Grading the Cats

Cats playing best ball heading to Lincoln...

What's not to look about a dominating effort against Iowa State in Ames last Saturday, aside from the 22-degree wind chill at game time?

Ell Roberson threw perhaps the most efficient he has all season, completing 10-of-12 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns -- and the fourth-straight game he hasn't tossed an interception. He also scampered for 66 yards on just eight carries, and proved flawless in his audibling. While it's hard not to say he played perfectly, Roberson did do it against one of the worst defenses in the nation. We'll see how he performs against Nebraska before we get too excited.

Darren Sproles set a single-game best with 201 yards rushing, broke the all-purpose single-season record, and moved within reach of his own single-season rushing record. He also closed within a couple carries of breaking the 3000-yard career rushing mark, which would make him the first K-State back to do it and the seventh in NCAA history. And he's only a junior. Sproles broke touchdown runs of 70, 23 and 32 yards, averaging 10.6 yards per carry and simply demoralizing the Iowa State defense -- all in just 37 minutes of work. Sproles was yanked midway through the third quarter, just 14 yards shy of becoming the NCAA's leading rusher this season.
The quarterbacks also got into the action on the ground, with Roberson's 66 yards and backup Dylan Meier's 76 yards on just nine carries, including a 30-yard touchdown run. In total, K-State outgained Iowa State 356 to 39 on the ground.

They caught it when they had a chance -- although there were few chances. Yet James Terry still managed to pull in four catches and he and Thomas Hill each had a touchdown grab. Perhaps more importantly, though, downfield blocking by the corp sprung several big gains on the ground.

Paving the way for 356 yards on the ground, and allowing Roberson and Meier to complete 14-of-17 passes, the line dominated Iowa State. They only gave up five tackles-for-loss and didn't allow a single sack. But again, let's see how they do against the Huskers.

It's hard to say they weren't perfect, although a couple penalties and a few misreads did occur. The main knock on the offense is they weren't playing anybody good -- and the numbers aren't as impressive against Iowa State as they might be against Nebraska.

The defensive line accounted for five tackles-for-loss and had two sacks in pressuring ISU quarterbacks Waye Terry and Austin Flynn all day long. They also bottled up Cyclone running backs to the tune of 39 yards total.

Bryan Hickman and Marvin Simmons -- yes, Marvins Simmons -- combined for 10 tackles, four for a loss, and a sack, while Josh Buhl led the defense with six tackles, in simply destroying any type of cohesive offensive attack Iowa State tried to mount.

Cedrick Williams, James McGill joined defensive lineman Maurice Thurmond with interceptions, and Rashad Washington had three pass breakups in holding ISU quarterbacks to 11-of-30 passing and just 101 yards. However, big-play receiver Lane Danielson did have four catches for 55 yards and several poor throws by Iowa State quarterbacks prevented more yardage for the Cyclones' all-time leading receiver.

It's hard to argue the defense didn't dominate, allowing just 40 yards in the second half. However, they didn't score in the game -- something that happens frequently for the defense -- and didn't contain Iowa State's talented freshman running back Stevie Hicks, who carried just 15 times but gained 69 yards.

Joe Rheem bounced his only field goal off an upright and through for a 38-yard field goal, but Jared Brite shanked a couple punts and averaged just 35.3 yards per try. The kick coverage was vastly improved, but the return unit struggled to break one open.

Putting the game in the hands of Sproles, the hottest player on the field Saturday, was a no-brainer. In addition, locking down in the second half and making adjustments on defense was perfection. After giving up 100 yards offense in the first half, and holding just a 14-0 lead, K-State rolled to 35 second-half points and allowed just 40 yards to Iowa State.

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