The 43-21 shellacking at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman has not only left questions unanswered but has served to raise a few new ones in the process. There were enough mistakes and complete mental lapses on Saturday to virtually ensure an elevated blood pressure for Coach Bill Snyder.
It's no secret that the key to any game and especially one on the road in hostile Big 12 country is to play error free football. The Cats from beginning to end looked out of sync and overwhelmed by a Sooners squad that up until this game had looked like anything but a Big 12 title contender. Snakebite is a word that comes to mind. At every turn the Cats dug themselves a hole and in front of a packed crimson and cream crowd- it proved too much.
One is left to wonder what if? Mistake after mistake plagued the Wildcats who looked ill prepared to play against a rival on the road. In front of a televised audience and in the opening game of the Big 12 conference season the Cats just came out and from the very beginning just did not seem ready. There is not one particular event either but rather a whole set of events much like domino's that set in motion a series of errors that one after the other toppled the Cats. Going into Norman, Kansas State had a chance to carry the Northern banner into inner-divisional play and beat a team that many had picked to win the Big 12 conference.
With the North up for grabs, K-State fell down early in the first quarter by a touchdown that was set up by a late hit on Rhett Bomar by linebacker Brandon Archer. Blame it on emotions and remember that these are 17 plus year olds running around out there but this is a penalty from one of the leaders on this team and something that could have been avoided. Momentum swung early to the Sooners in a game marked by unexplainable mistakes, penalties and poor play and with rival Kansas waiting in the wings, Coach Snyder has got to get these corrected before Saturday.
Kansas State was forced to punt with 4:33 left to play in the first quarter when usually sound punter- Tim Reyer apparently was unaware the team was on the field in punt formation. Coach Snyder could only shake his head on the sidelines as with Tim on the bench, the snap sailed out of the back of the end-zone for a quick two point safety, increasing the Sooner lead to 9. Easily one could put all the blame on Reyers' shoulders but there are more problematic issues such as the center hiking the ball without locking on to a target and players clearly not involving themselves in the game.
"Our punter was over on the sidelines" said Head Coach Bill Snyder during the post game news conference, "there's a little of a responsibility of being in that position regardless of who you are."
Asked if there are balances in place to guard against a play like this, Coach Snyder said: "No. We have a couple safeguards against that. We just let our guard down."
The missed punt albeit, only one play, is a good analogy for the entire game. On Saturday, the Cats just did not show up sometimes and rarely had the answers to the questions in this game. Granted the Sooners are indeed a good football team, but this team did not play to the level it is capable and disappointment was clearly seen on the faces of the players following the game. This is a team of youth with a lot of young players manning positions they have never played before and today it showed.
In post game interviews, Wildcat players mentioned mistakes and noted disappointment. The players know they left much football still on the field and many talked of a snowball effect with one mistake following another.
The offense was anemic as the Cats gained zero yards in the first quarter of play. Call the first 12 points of the game a gift from Kansas State. This is the same Oklahoma team that played the majority of the game without star running back Adrian Peterson, who suffered an ankle injury early in the second quarter and did not return. There is no way to color coat this game and many feel this was by far the worst performance from the K-State offense in 2005 as a team/ Allen Webb looked lost at times as the Sooner defense put him under a constant blitz, hitting him every chance they got and hurrying many of his throws and timing. The Wildcat quarterback looked confused, flustered and for most of the game, Webb was literally running for his life. The Oklahoma defense was aggressive and played well but they were very much aided by the continuing penalties from the young K-State offensive line.
But give credit where credit is due and note that the Wildcat defense, at times played very well.
" He (Webb) didn't play very well," said Snyder. "We also didn't pass or protect well. We didn't throw the ball well. We didn't catch the ball well. We didn't run it well. We didn't block for the run very well. We played defense, I thought, well in the first half of the ball game."
Rushing Game is MIA
Coach Snyder said that one of the biggest facets of the loss was the inability to get the running game going. The Wildcats were held to only 92 yards rushing on the day. Thomas Clayton, who has had an off-field incident overshadow the week, was largely ineffective with 12 carries averaging less than a yard per carry. Parrish Fisher, who shined in taking over the starting position RB last week, wasn't much of a factor scratching out 13 yards on 2 carries.
Snyder did make a quarterback change as Allan Evridge took over in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. He led the Cats down the field and directed the offense for 65 yards in 46 seconds capped off by a touchdown score from Ayo Saba that made the final score 43-21.
Could this be the beginning of a quarterback controversy? Probably not. At least not yet but there are the rumblings of a swell of support for Evridge with many fans curious as to what the younger signal caller can accomplish if given the chance.
Time to move on
The Wildcats have many questions and problems to fix in a short period of time before their in state rival the Kansas Jayhawks come to Manhattan Saturday. This game was a building block and despite the outcome- the painful growing pains of a youthful squad will provide fruits later in the season. Those who know Head Coach Bill Snyder realize this was the exception not the rule but there is a great deal to work out of the system before this weekend.
The loss in Norman gives rise to a series of new questions about this Wildcat football team.
Could the motivation of erasing last season's loss in Lawrence be enough to have Kansas State put a full game together? Will Thomas Clayton return to his form of early games this season and how effective will Allen Webb be against the Jayhawk defense? The bigger question, however is did the Cats learn from this?
With the Hawks coming into the Little Apple this Saturday in what will prove to be an emotional game with bragging rights on the table – how this team responds could very well define the character of this team.
Brought to you by: www.KStateFans.com