Kansas State defeated Kansas 30-20 on Saturday in Lawrence.
Some lingering thoughts from the game:
1. The opponent doesn’t seem to matter. K-State can’t defend the pass.
Kansas State is quickly becoming the defense every quarterback wants to play. Check out these passing stats from the Wildcats’ five conference games.
▪ Kansas QB Carter Stanley: 418 yards and a touchdown.
▪ Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield: 410 yards and two touchdowns
▪ TCU QB Kenny Hill: 297 yards but no touchdowns.
▪ Texas QB Sam Ehlinger: 380 yards and two touchdowns.
▪ Baylor QB Zach Smith: 291 yards and a touchdown.
Those numbers are bad, to put it nicely. And they don’t even account for the yardage each quarterback gained on the ground, such as 58 from Hill, 69 from Mayfield and 107 from Ehlinger.
The Jayhawks didn’t score a single point in losses to Iowa State (45-0) and TCU (43-0), playing so poorly against the Horned Frogs that they barely finished with positive yardage. Yet, against the Wildcats, moving the ball wasn’t an issue. Steven Sims had 233 receiving yards all by himself.
KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham used the ideal strategy. When K-State corners played off receivers, which was most of the time, the Jayhawks ran slants and other routes away from the sideline and easily found open space. When K-State used zone coverage, they found openings underneath. When K-State went man, they forced linebackers to cover deep.
For the second straight week, K-State linebacker Jayd Kirby was put in the impossible situation of trying to prevent speedy receivers from catching vertical routes. Sims caught a 60-yard pass against him in the fourth quarter on one of the most awkward coverage schemes of the day. K-State strong safety Denzel Goolsby came up to cover Sims short, but Kirby was sent back to cover him deep. Perhaps that was a miscommunication. If so, it was a costly error.
The next time defensive coordinator Tom Hayes thinks about using his linebackers in man coverage he should take a deep breath and switch to any other coverage. Oklahoma exploited that same thing last week.
D.J. Reed is a true lockdown corner, but the Wildcats are getting torched everywhere else.
Not good, especially with Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek (333 yards per game) next up on the schedule. The Red Raiders have slumped in their past two games, scoring a total of just 40 points, and are favored by just four over the Wildcats. But they will be licking their chops to throw the ball against this defense.
K-State will need a better defensive scheme, or a much-improved offense, to win in Lubbock.
2. Dana Dimel might want to consider some new short-yardage plays.
Time to give the fans what they want: Here’s some criticism of the offensive coordinator.
Inventive short-yardage plays have been lacking from K-State’s playbook in recent games. The battering ram formation (or whatever you want to call the QB sneak with everyone on the team pushing forward) is no longer as effective as it used to be. Teams have seen it on film and know what’s coming. KU stuffed Alex Delton on third-and-short and forced K-State to try something else on fourth down, a QB keeper to the right that was also stopped.
It’s not always easy to run for short yardage when the other team knows what is coming, and K-State’s offensive line isn’t blocking well enough right now to expect to win those plays.
TCU also shut down K-State on fourth down two weeks ago when it tried to run Justin Silmon out of the pistol on fourth-and-one. The Wildcats have had red-zone issues recently, and an inability to run for one yard in do-or-die situations (along with Byron Pringle miscues) is a big reason why.
K-State visited the red zone twice in the first half Saturday and walked away without a single point.
It would be nice to see the Wildcats incorporate at least one go-to pass in those situations. Not the easiest task, given the continued struggles of K-State receivers, but it would help add at least some element of surprise.
3. What to make of the injuries at quarterback and running back?
Bill Snyder revealed Saturday that Alex Barnes has been playing through injuries this season. That makes sense, as K-State’s top running back hasn’t rushed with the same speed or power that he flashed last season.
He still put up 128 yards and two touchdowns against the Jayhawks, taking traditional snaps and also lining up as QB in the wildcat formation. He should do more of that. He topped 100 yards for the second consecutive game. But he’s not at 100 percent.
“It’s football season,” Barnes said. “You are always going to have your little bumps and bruises and stuff. It’s all about fighting through it. It’s something I can fight through. I’ve been fighting through it for weeks.”
With that being said, I’m surprised the Wildcats didn’t use Justin Silmon or Dalvin Warmack more in this game. K-State has no desire to run between the tackles this year. Why not give Warmack a shot at utilizing his speed on some of those outside runs?
Barnes deserved more than six carries against Oklahoma, but he didn’t need to handle the ball 20 times against Kansas while nursing an injury.
At quarterback, we are getting to see multiple players throw the ball. Jesse Ertz missed another game, and Alex Delton was held out of the second half after taking a big hit to the helmet in the second quarter. It was Skylar Thompson time in Lawrence, and he did fine, completing 4 of 6 passes for 40 yards and running for 39 yards. He has the best arm on the team, but it may take time for him to earn trust from the coaches.
Snyder says he is “hoping and planning” to start Ertz against Texas Tech, but he’s been saying that for two weeks now. He didn’t offer an update on Delton.
At this point, there’s really no telling who will start against the Red Raiders. At least all three quarterbacks have some experience this season.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett