The Hangover: Third down execution plagues K-State

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(Graphic by Sarah Unruh | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State spotted Iowa State 10 points to start off the Wildcats’ 33-20 loss to the Cyclones in Manhattan on Saturday night.

Iowa State lined up on the first offensive play of the game and handed the ball to star running back Breece Hall. The junior took one cut and was off to the races, and no K-State defender could keep up. He went 75 yards in 12 seconds to put the Cyclones up 7-0 early.

After a pair of three-and-outs, K-State had good field position and a chance to get back into the game when a pass from quarterback Skylar Thompson passed right through the hands of Malik Knowles and into the waiting arms of Iowa State’s Greg Eisworth II.

Iowa State went on to kick a long field goal to go up two scores halfway through the opening quarter.

To that point, the K-State defense had been solid. Iowa State was 0-2 on third downs and hadn’t had much offensive success outside of the busted play run by Hall.

A K-State missed FG to tie the game swung momentum back the way of Iowa State, who went 80 yards for a TD to erase the progress K-State had made just before halftime.

The final nail in K-State’s coffin was a 93-yard touchdown drive in which Iowa State faced third downs of 11, four, one, five and eight yards — converting on all of them to break the back of the K-State defense.

Iowa State wound up 9-15 on third down, a nauseating number for any defensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, in the second half, the K-State offense was moving the ball but showed once again an unwillingness to deviate from using the entire play clock. The Wildcats waited until they were down 17 with under seven minutes to play before the offense showed any urgency.

KEY MATCH-UPS

In the weekly Know Your Opponent preview, I make some predictions about what would swing the game. Let’s see how it went for K-State.

Contain Hall:

The Cyclone running back got loose for a touchdown on the very first offensive snap of the game, then went for 197 yards and two touchdowns. If I were giving a letter grade for the Wildcats’ ability to slow down Hall, it would be an F minus, minus.

Thompson Repeat:

The Wildcat quarterback was okay, but K-State needed him to be great. He was only 15/23, but eclipsed 200 yards and threw two touchdowns. His lone interception was mostly not his fault, though he could have brought the ball down a tad.

Get off the field:

This is the one that really killed K-State. Sure, the defense actually forced several punts, unlike against Oklahoma. They were also a wet paper sack on third down throughout the game.

It was too easy for Iowa State to get just enough on third down to keep their offense on the field. When that happens, offenses go on long scoring drives that suck the life out of a defense. The second half was full of that.

PREDICTION:

I said K-State would win a close shootout 35-31, so my prediction was not particularly close. Specifically, Thompson and K-State’s offense were less productive than anticipated.

K-State will have a chance to get back in the win column against Texas Tech next week in Lubbock, Texas.

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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.