The scoreboard read “Kansas State – 48, Missouri State – 24″ as KSU fans filed out of The Bill Snyder Family Stadium last Saturday. But there had to be some mumbling and head-shaking among the faithful as they witnessed a less-than-stellar effort by the Wildcats. This was to be that non-conference match up against a lesser opponent where the Wildcats could address some issues from the UCLA game a week before and then make the necessary corrections to prepare for Big-12 conference play that starts next week. Some questions were answered, but others remain which had to leave legendary Head Coach Bill Snyder contemplating the fortunes of his young squad with conference games approaching.
First and foremost, QB Carson Coffman was expected to pick up his game from a lackluster performance against the Bruins and he responded very well. With a career high 280-yard, three touchdown effort, Coffman silenced his critics (at least for one week) and showed the leadership necessary to run this Kansas State offense. He showed much better poise in the pocket, connecting on 18 of his 26 attempts, including a beautiful 23-yard touchdown pass to WR Aubrey Quarles in the second quarter that the receiver hauled in along the back of the end zone for a spectacular catch. This is the type of consistency Wildcat Nation is looking for from their signal-caller. If Kansas State is to have any success this year, a balanced offense as was seen against Missouri State ( 203 rushing yards, 290 passing) needs to be maintained. RB Daniel Thomas ran well, including a 45-yard touchdown to open the scoring in the first quarter. But the story of the day on offense was Coffman, who kept the Bear secondary on the run by distributing passes among all his young and under-rated receivers including Minnesota transfer Broderick Smith. With touchdown catches of 42 and 7 yards, Smith finished the day with 99 yards and along with Quarles, Oregon transfer Chris Harper and redshirt freshman Tramaine Thompson, this group displayed a collective effort that will be much needed as the season progresses.
But while questions were answered on offense, the Wildcat defense had problems. Missouri State, a Division 1-AA team, compiled almost 450 yards of total offense, including over 280 through the air. Granted, a lot of those yards occurred late in the game, but this simply can’t be the defensive effort Snyder was looking for, both from a run and pass-stopping perspective. What seemed to hurt Kansas State the most was MSU’s ability to convert on third down. This led to long, time-consuming drives for the Bears including one of over 90 yards in the fourth quarter. Commenting in his post-game press conference, Snyder also showed displeasure with his defense and secondary in particular for allowing Bear QB Cody Kirby to manage the clock and direct long drives and most importantly, kept the potent Wildcat offense on the sidelines. Missouri State ended up possessing the ball for over 33 minutes to the Wildcats 27. Kansas State teams in the past have always been known, for the most part, to win the time possession battle. So look for Snyder to address that issue this week as the Cat defense prepares for the Iowa State Cyclones and their mobile quarterback, Austen Arnaud.
So finally, was it “one step forward, two steps back” in describing the Wildcat’s effort against the Missouri State Bears? KSU fans are thinking more like “two steps forward, one step back” as once again, the Kansas State offense played with more passion and consistency, especially at the quarterback position. They moved the ball throughout the day and racked up plenty of yards both on the ground and through the air. But it’s the K-State defense that did take a “step back”, displaying a lackluster pass rush and inconsistent coverage in the secondary. Were they simply tired from a hard practice Snyder ran them through the day before or was it just a lack of focus and looking past Missouri State towards their first conference game next week? We’ll see if this defense can respond Saturday in Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium against Iowa State.
About the Author
Written by Chad Craghead
A 1988 graduate from Wichita State University, Chad has followed WSU as well as Kansas State athletics for over 30 years, along with being a lifelong Boston Red Sox and L.A./St. Louis Rams fan.