Friday night, the Kansas State Wildcats, defending Big 12 Champs, were shocked at home, 24-21, by the North Dakota State Bison at home.
It was not like North Dakota State was a chump opponent, despite their status as a Football Championship Subdivision team (formally Division II). They are the 2-time defending Champions in their division. Plus, this is now the fourth straight year North Dakota State has beaten a Division I school (Kansas – 2010, Minnesota – 2011, Colorado State – 2012).
Still, if you are Kansas State, losses to FBS schools at home are not acceptable by any means.
What Went Right?
Looking for bright spots in bad losses is sometimes difficult, but the Wildcats were able to move the ball through the air at times. New K-State quarterback, Jake Waters, went 21-29 (72.4%) for 280 yards. Waters threw for 2 touchdowns but threw 2 interceptions as well. The Wildcats averaged 9.7 yards per pass but outside of a 56-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett and another 45-yard score to Tremaine Thompson, that average plummeted to 6.6 yards per throw. Still, that long ball threat is an effective part of the Wildcat offense.
Lockett and Thompson both had very good games, offering Waters dual targets in the passing attack. Lockett caught 7 balls for 113 yards and Thompson pulled in 6 for 108 yards.
The Wildcats were only whistled for 2 penalties for 10 yards. In fact, it was as clean a game as you will ever watch as there were only 3 total penalties marked off for both teams, for combined 15 yards.
What Went Wrong?
Just about everything else.
The most noticeable flaw in the Wildcats game was the total lack of a running attack. In the third quarter, back-up quarterback Daniel Sams, out of the Wildcat formation, scampered 17 yards for a touchdown on his first snap of the season. Outside of that play, Kansas State produced just 24 yards on 22 attempts. John Hubert managed just 23 yards on 10 carries on the night.
Those just are not acceptable numbers for KSU. Coach Bill Snyder has to find a way to get some holes open for Hubert or the Wildcats are going to have a very long season.
The second thing that stood out is how North Dakota State controlled the clock. Not just on that last, massive 18-play, eight and a half minute drive, but in the game in general. The Bison held the ball for 12 more minutes than the Wildcats, and that last drive by the Bison was an impressive thing to watch. K-State just couldn’t stop them when they had to.
The lack of big play ability on defense may be a season long issue for the Wildcats all season. While Ryan Mueller and Marquel Bryant each played relatively well, the rest of the defense struggled. NDSU racked up 380 total yards, 215 of which came on the ground. That does not bode well for the Wildcats if that lack of defense carries over into the Big 12 portion of the schedule.
The Bison converted 10 first downs on 17 third down plays (59%), plus converting a fourth down attempt as well. K-State has to be able to force the other team off the field more. This item helped cause that lopsided time of possession number mentioned earlier.
If there is any coach in America who can get things turned around quickly, it is Bill Snyder. He will have his work cut out for him if he wants to get the running game and defense where they need to be for the showdown with Texas on September 21st. Louisiana-Lafayette and Massachusetts are the Wildcats next two opponents between now and the Longhorns match-up, and neither may be as good as the FCS team, North Dakota State.
There is a lot of work to do for Snyder, and we shall see if he can fix the issues from this first game.