The Hangover: Skylar was good, the defense was bad

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(Graphic by Sarah Unruh | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State Wildcats (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) lost a very winnable struggle with the Oklahoma Sooners (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) in what could be the last match-up between the two teams in Manhattan.

The game really turned when Oklahoma delivered on the Bill Belichick-special, a score on either side of halftime without the other team’s offense getting a meaningful chance to answer. Well, that and a terrible third quarter. Sound familiar?

The key stretch — Oklahoma drives the field and kicks a field goal with just a couple seconds left in the half, then takes the kickoff and scores a quick touchdown — a ten-point swing — and the Wildcats did not have an immediate answer.

The K-State defense also did not force a punt and only turned OU over once on what was basically a third-down arm-punt. K-State could not capitalize, going 45 yards before replay review overturned a diving fourth-down reception to hand the ball back over to the Sooners.

The silver lining for K-State — if there is one — is that the offense behind super-senior quarterback Skylar Thompson and Chris Klieman’s newfound aggression looked elite against a good defense.

In his first game back, Thompson looked better than ever. His inability to meaningfully scramble forced him to step up into the pocket and look at his third and fourth reads. That resulted in a career day for the signal-caller.

He was 29-41 for 320 yards and three touchdowns, his most completions in a game ever. Pre-injury Thompson would have scrambled out of pockets in a few situations where he was able to find good targets downfield and get a few yards. He did all that while only taking one sack.

Thompson or not, K-State should not be attempting 41 passes.

The defense could not keep Oklahoma from successfully moving the ball by attacking the edges. When they did catch up to an OU ball-carrier, they really struggled to tackle, especially in the secondary.

Finally, when the Wildcats did get a chance to maybe make it a ball game again, they seemed to have no urgency. Down 17 midway through the fourth, K-State needed desperately to get a quick score. Instead, it was back to the huddle between every play while the clock was ticking away. A five-and-a-half-minute touchdown drive was not nearly quick enough.

KEY MATCH-UPS

In my weekly Know Your Opponent preview, I identified three keys to the game for K-State. Let’s see how they did:

Keep up the trend:

There’s a saying, “Keep losing teams losing,” and I wanted to see K-State keep Oklahoma’s bad offense looking bad. If I were to give a letter grade, it would be an F-.

Sure, they had a pick, but Spencer Rattler was 22/25, and OU never punted. They seemingly did anything they wanted on offense, and K-State was just lucky its offense was able to hold on.

Ground beef:

K-State’s offensive line was actually pretty good in this game. They kept Thompson’s pocket clean, and tackle Cooper Beebe was especially good. He mostly shut down the Big 12’s best pass rusher in Nik Bonitto.

Non-offensive touchdown:

K-State got their kick return touchdown for the second week in a row, but it was too little, too late. Malik Knowles’ mad dash to give his team a chance right at the end was more of a bad beat for Vegas bettors than a comeback attempt.

PREDICTION:

I chose OU by a wider margin than they wound up winning by, but I also was making that prediction assuming Thompson wouldn’t be back. I thought it would be a defensive battle, but it turned out to be a battle of whose defense was less bad. In this case, it was Oklahoma’s.

K-State has a much-needed bye week next before hosting Iowa State. With Thompson back and two of the Big 12’s best teams behind them, two weeks from now will be the time for K-State to make a serious statement in Farmageddon.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.