Kansas State’s 33-30 loss featured many different themes and plays. The heartbreaking defeat was home to a mix of emotions as the game swayed to each side. A few things could be found in the chaos that was K-State and Texas’ final regular season battle in the Big 12.
Takeaway #1: Right or wrong, K-State tried to end the game best they could
Down three needing four yards. The decision to either kick the field goal to send the game into second overtime or to go for the win will be debated continuously. An argument can be made that Maalik Murphy, Texas’ quarterback, would not have been able to deliver again with the ball. K-State’s defense shined late with the offense following every step of the way. This could lead to trusting the unit to hold off a Texas score. On the other hand, one right play and K-State has the game won without allowing the star Longhorn weapons to see the field again.
If the play works, head coach Chris Klieman is a genius. Instead it fails and the ridicule swarms in. Either way, the result stays the same. K-State failed many opportunities and received some luck to be in the position to win the game. As the saying goes, “It is what it is.”
Takeaway #2: Quinn Ewers being out changed the game completely
The Wildcat comeback would never have been possible without Texas’ starter Quinn Ewers not playing. Murphy had early success but was clearly not a suitable replacement. With two interceptions, multiple dropped interceptions, inaccurate passes among other mistakes, a healthy Longhorn offense likely never lets the game get close. Still, the effort and performance the Wildcats showed in the second half can not be taken lightly. You must play who stands across from you, and K-State nearly took down Texas with their still highly-talented roster.
Takeaway #3: Will Howard had maybe his best performance as a Wildcat
While K-State did not come out victorious, quarterback Will Howard left everything on the field. After a tumultuous six opening drives, Howard showed out. His 327 passing yards and four passing touchdowns still may not do the senior justice. He had one interception, which laid in the hands of wide receiver Keagan Johnson before being picked. He constantly extended plays with his feet, finding nearly all of his receivers down the field. Special teams errors may have hindered the win, a win which Howard fully placed the team in a chance to secure. The result may not say so, but Howard declared himself as the man under center from here on out.
Takeaway #4: Special teams is key
The missed extra point and short field goal attempt will be remembered from this thriller. They both were late and potentially led to the defeat of the Wildcats. The unit struggled but still sent a 45-yarder through the uprights to send the game into overtime.
What may be forgotten as well is the play that kicked off the unforeseen comeback. Special team’s Shane Porter sprung the comeback on Texas with his second quarter block. The play gave K-State the ball in Texas territory for the first time all game, leading to the first of four Howard touchdowns. The Wildcats lived early by the way of special teams and may have been pushed to the end with it as well.
Takeaway #5: Klein needs to stop overusing the QB power
Offensive coordinator Collin Klein has thrived off the QB power run play from both Howard and quarterback Avery Johnson. Still, in certain moments, he must show discipline moving forward. Clearly, the Texas defense knew the play was coming and continued to halt Howard in his tracks. The passing game was booming. Still, Klein used the play late.
On first-and-goal in overtime, he started with a QB power and then ran a potential jump pass off a fake QB power. Both plays failed and helped lead to the fourth down situation the offense found itself in. It was the team’s bread and butter all year, but coaches must adapt. When a team has something solved, find something else.