Grading the Wildcats: Texas Tech

Sophomore defensive back Duke Shelley tackles Texas Tech wide receiver Dylan Cantrell during the game between K-State and Texas Tech on Oct. 8, 2016, in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (George Walker | The Collegian)

We took a look back at the Wildcats’ 44-38 victory over Texas Tech and decided to hand out some grades. The Wildcats’ report card looks much better than a week ago, though there are still some kinks to work out on both sides of the ball.

Rushing offense: A

The Wildcats had success running the ball all night. Senior running back Charles Jones had himself a game. Jones scampered for 128 yards on 19 carries, which is a 6.7 yards-per-carry average, and a touchdown.

After a disappointing 2.9 yard-per-carry average a week ago against West Virginia, the Wildcats turned it around and averaged 5.9 yards a rush. Their ability to run the ball on first and second downs gave them much more manageable third down situations. This forced Texas Tech’s defense to respect the run, which in turn opened up the passing game.

Passing offense: B-

This one was a little tougher to judge. The Wildcats only completed 10 passes for 104 yards but they didn’t really need to throw the ball much all night. K-State leaned on the running game heavily and didn’t throw often.

But there are still accuracy and offensive line issues holding the air attack back. The Wildcats struggled in the third quarter, quarterback Jesse Ertz completed only one of his six passes and subsequently the Cats didn’t score any points. That will not fly when K-State is in Norman, Oklahoma, on Saturday.

Rushing defense: A

This is becoming an incredible strength for the Wildcats. They are now third in the nation in run defense, allowing only 80.8 yards a game. Texas Tech couldn’t get anything going on the ground all night. K-State held the Red Raiders to just 63 yards.

The Wildcats almost completely took away the Red Raiders’ run game, making them even more one-dimensional than they already are. Senior defensive back Dante Barnett made a key stop on a third down late in the game, hitting Texas Tech running back Justin Stockton in the backfield for a nine-yard loss and forcing a much longer fourth down and a turnover on downs.

Passing defense: C+

If there ever was an occasion to be OK with letting an opposing team throw for more than 500 yards, this was it. As the nation’s best offense, Patrick Mahomes II and the Red Raiders were going to get their yards no matter what. However, the Wildcats seemed to keep them under control most of the night.

Sophomore defensive back D.J. Reed’s pick six was huge early on in the game when K-State couldn’t get a stop. The Wildcats made some halftime adjustments and improved mightily in the second half. They allowed just 10 points after the break, and seven of those were in the final seconds when the game was all but over. It should also be noted it was the first time all season the Red Raiders have been held under 50 points.

Special teams: A

Sophomore wide receiver Byron Pringle’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was huge for the Wildcats. It allowed them to retake the lead just before the half. Junior kicker Mathew McCrane showed no signs of nerves after his miss against West Virginia a week ago. McCrane was perfect on the day, making all three of his field goal attempts.

Coaching: A

The coaching staff did a much better job of putting their players in a position to win than they did a week ago. K-State’s offensive game plan was to take advantage of Texas Tech’s poor run defense, and the Wildcats executed it wonderfully. Halftime adjustments were needed on the defensive side of the ball and they were made. The defense held the Red Raiders to just 10 second-half points.

Overall: B

The Wildcats weren’t particularly impressive on either side of the ball but still came out with the win, and a win is a win. The offense is still a work in progress — Texas Tech out-gained the Cats by more than 200 yards — and will need to improve if the Wildcats want to compete with Oklahoma on Saturday.

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