K-State's 49-20 trouncing of defending Big 12 North Champion Colorado rejuvenated the Wildcat Nation. But the win also showed the vast improvement in execution of the team since losing to Oklahoma State on Oct. 11.
Ell Roberson threw the ball arguably the best he has all season in completing 20-of-28 passes for 242 yards and throwing three touchdowns — all without tossing a single interception. Utilizing a passing attack emphasizing throwing underneath coverage, rather than going deep play after play, allowed K-State to move the ball consistently through the air. The only problem in Roberson's game Saturday was his ineffective running, gaining just 49 yards on 23 carries.
Offensive Line: B
Pass protection was vastly improved as the offensive line gave up just two sacks against Colorado. The running game, however, was largely ineffective. K-State netted just 142 yards on the ground, averaging only 3.5 yards per carry.
Wide Receivers: A-
While it's hard not to give the receiving corps an A+, there were still drops and poorly run routes at times. However, the Colorado game was a breakthrough for Davin Dennis and Antoine Polite, who combined to catch nine passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. James Terry also showed he's developing into the go-to weapon, catching eight passes for 84 yards and touchdown tosses of 10 and eight yards.
The offense dazzled in the second half, outscoring Colorado 34-7. But, that still leaves two quarters that K-State struggled to move the ball. While Coach Bill Snyder was cautious to say the team "turned a corner," it appears the Wildcat offense is finally back to full strength.
Defensive Line: C+
An emphasis on stopping the ground game proved effective, as K-State held Colorado to 135 yards and tailback Brian Calhoun to just 90. However, a non-existent pass rush that failed to sack quarterback Joel Klatt even once allowed him to complete 29-of-45 passes for 290 yards. He was 6-of-6 for 55 yards on the game's opening drive, which resulted in a Colorado touchdown.
The linebacking corps is still searching for the third piece of the puzzle to compliment Bryan Hickman and Josh Buhl. Matt Butler and Ted Sims combined for just two tackles, while Buhl got his usual double-digit total and Hickman showed he's starting to become a force once again.
Rashad Washington had eight tackles and broke up two passes, but the secondary still gave up 290 yards to Colorado. James McGill finished third on the team in tackles, spelling Jesse Tetuan at safety, but cornerbacks Randy Jordan and Cedrick Williams were nickle-and-dimed all day. D.J. Hackett had seven catches for 106 yards, Calhoun had seven catches for 38 yards, Derek McCoy had five catches for 52 yards and Ron Menteilh had three catches for 33 yards.
They too have yet to show the stout qualities that consistently rank them in the nation's top 10, but solid improvement is being made. Statistics aside, the defense held Colorado to just seven points until late in the game.
Jared Brite averaged an astounding 54.8 yards per punt on four tries, with a long of 69 yards, however Joe Rheem had one extra point blocked. A couple of poor kickoffs also led to good field position for Colorado, and a Jeremy Bloom 88-yard touchdown return.
Special Teams: B
The kickoffs were overshadowed by Washington's two blocked punts that directly resulted in nine points, the first of which jump-started K-State's sluggish offense in the first half.
K-State still hasn't put together the total package this season, with intangibles such as penalties (five for 51 yards) still plaguing them. The offense only gained 384 yards and put the ball on the ground twice — both recovered by K-State. They also converted 8-of-12 third down conversions and scored all five times they were in the red zone.
Improvement is being made, and the next step toward the Big 12 North title is Saturday against Kansas.
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