Kansas State 27 ISU 21
56,800 fans, largest crowd in ISU history, braved the rain prior to the game and packed the Jack to watch the Cyclones fall just short in their upset bid of one of the best teams in the country. I think there are two ways to look at this game.
The first way is to say that we played the #5 team in the country to within 6 points and had several opportunities to win the game. They have come so far. In past seasons, it would have never been that close and we need to be happy with how far we have come.
The second way to look at this game, and the way I tend to subscribe to, is that you feel absolutely sick to your stomach with the performance of certain aspects of that game. You realize how much that ISU has improved, but you see, more clearly, how far we have yet to go in our quest to become one of the upper half teams of the Big 12. I think QB Jared Barnett summed up the game with one sentence, when he said, “Too many big plays left on the field, that we didn’t take advantage of.” To be completely honest, I was surprised that the game was a close as it was considering how we performed in some areas.
In my mind there were 2 areas in this game that we did a horrible job at and these 2 areas are what really cost us from winning this game. The first is the fact that we did not run the ball. ISU only had 2 rushing first downs for the game. That leads to predictability in what we will run on 3rd down, but when it is 3rd and long, which it was several time in this game, you are forced to throw the ball. We ended up only rushing the ball for 65 yards on 24 carries for the game. That is 2.7 yards gained every time we run the ball. That is not good. So far this season, ISU is 9th of the 10 teams in the Big 12 Conference in rushing the ball with 159 yds/game. When you can’t run the ball effectively it creates several problems. The first is that it makes it really hard to have sustained drives that eat up the clock when you can’t run the ball. I will address this point in a second. Another thing that happens is that it forces the offense to pass the ball more. Then the defense loads that box and the defensive players start pinning their ears back and bring a full pass rush on almost every down. This puts added pressure on the OL trying to protect the QB and it also puts a lot more pressure on the QB. Pretty soon, the QB starts feeling the pressure and start hurrying his throws and even starts anticipating defenders being there even when they aren’t yet. That is when you start to see guys being overthrown, passes at players feet, and even INTs. That is exactly what you saw from Jared Barnett on Saturday and this all stems from not being able to run the ball.
The second area was time of possession. Kansas State had the ball 40:54 to Iowa State’s 19:06. Kansas State had a 2 to 1 advantage in time of possession. We have a great defense. We have a defense that can step up and play toe to toe with any just about any team in the country. This has not always been the case, but our defense is the real deal this year. The problem is that with the pace we play on defense, you can only do that for so long. Even top defenses get worn down by the end of the game, especially if they are on the field for 40 minutes. This problem gets corrected when we start running the ball effectively and start having more sustained drives on offense and give our defense time to rest. That again starts with the offensive line. Being a former offensive lineman, this is something very near and dear to my heart. There is no doubt that KSU was keying on our run. They were going to stop our run and force our passing game to beat them and stop our run is exactly what they did. On most snaps they were only bringing 6 guys in the box with occasional blitzes of 7 guys. Very few times did they bring 8. It becomes a state of mentality with the offensive line. They have to come out with the mentality that they are going to own the line of scrimmage. They have to knock the defensive lineman off the ball and push them back into the linebackers. They have to create holes for our RBs to run through so they can get at least 4 yards every time they run the ball. We have great RBs who are capable of making great plays, unfortunately, they are not even getting a chance to get started. I understand perfectly that it is not an easy job to play offensive line. It is hard-hitting every play and it is a battle from start to finish. Somehow though, you have to make a decision, as a whole line, that you will get it done and make a difference in the game. Until our OL can do this, we will struggle on offense and have a hard time winning games. They can use the Kansas State offensive line as an example. They got after us and controlled the line of scrimmage for almost the entire game. They ran the ball very effectively and just kept coming. They were not flashy. They were slow and methodic, just like they have been all season, and they just controlled the clock. In the first half for example, they had TD drives of 12 and 14 plays that ate up huge amounts of clock.
We had 231 total yards on offense (65 yards rushing, 166 yards passing), which is just not enough. Barnett was 16 of 36 passing for 166 yards and 2 TDs and 1 INT. Our 65 yards rushing was not effective enough to make a difference. Jared Barnett rushed the ball 8 times for 35 yds, which is 4.4 yds per run. Shontrelle Johnson ran the ball 9 times for 17 yards, which is 1.9 yds per run. He never had a chance to get started. Jeff Woody ran the ball 4 times for 13 yds, which is 3.2 yds per rush. I do think we need to get Woody more carries each game. I thought that Aaron Horne had a pretty good performance at WR. He had 7 catches for 84 yards and made some pretty good catches in the game. Brun had 3 catches for 41 yds and had an amazing catch and dive into the end zone for a TD that I thought was one of the better plays I have seen one of our TEs make in the last decade. Young had 3 catches for 24 yds and Johnson had 3 catches for 17 yards. I don’t think that overall our offense was very bad. We had some definite big plays in the game, but I don’t think our offense was very good either.
I thought there were two huge missed opportunities on offense in this game, that really could have changed the outcome of this game. The first is when our punt cover team recovered a fumble on our 19 yard line. On the next play, we ran a pass play into the end zone to Aaron Horne that Barnett forced into double coverage and ended with an INT and an immediate turnover back to Kansas State. I love that we tried to make a big play in that situation on the first play, but Barnett has to recognize when it is not there and be able to throw the ball away and go after it on the next play instead of trying to force it. We had put great pressure on Kansas State and instead of exploiting it, we took the pressure off by giving it right back to them.
