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.*
*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.