Head coach Bill Snyder always talks about starting well and finishing well. As the Wildcats utilized senior running back Daniel Thomas on eight of 10 plays to start their first drive of the game, only to turn the ball over on downs and then allow Nebraska to score on their first possession, they did not accomplish the former. By the end of the game, with a final score of 48-13 Nebraska, it was abundantly clear they did not accomplish the latter, either.
To add insult to injury, wide receiver Brodrick Smith was hurt on the play before K-State’s lone touchdown. He stayed down on the field for several minutes before being helped off to the Nebraska sideline, from where Smith was carted off the field. As he was driven to the tunnel, the receiver did not wave or acknowledge anyone — a bad sign. If he is out for the season, it significantly weakens the receiving corps, which has not exactly been dazzling to this point.
Speaking of insult, it disappointed me that so many K-State fans defected when the deficit increased. Maybe I’m just a competitive person, but it stung to have more crowd noise for the Huskers than for the Wildcats. K-State had given the university an undefeated season up until yesterday, and it deserves support even in its ugliest moments. I can’t speak for everyone in purple who stuck it out, but it made my blood boil to hear “Go Big Red! Go Big Red!” in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
There is not much to say about this one. 48 points and 587 yards of offense allowed later, the Wildcats have work to do.
Rushing trios told the story of the first half quite eloquently.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead combined for 188 yards on the ground. Martinez scored both the Huskers’ rushing touchdowns in the first half, including a 35-yard spurt into the end zone. Both times, he walked in.
Contrast that performance with the Wildcats. Senior running back Daniel Thomas had only 45 yards on 16 carries, putting his average at slightly under three yards per rush. Senior running back William Powell had one rush for six yards; sophomore fullback Braden Wilson had one for one, and senior quarterback Carson Coffman contributed zero net yards on four carries. The Wildcats had more yards passing than they did rushing in the first half, which was very out of character for the team.
The difference in the teams’ offenses could also be seen in the battle on the line of scrimmage. Nebraska’s line plowed forward, whereas K-State’s looked as if it was being pushed back.
In the second quarter, K-State shot itself in the figurative foot with penalties. On the drive on which Martinez eventually burst out for that 35-yard touchdown run, the Wildcats had two offsides penalties: one that Nebraska declined to keep its 16-yard gain on that play, and another that nullified a tackle for negative seven yards by sophomore defensive end Brandon Harold.
Coffman was only sacked once in the first half, but he was hurried and hit on numerous occasions. His throw-it-up-and-see-what-happens pass to end the half was intercepted, though it did not matter because time had expired.
The score at the end of the second period was 17-3 Nebraska — the same score by which the Huskers defeated the Wildcats in the Big 12 North title game in 2009. It was a bad omen.
The interception to end the half was less than graceful, but it was nothing compared to what the Wildcats would face to start the second half.
K-State defensive end Antonio Felder said in a press conference that the Wildcats had to stop big plays when they played Nebraska. They did the exact opposite, allowing touchdowns of 35 yards, 80 yards, 68 yards and 79 yards in the third quarter alone.
In the fourth quarter, Wildcats finally managed to get into the end zone, but only on fourth down after having first and goal at the Nebraska one-yard line.
This drive, though it ended in a score, epitomized the futility of the Wildcats’ offense against Nebraska’s very deserving nationally ranked defense.
Snyder had a frank assessment of the game.
“We didn’t run the ball very well, we didn’t throw it extremely well, we didn’t play defense against the run or the pass very well,” he said. “I told our players that this could easily come down to the kicking game, and we did well enough in the kicking game that everything else fell on its face. So I don’t think it’s one aspect of it that I’m as concerned about; I’m concerned about all of it collectively and just how good we are in any aspect of the game.”