Mizzou Outlasts KSU

The Kansas State Football Program received an ugly reminder today that rivalries matter.  The student body stormed the field after Harrison Mevis banged home a 61-yard field goal at the end of the game.  Missouri and Kansas State haven’t clashed against each other on the gridiron since 2010.  The last game was a loss in Columbia as well.  Blaine Gabbert led his Tigers to a 38 to 28 victory.  Though Collin Klein wasn’t the starter in that matchup, he still rushed for 141 yards on 18 carries.  His efforts were not enough.  History has eerily repeated itself.  Today, Klein’s play calling wasn’t enough, and his Wildcats lost a tough, tight game by a mere three points.

You never overlook a rival.  You never overlook an SEC team.  You never overlook a road game.  Kansas State overlooked all three.  First, this team has no concept of the 98 rivalry games that preceded today.  If they had, their sense of urgency would have been evident.  Second, Kansas State was caught flat footed multiple times for big gains.  They clearly had not studied the film on Luther Burden III.  Burden jumps of the screen.  Burden was the most talented football player on the field by a mile.  He will be playing on Sundays.  Six plays into Missouri’s first drive, Burden cuts up the KSU defense for 47-yard touchdown.  Lastly, this was the Wildcat’s first road game.  They didn’t look prepared.  They didn’t look motivated.  They forgot they were playing an SEC school instead of someone from FCS or the Sunbelt Conference.

Will Howard had a shaky start to the game.  The offensive line has been shuffled a bit due to injuries.  The offensive line woes made things problematic for Howard and by the time half time hit, he was limping around the field.  Howard’s first touchdown of the game was a fluke as it bounced off a defender into Phillip Brook’s alert hands.  Three plays into his next drive Howard throws an interception.  There were only a couple of memorable drops.  Both Ben Sinnott and Treshaun Ward dropped 3rd down conversions.  That is what this game came down to.  The team that won is the team that executed more positive plays.

Kansas State won the third down battle.  They converted eight out of seventeen whereas Missouri converted a mere three out of thirteen.  Imagine if Kansas State converted all seventeen of their third downs.

Brady Cook, the Missouri quarterback, sprained his knee about midway thru the second quarter.  He gamely stayed in the game.  Kansas State wisely dialed up the pressure on Cook, forcing hurried throws, one sack and multiple punts before the half ended.  Kansas State failed to capitalize on offense.  The Kansas State defense started the second half forcing a three and out.  Daniel Green sacked Cook and Khalid Duke tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage.  The Wildcat offense rewarded their efforts with a field goal drive.  The Wildcat defense forced another punt the next Mizzou possession.  This time the offense rewarded their efforts with a touchdown.  Then Mizzou woke up.

Down a touchdown, Brady Cook torched the Wildcat defense with his arm.  Cook lasered a 26 yard and 42-yard pass, placing his team on the Wildcat seven-yard line doorstep.  The Wildcats forced two incompletions and a field goal, which in the moment was a win.

The Wildcats had no room for mistakes.  Failing to see the urgency of the moment, the offense couldn’t convert a crucial third and four on their next drive.  When playing a tough opponent, every play is urgent.  The need to execute is paramount.  The offensive coordinator must dial up the correct play to keep the chains moving.  The Wildcat’s next two drives were punts.  Once again, the Kansas State defense stood tall and forced a punt.  Despite that, after the Wildcats were forced to punt for the second time in the fourth quarter, the defense allowed Cody Schrader to gash them for 36 yards and then Burden burned the secondary once again for 26 yards and a touchdown on the very next play.  Burden ended his day like he started, gashing the Kansas State defense for big yards and a touchdown.

Kansas State Defense played a decent game.  However, they failed to limit the explosive play.  Missouri dialed up seven explosive plays that were 25 yards or more.  Three of those plays were 41 yards or more.  All seven of those explosives were part of Tiger scoring drives.

Kansas State managed to tie the game after Missouri’s last explosive Burden score.  The KSU defense once again stood tall and forced a punt.

With 3:46 on the clock, it is Kansas State’s ball and the game is tied.  They started the drive on their own 39-yard line.  The Wildcats are in prime position to bleed the clock out while grinding towards field goal range.  The drive started well with three runs leading to a first down.  Then Ben Sinnott dropped a pass that he should have caught.  The Refs penalized KSU for a false start and now the Wildcats were 2nd and 15.  Instead of running the ball, Coach Klein curiously called another pass play.  Pressured, Howard stepped up into the pocket and threw the ball away.  The clock stops again.  The next play is for a one-yard gain and Mizzou calls their second timeout before KSU punts it back to them leaving 1:25 left on the clock.

This sequence of plays was a terrible mismanagement of the offense.  It was an egregious mismanagement of the clock.  The last Wildcat drive falls squarely on the coaching staff.  This is situational football at its best and the Wildcat’s executed this situation poorly.  The best teams master red-zone scoring, red-zone defense, third down defense, third down conversions and the four-minute offense to end the game.  Today the Wildcats were decent in red-zone defense and redzone scoring.  Their third down defense was outstanding, while their third down offense was average.  However, where they lost the game was the lack of a four-minute offense to close out the game.

With 3:46 on the clock, you know your offense is not getting consistent push in the run game, so you have to be inventive with your run calls.  You also must dial up your best pass plays to take advantage of matchups.  Coach Klein failed on all fronts.  He wasn’t ready.  He didn’t have a plan.  KSU likely lost because of his lack of preparation, and inability to adjust in the moment.

Many think Avery Johnson should have taken over for Will Howard.  What we don’t know is how well Johnson really knows the offense.  Klein appears to be developing Avery Johnson much like Klein was developed; learn the quarterback run game in this offense before learning the pass concepts.  I am not sure if that is a winning formula this year if Howard goes down.  Perhaps the coaching staff needs to re-think their development of Johnson.  He has a live arm and is very elusive in the run game.  We all like Howard but I think we would love Johnson.  The question will always be, when is he ready?

The thing about rivals is they are scrappy to the end.   They have long memories.  The Missouri Tigers came to play.  They intended to defend their home ground to the very last, and they did.  They deserve credit for this win.  Kansas State also deserves criticism for this loss.

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