There were many issues that popped up in the K-State Wildcats 31-21 loss to the Texas Longhorns on Saturday. The offensive line didn’t play well. The running game didn’t establish itself. The defense gave up too many big plays. The two-quarterback system didn’t work.
At the end of the day, Bill Snyder’s Wildcats played a game that was uncharacteristic of themselves. K-State turned the ball over three times and was penalized eight times.
It wasn’t until the fourth game of the season last year that the Wildcats got eight penalties on the entire season. However, against Texas on Saturday, they did it in one game. The Wildcats only had one game last year where they turned the ball over more than twice, and that was against Baylor, the team’s only regular season loss.
"The execution was not good," Snyder said after the game. "We got penalized when we shouldn’t. We had created the turnovers. You can’t beat good football teams turning the ball over and getting penalized. It’s not more complex than that."
One turnover in particular that had a huge impact on the game was the fumble on the first drive of the third quarter. The Wildcats had some momentum after scoring a touchdown late in the second quarter to cut the lead to 10 points.
But on the first drive of the second half, a botched pitch between junior quarterback Jake Waters and senior running back John Hubert halted a drive that could have cut the Longhorns lead down to just one possession.
"There are a number of things you can draw out, but it was quite obvious that it had a dramatic impact on the ballgame," Snyder said. "Some other things did as well, but at that time it was very disruptive."
Defensively, the Wildcats struggled all game. Texas racked up 452 yards of total offense, including 141 yards on the ground from the Longhorn’s sophomore running back Johnathan Gray.
"We knew he was talented," senior safety Ty Zimmerman said. "We played him last year. He’s a big, physical guy that runs hard. But like I said, all the credit goes to Texas and how hard they played tonight."
On offense, the Wildcats simply did not find a rhythm with their running game. Before the game, Texas had ranked 121st out of 123 FBS teams in rush defense. Against the BYU Cougars in Week 2, the Longhorns gave up 550 yards on the ground.
K-State, however, was unable to take advantage of that on Saturday, gaining just 115 yards on the ground with no single player gaining more than 48 yards alone.
"Defensively, you have to give defensive coordinator Greg Robinson and the other coaches credit for bringing them back," said Texas head coach Mack Brown after the game. "The players are obviously there. We played good tonight. We missed fewer tackles. We chased the ball better. There were fewer people wide open. I thought that’s the kind of defense we wanted to play coming into the season."
What was really obvious in the first half though was that the two-quarterback system with Waters and sophomore Daniel Sams wasn’t working. Sams didn’t attempt a pass in the game, allowing the Longhorns to cheat on defense and protect the run whenever he entered.
After the loss, Snyder acknowledged that he didn’t coach a good enough game in regards to using both quarterbacks.
"We just didn’t throw the ball with [Sams], which is what we need to do," Snyder said. "We did run Jake a little bit. Both of them have the capacity to do either side, but by and large, we just have to do a better job. Both of them deserve to play. Both of them are good players. They made a lot of mistakes. We’ve got to do a better job. We didn’t coach this game very well."
Perhaps a blessing in disguise for this team is the fact that they get a bye week before traveling to Stillwater, Okla. to face the undefeated Oklahoma State Cowboys on Oct. 5. This bye week will be a great opportunity for the Wildcats to make the necessary adjustments that are apparent after Saturday’s loss.
"[The loss] was painful, and it’s got to sit with you for two weeks," Snyder said.