Grading the Cats

Dominating performance not indicitive by score alone...

It wasn't perfect, but parts of Kansas State's 24-14 win over Missouri certainly were.

Quarterback: B
After a huge offensive display against Nebraska, in which Ell Roberson had 403 yards of total offense, the senior struggled in his final game at KSU Stadium, completing just 7-of-16 passes for 70 yards and an interception. Wind gusts and a wind chill of sub-30 degree may have played a factor.

Running Back: A+
The first perfect grade of the season, Darren Sproles scampered for a school-record 273 yards on another school-record 43 attempts, including two touchdowns. What's more, he did it with his longest carry of just 22 yards. His 6.3 yard average was fairly accurate. But not all focus can be put on Sproles for his record-setting day, in which he also broke the career all-purpose record and shattered his own single-season rushing mark. Paving the way was backup fullback Victor Mann, who replaced the injured Travis Wilson admirably. Opening huge holes all night long, Mann was the unsung hero in K-State's offense.

Recievers: B+
They didn't get many tries, but there weren't drops when the ball managed to find them. Polite, Terry and -- you guessed it -- Sproles all had at least two catches. They did just enough to keep Sproles' path right up th emiddle wide open all night long.

Offensive Line: A
They repeatedly opened holes in the teeth of the Missouri defensive line, allowing Sproles to break into the defensive backfield with regularity. Few carries skirted the outside, but those that did were blocked well by pulling linemen. In the passing game, Roberson was sometimes under heat, but it wasn't enough to detract from a superlative effort.

OFFENSE: A-
There wasn't much of a passing attack, but there didn't need to be. Sproles helped Kansas State amass 367 yards on the ground -- 103 more than Missouri had in TOTAL offense. Despite racking up just 24 points, it was sheer domination.

D-Line: A-
K-State kept the elusive Brad Smith in the pocket all night long, and when he escaped, defensive ends Andrew Shull and Thomas Houchin shadowed him all over the field. Smith took several punishing hits, carrying for just 26 yards on 16 carries. As a whole, the Tigers managed just 109 yards total rushing.

Linebackers: A-
On senior day, nobody proved bigger than seniors Josh Buhl and Bryan Hickman. Flashing the "Lynch Mob" signal as they entered KSU Stadium, the duo were also effective in limiting Smith's mobility, as well as dropping back into pass coverage.

Secondary: A-
Louis Lavender replaced the injured Randy Jordan at cornberback, and the beleaguered corner who lost his starting job to Cedrick Williams came up big. He got beat a few times, but a critical interception in K-State's own endzone prevented Missouri points and swung momentum back to the Cats in the second half. Smith was held to just 155 yards passing, and big-play receiver Darius Outlaw caught three passes for only 51 yards.

DEFENSE: A-
A fumble set up the Tigers' first touchdown from two yards out, but otherwise, the defense shut out Missouri until late in the fourth quarter. They held Missouri to just 264 yards of total offense, forced a shakey punter to boot it away eight times, and allowed K-State to dominate in time of possession, 38:52 to 21:08.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Sproles didn't get many chances to return a punt, and on a windy, cold night, the kicking game often set up a short field. Punter Jared Brite pinned two of four punts inside the Missouri 20 and boomed a 51-yarder in helping K-State to early field position.

OVERALL: A-
This was an old-fashioned Big 10-style football game, where one team simply pounded the other team into submission. The score doesn't reflect the domination that was apparent throughout Kansas State's 24-14 win, but the stat sheets convey the damage done. Kansas State now has two weeks to prepare for the Big 12 title game -- its first since 2000 -- and a rematch with No. 1 Oklahoma.


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