Then the Cowboys had an excellent blocked, yes BLOCKED, run to finish off the 84-yard opening drive. Based on what I had seen in the week, I thought there would be more to come.
Then everything including the opening momentum came to a screeching halt as Morgan Burns bobbled the Cowboys kickoff just enough to set up a situation where running through the first wave of kickoff coverage allowed him some open space and a seam back to the middle of the field. The K-State corner has a burst of speed and he used it to go 86 yards, two more than the Cowboys on their opening drive and the emotional lift that gave to the team in purple and the 53,746 fans there powered Manhattan, okay it's the "Little Apple" and not the "Big Apple" and right now little writing jokes don't seem funny or worth chuckling at. I agree.
A few snapshots from the week prior right up until moments before the kickoff. As I was walking out of the West End Zone on Thursday, on the other end were two young men walking out of another exit to the complex on crutches. It was quarterback J.W. Walsh and receiver Austin Hays, who should serve as reminders that this season has not just been about young players pressed into duty before their time or playing more snaps than they should.
It has also been about players that would give anything to be out there helping the team, only knowing that injuries have robbed them of that opportunity. For some, including both Walsh and Hays, they've robbed again.
There was also seeing running back Desmond Roland leaving the facility to scramble home. His mom had been put on a machine to help her breath on Wednesday and then on Thursday she would pass after battling following brain surgery and the discovery of cancer. I recently know the pain of losing your mother, but I'm in my 50s. Roland is a young man who was missing the fact that his mom couldn't be in the stands to see him play.
This week in practice there was linebacker Seth Jacobs practicing when the doctors and medical staff thought it might be best he sit it out. Jacobs won't go away and won't sit out. A green jersey (sign of a player not to hit and no contact) was issued as Jacobs practiced and then played with his injury on Saturday night. Seth Jacobs has proven to his teammates and his coaches that he is one tough individual.
Then as I walked out of the locker room at Bill Snyder Stadium on Saturday, 10 minutes before kickoff there were the entire group of receivers outside the locker room door escaping the ultra cramped dressing room that is by far the smallest in the Big 12 for a few moments. David Glidden was doing all the talking, telling, urging his teammates and fellow receivers to block out the noise, noise of the K-State fans that night, noise of the disbelievers on social media.
He told his teammates to go out and prove to everybody what they had, how they could play. He told them to play for each other, don't be selfish, make that extra block, dive for that pass that seems out of reach. I have to admit that it made me feel good. I thought hey, tonight may be different from the past few weeks.
Then that first drive happened and I thought again, here we go. The Cowboys are ready for this challenge. Then that kickoff return happened. Later, head coach Mike Gundy would lament it as well.
"We talked about it before the game, they (K-State) wanted to win the return game," Gundy said. "We had a good plan on offense and we went right down the field and scored and executed. Then we kick the ball to them and let them return it for a touchdown and we played right into their hands. It took us five minutes to get down the field and score. We looked good and had confidence. Then we kick the ball to them and 10 seconds later the score is tied and the momentum has changed.
"From that point on we still battled, moved the ball some but then shoot ourselves in the foot with holding penalties and sacks. We are an average offense and we can't overcome first-and-20 after those penalties. When you play a team like this up here and then you make penalties like that it makes it much more difficult. That's undisciplined and that's coaching. That's my fault."
The Cowboys were just penalized five times for 54 yards, but they were huge. They were highly impactful like the roughing the passer penalty on Jimmy Bean late in the half after middle linebacker Ryan Simmons had picked off a Jake Waters pass while executing "picture perfect" Tampa coverage. It doesn't get executed any better than that in the NFL where that coverage was born.
Little things added up to a big ugly score. It's been little things combined with big things all season long.
The big and major are injuries and much bigger than football is the loss of a mom. The little things are penalties, missed blocks, missed tackles, turnovers, and, for many fans who need to hear it, poor decisions on play calling or coaching. It all has added up.
It was an ugly result on the scoreboard Saturday night as the Cowboy trudged off the field and into a bye or open week. They need a week to heal, to grieve, to soul search, and to get back to that juncture that David Glidden spoke of to his receivers with passion just moments before the game last night.
It takes a lot to get to that fever pitch of being ready to deliver your best performance on the football field. It is not an on and off switch and right now the batteries are really low. The energy in Cowboy football has been zapped and a huge re-charge along with some positive breaks and news is needed.
Something else, that will draw some criticism that believe me I can handle. I have always believed this game is about the players. They need support right now. I know the way fans get it out of their system is to ***** and moan. That is the way of our society with social media. However, this is a team, a group of players that I, personally, feel deserve support.
In fact, if you are an Oklahoma State fan that wants these players to improve, wants the current recruiting class to stay committed, and wants to add a few more talented members to it for the future, then positive over negative might be the best approach right now.