The second huge missed opportunity occurred on our second to last possession on offense. We took over with the ball with 4:17 left in the game and down by 6 points. It was an ideal scenario. We put together a long drive for a TD and make the extra point and we win the game 28-27. The KSU defense was stopping the run first and they were doing a good job of stopping deep passes. What was open a good portion of the game was short screen passes to our WRs and RBs. On that last possession, Shontrelle Johnson was wide open on a screen pass over the middle. Not only would he have gotten a first down, but he would have run for a long time and the gain would have been a huge momentum shift that could have propelled us into the end zone and the huge upset. Instead, Barnett got jumpy from pressure that was not there yet and he overthrew Johnson. In that situation, he needed to take something off that pass and allow Johnson to run under the pass and make a big play. That was a big play that we really needed in that situation.
Barnett let his inexperience show in those last two offensive possessions. Barnett was 1 for 7 on the last two possessions and 0 for 5 on his last 5 passes. He was throwing passes at receivers feet, he was overthrowing receivers. I think the pressure of the situation got to him at the end of the game. I do give Kansas State a lot of credit on defense though because they knew we were going to pass and their pass coverage was outstanding. Great QBs make extra ordinary plays when the game is on the line to help their team win the game. While, I think Jared is a good, effective QB, he has not reached the level of great yet and that was displayed at the end of Saturday’s game.
One positive I thought was that we only had 1 turnover on offense. Except for that one bad read by Barnett, when he threw that INT, our offense did not have silly turnovers. I thought this was one of the huge factors that allowed us to stay in this game until the very end.
I thought that the defense had another pretty solid game. They allowed Kansas Sate only 364 yards of total offense (177 yds rushing and 187 yds passing). Klein was 16 for 24 passing the ball for 187 yds for no TDs and no INTs. Klein rushed the ball for 105 yds on 25 carries which was 4.2 yds per rush. Klein was the difference in the game. KSU was 8 for 17 converting on third down and Klein came through with 3 rushing TDs, all on third down. The play that really just tore our hearts out was when it was third and long and we had a great chance to hold KSU to a FG when they clearly had the momentum and we allowed Klein to run to the corner of the end zone for a TD. Going into the game, our defense knew they were going to utilize Klein running the ball, and overall, we just didn’t do a good enough job of stopping them. Klein is so patient running the ball, it almost looks like he is slow motion. He sits back and waits for his blocking to develop before he commits to running the ball. Klein did a good job of making the big plays when he had to with his feet. That is what great QBs do in big games and that is exactly what he did.
Our defense did not get any turnovers in this game. Our defense is really good at creating turnovers and they help create great momentum for us in games, but we were not able to do that. I give most of the credit to Kansas State for being a team that just doesn’t turn the ball over very often. They force teams to make mistakes and then they capitalize on them and that is exactly what happened. For our team to have a chance to win games, we need to get turnovers from our defense. We need to continue to focus on that in upcoming games.
Kansas State came into the game only averaging 3 penalties a game. Our defense put enough pressure on the KSU that they had 9 penalties in this game alone for 62 yards. That shows that our defense was having some effect on KSU and taking them out of their comfort zone a little bit.
Defense fought hard and had good tackling, but being on the field for so long really wore them down and by the fourth quarter, they did not have very much left in the tank. Our defense will have to continue to come out and knock opponents in the mouth and hit with reckless abandon if we are going to have a shot at any more wins this season.
I thought that our special teams played much better this week. Our kickoff cover unit did a much better job of covering kicks only allowing 2 returns for 31 yards. Our punt cover team forced a fumble that we recovered and lead to a huge momentum swing at a crucial point in the game. It would end up being KSU’s only turnover on the day. Arceo was 3 for 3 on extra point attempts, which should not be a big deal, but since he has missed 3 this season, him going 3 for 3 was huge.
For the MVP, I think this week we are going to have co-MVPs. Our co-MVPs are LBs Jake Knott and AJ Klein. They are the heart and soul of our defense and probably the best LB tandem ISU has ever had. Both players stepped up and played fantastic games. They scratched and clawed and pounded KSU on almost every snap. They were all over the field. Their combined 24 tackles accounted for 30% of our total tackles on the day as a team. Jake Knott had 13 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. AJ Klein chipped in with 11 tackles and showed no fear of KSU at all. Seniors step up and make plays in big games and these two players did exactly that.
I do want to have an honorable mention for MVP and that is the Kansas State DL. They stepped up and had an outstanding game. They eliminated the ISU running game and put pressure on QB Jared Barnett all game long. They really took us out of our offensive game plan and were the real difference in this game in my opinion.
Special Teams B+
Sat. 10/20/12 11 am
Boone Pickens Stadium
It shouldn’t be hard to remember last years 37-31 double overtime upset of the unbeaten Cowboys last year in Jack Trice Stadium. It was the biggest win in program history.
That was an amazing win and a very potent offense. This is not the same offense as last year. Gone is their amazing QB Brandon Weedon and in his place is a QB rotation that is still up in the air. Both QBs JW Walsh and Wes Hunt have taken snaps this season. JW Walsh threw for 225 yds and 2 TDs in last weeks closer than it should have been win over Kansas. They beat Kansas 20 to 14 in Lawrence in a game where KU came up a little short in a 4th quarter rally. Even though JW Walsh played last game, there is a strong possibility that Wes Hunt will see significant playing time against us.
Despite they’re down season so far, don’t underestimate the revenge factor. We stung them bad last year by knocking them out of the national championship game and they will be looking for payback at home. OSU has a 21-6 Big 12 record since 2009, which is the best record of any team in the Big 12 during that span. Make no mistake, they will be ready to play come Saturday. If the Cyclones don’t come out strong from the start, this game could get ugly in a hurry.
I am an eternal optimist though, and I think that the Cyclones will come off being stung and put in a great effort with great focus in Stillwater and pull off the much-needed win.