

“To be competent and keep things close, IMO.” – @roh_tweets

“Get pressure with DL, keep McCaffrey contained and make someone else beat us, >55% completion rate, and competent OL play.” – @Tye_KC

And, finally, my current favorite …

“K-State 98, Stanford 2” – @Schmidtburgh