For the longest time, Kansas State’s halftime adjustments were viewed as one of its greatest strengths.
The Wildcats won 49 consecutive games when they held a halftime lead until they squandered a 28-20 advantage against Oklahoma State two weeks ago. Then they blew a 35-17 lead against TCU. They were in position to win their first five games, including two against undefeated and highly ranked conference foes. Instead, they are 3-2.
Bill Snyder thinks it may be time to change his halftime routine.
“We aren’t going to panic over it,” Snyder said. “But we are doing as much research as we possibly can to see if there is anything that should be different than what we are doing. Part of it is a matter of emphasis. Part of it is how we might approach any changes that we make in the second half. There are a variety of different things to consider.”
K-State hopes to change the way it opens the third quarter.
The Wildcats ran efficiently in the first half against both Oklahoma State and TCU, which led to nine touchdowns in the opening halves of those games. But the Cowboys and Horned Frogs altered their defenses to compensate in the third quarter.
K-State could have shown faith in its running attack and tried to continue churning out yards on the ground, but it decided to attack vulnerable secondaries through the air. K-State opened the third quarter with six straight passing plays at Oklahoma State and then passed on seven of its first 10 plays in the third quarter against TCU.
With accurate passes and sure-handed receivers, the strategy may have worked. Instead, K-State went three-and-out on consecutive drives against the Cowboys. TCU returned an interception for a touchdown and forced a punt on K-State’s first two drives of the third quarter on Saturday.
“That halftime adjustment is what we are struggling with right now,” K-State center Dalton Risner said. “Coming out of halftime, teams are making adjustments. We have to be able to make adjustments with their defense. They are bringing up a safety and putting people in the box to stop our run. We just have to adapt to it. There is no excuse for giving up an 18-point lead.”
Oklahoma State rallied to win on a last-minute field goal. TCU fought back and won by a touchdown. The results left some K-State fans second-guessing Snyder’s tactics, a rarity in Manhattan. Even with back-to-back losses, K-State has protected a halftime lead in 175 of 182 opportunities since 1990.
“You can’t blame it all on play calling,” K-State quarterback Joe Hubener said. “You can’t blame it all on players. It is a combination of coaches and players together. Whatever they call, we have to be able to execute. We failed to do that.”
On Tuesday, K-State players voiced frustration about the losses.
Hubener said the team said all the right things at halftime. No one thought the game was over. They remained fired up for the second half and a shot at a huge upset.
Linebacker Elijah Lee said the team needs to learn to stay focused throughout an entire game. Linebacker Will Davis said the Wildcats will emphasize finishing this week in practice. Looking back, he doesn’t think they closed out practices as strong as they could have while preparing for TCU. Perhaps that set the stage for a weak finish in the game.
One thing they all agreed on: Something must change.
“We are just tired of losing,” defensive tackle Travis Britz said. “We have lost twice now in two games we feel like we should have won. I feel like we are just eager to get back out there and prove we aren’t this 3-2 team. We should be a 5-0 team going to be a 6-0 team.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett