This particular professor doesn’t hand out many failing grades, but the quarterback position indubitably earned one with its play against Kansas State. At the opposite end of the grade distribution is the offensive line, which yet again played winning football. Can Jared Kaster throw? Can Le’Raven Clark catch?
Quarterbacks: The strength of Kansas State’s defense is against the run rather than the pass, but Davis Webb made KSU’s defensive backs look like All Pros. His four interceptions, the first of which foiled an excellent opening drive, were the most obvious problem, but his general inaccuracy was just as damaging. Sadly, Webb’s play is deteriorating rather than improving. Patrick Mahomes completed five of seven passes in mop-up duty and looked pretty good, but it was a drop in the bucket of ineptitude.
Running Backs: You have to feel a bit for Deandre Washington. He is this team’s best offensive weapon yet did not carry the ball after the midway point of the second quarter. At that time he had seven carries for 27 yards against perhaps the best rushing defense in the Big 12. Sprinkled among those runs were three or four beauties. Bottom line: there was no excuse for not feeding him the rock much more than was actually done.
Receivers: Frankly, this group was a mess. Red Raider receivers, led by Jakeem Grant, Reggie Davis and D.J. Polite-Bray dropped a plethora of passes, with Polite-Bray muffing an easy touchdown that could have put Tech back in the game. As of this point, the only reliable receivers on the roster are Bradley Marquez and Dylan Cantrell. One positive development was Ian Sadler’s three catches for 21 yards. He appears to have escaped the doghouse after dropping a critical pass against UTEP in game two.
Offensive Line: Lost in the general debacle is the fact that Tech’s offensive line, yet again, performed admirably. Webb’s failures cannot be blamed on poor protection because he was rarely molested in the pocket. KSU’s only sack came on the final drive when Ryan Mueller schooled redshirt freshman Josh Outlaw and pounded Pat Mahomes. Run blocking (what we saw of it) was quite strong. And it should be noted that the line played almost the entire game without Alfredo Morales who left early with a leg injury. Penalties—of course—remain a problem, particularly for Reshod Fortenberry and Baylen Brown.
Defensive Line: You’d never know it by looking at the score, but there were times when the d-line dominated, particularly with the pass rush. Branden Jackson hovered around Jake Waters for much of the evening and Rika Levi was a disruptive presence, even against the pass. Rush defense wasn’t quite so good, particularly against Waters who repeatedly found creases through the middle of Tech’s defense en route to 105 rushing yards. Still, this unit is playing much better under Mike Smith than it did under Matt Wallerstedt.
Linebackers: Five games into the season and Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson have finally awakened. Eguavoen had 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, and was a physical presence against the run. Robertson recorded a pair of sacks in addition to nine tackles. Coach Smith is still seeking productivity at the other two linebacker positions.
Secondary: For the second straight game Tech’s cornerbacks were exposed. Justis Nelson had a particularly awful night, getting scorched on a regular basis by Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. Nigel Bethel played some, but still does not look ready for Big 12 football. Safety play was not much better than cornerback play. Keenon Ward was a step slow against the read option, which is one reason Waters had so many explosive runs. J.J. Gaines continues to underwhelm, although he and Ward did team up for a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Tech could have used Josh Keys, who did not play.
Special Teams: Taylor Symmank did well both punting and faking the punt. The fake punt on the opening drive was a great call and was executed perfectly. Kickoff coverage was good, but penalties continue to nullify Tech’s return game. It has gotten to the point where if there is not a flag on a Tech return, you’re shocked.
Kansas State Report Card
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