Saturday was Kansas State’s worst offensive showing in Stillwater in 30 years.
The teams played in the Big 8, and even Oklahoma State’s 29-year-old punter wasn’t born yet.
K-State lost 26-13 and finished with 244 yards of offense. Here is why:
Missed blocking assignments
For as good as the offensive line has been, K-State coach Chris Klieman said its performance stood out in a negative way on film.
The Wildcats’ five up front weren’t alone. The tight ends and fullbacks missed a lot of blocks that contributed to a lack of sustained execution running the ball.
On the Cats’ second snap of the game, running back James Gilbert took a toss left. Left tackle Scott Frantz and tight end Nick Lenners pulled.
K-State hit on every block but one. Lenners whiffed on the OSU safety, and Gilbert was taken down after three yards. It could have been potentially much more.
Quarterback Skylar Thompson threw incomplete on third-and-seven, and it was a three-and-out.
Early in the fourth quarter, K-State ran the same concept with the same result.
Gilbert took a sweep handoff left. Left guard Josh Rivas tried to pull, but Frantz got pushed back. Lenners pulled, too. He got eyes to the middle linebacker but missed the safety again.
Gilbert would have had the edge and potentially a touchdown. He was dropped for a loss instead.
Lenners wasn’t the only one missing a climb to the second level of the defense.
In the second quarter, after taking a loss on first down, Jordon Brown took a handoff through the B-gap. Right guard Nick Kaltmeyer kicked out the outside linebacker. Mitchell sealed the defensive end.
With no lead blocker, that meant Holtorf needed to climb to the middle linebacker. He couldn’t get through, and Brown was hit in the hole.
K-State finished with 126 rushing yards. The Wildcats had 18 at halftime and six in the first quarter.
Against Mississippi State, K-State had 41 rushing yards on its first drive.
First down struggles
Klieman’s offense is focused around success on first down.
The Wildcats have to run the ball, especially on first down, and Klieman told ESPN as much at halftime.
“Just can’t get into a rhythm,” Klieman told ESPN. “They’ve done a nice job of getting us out of a good first-and-10 call and getting us backed up against the sticks.”
In the first half, K-State earned one first down and had sevend rives of four plays or fewer. The Wildcats earned more than three yards on first down twice in the first half. The second half wasn’t much better.
It started with the offense’s first snap of the game. Thompson couldn’t find anyone and stepped out for no gain. The Cats went three-and-out.
On the next drive, Brown took a left-side handoff. Mitchell missed on a pull block. Frantz and Lenners doubled the defensive end, and that left the middle linebacker free to crash on the back side.
Brown went down for a loss of 2.
With 6:06 left in the first quarter, Skylar Thompson motioned tight end Logan Long alongside fullback Mason Barta.
They doubled the middle linebacker through the C-gap as tight end Blaise Gammon kicked out the outside linebacker. But because of the double, the Wildcats left the other middle linebacker alone.
Coming out of halftime, the K-State offense looked to be picking up steam, but a missed assignment killed it.
After quarterback Skylar Thompson ran 20 yards for the second first down of the game, he handed off to James Gilbert.
The design had a chance for another explosive play, but a blitzing middle linebacker threw off the assignments. Frantz, the left tackle, and tight ends Logan Long and Nick Lenners crashed down. Left guard Josh Rivas pulled into the D-gap. Fullback Jax Dineen led the way.
No one reacted to the blitz, and the play was blown up four yards behind the line of scrimmage. The drive was over.
Early in the fourth, the line missed another blitz.
Frantz and Rivas doubled the defensive end. Center Adam Holtorf and right guard Tyler Mitchell doubled the nose guard. No one took the middle linebacker.
Thompson got hit, and another first down went begging. It was K-State’s first snap in the red zone after an interception from Darreyl Patterson.
K-State finished with 72 yards on first down. OSU had 105 in the first quarter on first down and 320 for the game.
Poor passing execution
After the loss, Klieman said Thompson was under “duress” throughout the game, but he wasn’t hit until the third quarter.
After watching the film, Klieman said the receivers need to work harder to get open. Thompson finished with 118 passing yards on 11-of-23 with no touchdowns.
He also took few shots downfield and was quick to leave the pocket at times. Once he did, he struggled finding receivers.
Thompson threw for three first down, had four straight incompletions at one point. And when he hit five passes in-a-row, it was already the fourth quarter. K-State was trailing 23-3.
Outside of the fourth quarter, Thompson was 6-of-16 for 72 yards. Klieman still backed his QB postgame.
“I know one thing: The kid freaking battled,” he said. “He always thought we were going to win.”
Shots to the foot
On top of the offense’s struggles, K-State refused to help itself at times.
The Wildcats dropped two passes and turned the ball over once. Even worse, the drops came on arguably two of Thompson’s best throws of the night.
On K-State’s opening first down of the third quarter, the Wildcats sent Brown on a wheel route up the left sideline. It’s one of Brown’s best spots as a receiver out of the backfield.
Against cover 3, Thompson had to fit the pass in a tight window, and he hit it perfectly. The pass hit Brown’s hands, but Brown looked up before securing the ball. A safety was crashing down.
K-State went three-and-out.
Midway through the first quarter, Gilbert took a handoff to the right. The offensive line created no space against a three-man front, and Gilbert was stacked up in the middle.
Pushing the pile, he would have earned a three or four-yard gain. Instead, Holtorf, who had inside leverage on the nose guard for a seal, lost his block, and the nose guard stripped the ball.
On the Cats’ next drive, Thompson had his best pass, maybe of the season.
Lenners can be a solid blocking tight end but struggles at times to get open. Thompson threw him open on his longest pass of the night.
Lenners got a good release past the outside linebacker, crashing to the inside. He carried a seam route across the field to the K-State sideline.
The outside linebacker had more speed and closed the gap as the ball arrived. Lenners had to leave his feet, but the ball bounced off his hands.
As half the Wildcats’ drives did Saturday night, it ended with a three-and-out.
Over the past five years, OSU has been ranked outside the top 50 in team defense. This season, the Cowboys are 53rd, even after Saturday.
K-State’s 13 points were the fewest by a ranked Wildcat team against OSU in program history.