Cat Offense Ekes out a Victory

K-State was out gained offensively by 139 yards, quarterback Dylan Meier threw two interceptions and no touchdowns and the Wildcats did not score an offensive touchdown. Yet, somehow, they were able to squeak by in the season opener against Illinois State 24-23 Saturday night at the newly anointed Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

"I wasn't pleased with any part of the offensive production," coach Ron Prince said. "We did not protect the quarterback well enough to move the ball, and we did not have the kind of consistency in the running game to really put together any sort of drives at all."

K-State had 207 yards of total offense, including only 44 yards rushing. The Wildcats averaged 1.6 yards on the ground, and, because of that, were only able to manage 13 first downs. Illinois State dominated in time of possession, holding the ball for nearly nine minutes more than K-State.

The offensive line never seemed in sync, and it was unable to open holes for the running backs. Meier was pressured virtually every time he dropped back to pass, and he was sacked twice. That number could easily of been higher, however, because he was on his back after almost every pass attempt. He also made a couple of nice throws while being driven to the ground.

"We know he was getting pressured a lot back there, and now we just have to look at the film and see what we can do to get better," said senior left guard Greg Wafford.

Wafford and sophomore center Jordan Bedore were the only two offensive linemen with any starting experience going into Saturday's game.

Senior right tackle Mike Freison, sophomore right guard Gerard Spexarth and freshman left tackle Nick Stringer all made their first career starts on Saturday. Prince said the inexperience along the line was one of the biggest reasons why the running game was so ineffective and why Meier was never able to get comfortable in the pocket.

He was 15-of-26 for 163 yards passing to go along with his two interceptions. The first pick came on the opening play of the game. He faked a handoff to Alsup and looked down the field for senior wide receiver Yamon Figurs. He launched it over Figurs' head and the ball was intercepted by free safety Tom Nelson. Nelson picked off Meier again in the second quarter, giving him the first two interceptions of his career.

"We went for the home run and struck out," Meier said of his first interception. "We were trying to be bold and aggressive, and I just didn't make the right read on the play. There were definitely not enough positive things that happened tonight, but I still have full confidence that we are going to get better."

Carlos Alsup got the starting nod at running back, and he showed why next week Thomas Clayton will probably get his job back after serving his one game suspension for an off-the-field occurrence last season.

Alsup totaled 26 yards rushing on 14 attempts for an average of 1.9 yards. James Johnson and Leon Patton both came in and played sparingly at running back because of Alsup's poor play. Johnson had only 10 yards rushing on four attempts and Patton had 22 yards on seven attempts for a 3.1 average.

Patton showed the most ability as he was breaking tackles left and right. Alsup looked sluggish and Johnson was never able to find a hole in the defense to break one open.

"I played so-so; I was definitely not pleased with my performance," Alsup said. "I was just thinking too much instead of just going out there and playing like I know I can."

One of the few bright spots of the game was that junior tight end Rashaad Norwood and junior wide receiver Jordy Nelson had a total of nine catches for 115 yards and looked pretty solid in doing so. Norwood, by himself, had more receptions Saturday than all tight ends had in a single game all of last season.

No combination of tight ends had more than three total receptions in a single game all of last season, with the two occurrences coming against Iowa State and Colorado.

The two players who gave the Wildcats the biggest problems were Nelson with his two picks, and senior linebacker Cameron Siskowic. Siskowic totaled 15 tackles, giving him 14 career double-digit tackle games. He always seemed to be around the ball and he was one of the biggest reasons for the disruption in the Wildcat running game.

"We will see this kind of aggressive play again and we have to prove that we are going to be able to handle it," Prince said. "I thought we were impatient and we were anxious to make something happen. Now we have to go back and try and correct as many things as we can before next week."

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