Jim Cowsert (USA TODAY Sports)
That’s how Kansas State Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder described his team’s 31-21 loss to the Texas Longhorns in their Big 12 opener.
The Wildcats couldn’t establish rhythm offensively and Texas running back Johnathan Gray couldn’t be stopped as the Longhorns ended a streak of five straight losses to the Wildcats, dating back to 2003.
The crowd of over 95,000 at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium didn’t seem to intimidate the Wildcats. Then again, it’s not like Kansas State thrived in the hostile environment either. The Wildcats played uncharacteristically of a Snyder-coached team, committing eight penalties and turning the ball over three times.
Steering clear of penalties was a huge part of the Wildcats’ success last year, a season that saw them win the Big 12 title. Kansas State didn’t commit eight penalties as a team until Week 4 in 2013. Through four games in 2013, the Wildcats have 16 penalties.
Texas also won the time of possession battle by about three minutes, another aspect of the game that Snyder’s Wildcats usually control.
The Wildcats also failed to establish the tempo of the game early. Texas took a 17-0 lead and scored on just its second possession of the game. It wasn’t until Kansas State’s last drive of the first half that they even got past the 50-yard line. That drive ended in a touchdown run by senior running back John Hubert.
Turnovers have plagued Kansas State throughout the year as well. Through Week 4 of last year, the Wildcats had just three turnovers. This year, Kansas State has nine through four weeks.
Finally, the two-quarterback system of Jake Waters and Daniel Sams was again a hot topic. And against the Longhorns, it didn’t work. Sams didn’t see the field at all in the second half after the Wildcats fell behind and he also never moved the Wildcats into Texas territory.
Sams also didn’t attempt a pass the whole game, which tipped the Longhorns defense off to Kansas State’s game plan. Basically, if Waters was in the game the Wildcats were likely passing in the first half. If Sams was in, he was probably running the ball.
The one shining light for the Wildcats against Texas was junior wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who set a school record with 237 receiving yards.
Kansas State now has a week off to not only build off of Lockett’s performance and find a way to implement him even more into the offensive scheme, but to also give the Wildcats plenty of time to fix the errors that presented themselves against the Longhorns and in their Week 1 loss to the North Dakota State Bison.
First off, the Wildcats haven’t been that good defensively. Kansas State ranks 59th in the NCAA in total defense, a dip from last year that is especially noticeable considering the Wildcats have only played one BCS-conference team.
Secondly, Snyder has to figure out the answer to the quarterback dilemma. Whether it’s allowing Sams to throw the ball or simply sticking with either Waters or Sams full-time and benching the other, a decision has to be made in order to give the Wildcats a more dynamic offense.
The Wildcats face Oklahoma State, the top-ranked team in the Big 12 preseason poll, in Stillwater, Okla. next week. A win there would be a huge boost to a season that seems lost for now, but a loss would bury the Wildcats at 2-3.