Grading the Game: K-State vs. Texas

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Texas running back Johnathan Gray is stopped on fourth down short of the first down marker by the K-State defense on Saturday, October 25, 2014 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Emily DeShazer | The Collegian)

Offense: B-

All afternoon it seemed like the K-State offense was just one play away from a breakout performance. That play never developed, but the offense did enough against a formidable defense to cruise to victory.

On their first two drives, K-State drove deep into Texas territory. But on both occasions, the Longhorn front four provided critical stops on third down to hold the Wildcats to two field goals and a 6-0 lead.

“You got to come away with points, but it was irritating that we had to put him on the field,” K-State head coach Bill Snyder said after the game. “That was our downfall today, we had opportunities. It was just so reminiscent of Iowa State, we marched down the field and scored then we dribbled down our leg on two possessions and had to kick field goals. It’s irritating — if you want to win in this conference you better be able to score when you get the ball down there.”

The Wildcats weren’t much better their next two drives, but a 12 play 85-yard drive right before the half redeemed the offense and gave the home team a comfortable 13-point lead which would, in turn, transform into a 23-0 advantage at the end of the day.

Sure, it was arguably K-State’s worst offensive showing this season, at least statistically. But that doesn’t quite factor in the Texas defense and their stout front four, including potential Big 12 defender of the year Malcolm Brown.

K-State came away with points to capture a lead, punched it into the end zone to extend the lead and chipped away at the Longhorn defense for nearly 40 minutes to earn another gutsy, physical conference win.

“I think that just goes to show what this program is all about,” senior center B.J. Finney said. “Coach always tells us things may not go our way with momentum — we may not be clicking — but if you just keep rowing the boat or keep chipping away at the task at hand, some things are going to fall your way and you’re going to have an opportunity to make sure you get some momentum.”

Defense: A+

This defense just keeps getting better.

Let’s get a few things straight first: Saturday was the first time Texas has been shutout since 2004. Not just in conference play, but overall. It was also the first shutout for K-State in a Big 12 game since 2003 — ironically, in a year where they won the conference championships.

“(I appreciate it) a great, great deal,” Snyder said when asked about earning a shutout. “I can’t tell you when the last time we had a shutout, it just doesn’t happen in this day and age. I thought it was something for our youngsters to be truly proud of.”

Not only the did the Wildcat defense keep Texas off the board, it kept them from moving the ball consistently. Charlie Strong’s offense mustered only 196 yards of total offense on the afternoon, their worst total of the season. And that’s with an improving quarterback and one of the best rushing duos in the Big 12.

When Texas did threaten, K-State’s defense rose to the occasion. On their fourth drive of the game, Texas drove all the way down to the 17-yard line and looked poised to eliminate a six-point deficit. But senior defensive back Randall Evans broke up a pass on second down, and freshman linebacker Elijah Lee sacked sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes on the next play for a 10-yard loss, forcing Texas to punt.

“We have a ton of guys on our defense that just have so much will to win, and they care so much about this team and each other, it’s awesome to be apart of that defense,” senior linebacker Jonathan Truman said. “Our game plan was great and we executed well.”

There were a lot of question marks about this defense coming into the year, but through six games they’ve shown that they’re more than capable of shutting down anyone in the country. Only one question remains: can they keep doing this?

Special Teams: A

This was an important game for freshman kicker Matthew McCrane. His dad played for Texas, and he wished so badly to follow suit. But, the Longhorns passed on his services so he came to K-State hoping to show his home state just what they passed on.

That’s exactly what he did Saturday.

McCrane hit three field goals, including a career long 38 yarder to lead the Wildcats to victory. His first two attempts, from 19 and 30 yards, respectively, gave K-State a crucial lead on an afternoon where the offense wasn’t quite clicking.

“To get on the field and get playing time, I was definitely grateful for that,” McCrane said. “To get to play against Texas, it’s been a dream of mine — well, to play for Texas — but now that I’m a Wildcat I definitely love being a Wildcat and getting points for us.”

Senior wide receiver Tyler Lockett also returned a punt 16 yards to aide in the Wildcats’ starting position.

All in all, it was an important day for the special teams unit, even if it wasn’t as glamorous as it has in games past.

Notes:

· Saturday was the 500th victory for the K-State football program.

· K-State became bowl eligible for the 5th straight year, the 16th overall under head coach Bill Snyder

· The Wildcats’ streak of consecutive wins when leading at the half stretched to 44 Saturday. That’s the second-best streak in college football.

· Manhattan hasn’t been kind to the Longhorns. Texas is just 1-6 all-time against the Wildcats in the Little Apple.

· Tyler Lockett is now third all-time in school history in career receptions, passing former wide receiver and assistant coach Michael Smith.

· 52,879 — that was the attendance at Bill Snyder Family Stadium Saturday, the 18th consecutive sellout and the 10th largest in school history.

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