Grading the game: Early offensive struggles limit success

Redshirt freshman linebacker Trent Tanking checks on senior defensive end Laton Dowling after Dowling remained on the field after taking a hard hit in the first quarter of the Wildcats' 40-35 loss to UCLA in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio January 2, 2015. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Offense: D+

K-State has shown that they have issues with consistently scoring touchdowns when they get into the red zone, evident by the Wildcats breaking the school record for field goals in a single season (23) Friday. The trend continued in Friday’s Alamo Bowl, especially to start the game, as the Wildcats needed over 37-minutes to find the end zone.

But, what they did well was fight until the end, performing admirably late in the game. Out of the halftime break, the jets were turned on, as the Wildcats piled on 265 total yards of offense. K-State’s senior wide receiver duo of Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton was a big part of that success. The two went for over 100 yards a piece, and finished their seasons hauling in over 1,000 yards each, the first time ever for K-State.

But, when you only run the ball for only 31-total yards, a 25-point comeback is increasingly difficult. One of the things that the Bruins had to do in order to win the game was to make the Wildcats’ offense one-dimensional, and they did that extremely well.

The K-State offensive line’s inability to stop the initial push of UCLA played a major factor in the run game, or lack thereof. The line looked overmatched from the beginning, though it seemed to improve as the game went on. Still, when you give up seven sacks for over 50-yards, your shot at winning is slim.

Defense: C

Even though the offense didn’t help them early on, giving up 31-points in the opening half doesn’t bode well for even the best teams in the country. K-State allowed junior quarterback Brett Hundley to start the game with an impressive showing, running for 57-yards and a pair of touchdowns while also throwing for another 129 yards and a third touchdown.

The Wildcat defense did limit the Bruins’ offense in the second half, but still allowed over 150 yards, which wouldn’t have hurt as much if they didn’t allow a 67-yard touchdown run that put the game out-of-reach with under three minutes to play.

The biggest issue for K-State’s defense was the handling of Hundley. The junior — who by all indication will be declaring for the NFL draft in the coming weeks — tore up the Wildcat linebackers and secondary. Though he only passed for 136 yards and a touchdown, his ability to run the ball was what completely shell-shocked the Wildcats (110 rushing yards). Hundley’s ability to put the defense out of position helped sophomore running back Paul Perkins explode for 194 yards in the Bruins’ big win.

Special teams: B

The one thing that the K-State special teams unit typically does very well is make a huge impact while avoiding any costly mistakes. That usually puts the Wildcats in a good position in the later parts of games, which is what every special teams unit in the college football strives to do.

Tonight, however, a huge mistake cost the Wildcats a 74-yard punt-return touchdown by Lockett. The play, which came with just over four minutes remaining in the first half, would have put a much-needed score on the board before halftime, and could’ve been the spark that K-State needed heading into the locker room.

K-State’s freshman field goal kicker Matthew McCrane did enjoy a solid outing, though, driving through both of his attempts from 29 and 47 yards. McCrane has been consistent all year for the Wildcats, and should look to be the opening-game starter this fall.