Lingering thoughts from Kansas State’s 38-17 loss at Oklahoma on Saturday:
1. There might not be a quick fix for Kansas State’s offensive struggles.
The Wildcats are hurting on offense right now. Take away two home blowouts against Florida Atlantic and Missouri State and they have accomplished little this season. Thirteen points at Stanford, 16 points at West Virginia, 30 points against Texas Tech (14 points came on special teams and defense) and now 17 points at Oklahoma.
That’s an average of 19 points of offenses against power-conference competition. If you’re more into yardage, K-State averaged 322.75 yards in those games. Throw in the FAU and Missouri State wins and the yardage average only rises to 343.
Those numbers rank at the bottom of the Big 12 (even below Kansas after the OU loss) and near the bottom of the nation. Head to your favorite college football site, click on the statistics tab and find total offense. Then start scrolling down. Eventually you will find K-State at No. 119, ahead of Rice, UTEP, Vanderbilt, Navy, Georgia State, Boston College, Buffalo, Stanford and South Carolina.
That’s … Not good.
K-State was at its worst over the weekend after backup quarterback Joe Hubener took over for an injured Jesse Ertz. But, in a display of just how much the offense has struggled, he delivered the longest gain of the season on a broken play in which he scrambled outside the pocket and found Dominique Heath for a 54-yard touchdown.
When Bill Snyder thinks punting from midfield, while down 14 midway through the fourth quarter, gives the team a better shot at winning than trying to convert a fourth-and-nine, you know things are bad.
The Wildcats are struggling in all areas, and there doesn’t appear to be a quick fix.
Ertz is completing just 49.6 percent of his passes, and he can’t seem to connect on long throws. K-State receivers do a decent job of getting open, but drops continue to be a major issue.
I have heard many theories over the past few days, with fans blaming the quarterbacks, the offensive coordinator, the offensive line and the receivers.
They all need to be better.
Perhaps K-State would have more success with a run-based scheme. It is averaging a respectable 4.8 yards per rush. But the Wildcats ran the ball 32 times against the Sooners and gained just 110 yards on them.
The Wildcats hope Ertz can return on Saturday. If not, Snyder says they will likely go with Hubener. Or maybe they turn to Alex Delton. Regardless of who plays quarterback, they will each face an uphill climb.
Texas has struggled on defense this season (though it shut down Iowa State) so K-State will have an opportunity to get things turned around this week. But it’s hard to expect much quick improvement given these struggles have lasted six games.
2. Slow starts are becoming a problem for K-State’s defense.
Much like Texas Tech last week, Oklahoma shredded K-State in the first half. The Sooners moved the ball at ease throughout the first quarter and took a 14-0 lead, making the Wildcats’ usually dependable defense look out of sync.
K-State eventually settled down and played better in the final three quarters (as it did against Texas Tech) but, this time, the damage was done.
“We have got to start from the beginning,” K-State linebacker Elijah Lee said. “We can’t be trying to catch up and be playing catch up the whole time.”
Snyder had no interest in addressing this topic after the game.
But players openly admitted slow starts have become an unsettling trend.
“It’s hard whenever they have scripted plays and they are going at a fast tempo,” Lee said. “That is something we have to learn to do, be ready from the beginning and not wait a quarter.”
Coaches need to do a better job preparing the defense for those situations.
Still, tackling and poor coverage hurt K-State more than anything against Oklahoma. The Sooners had open receivers streaking down the field on several occasions. Corner Duke Shelley got caught out of position a few times. If not for a terrible drop, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield would have had another touchdown pass.
K-State has a hard enough time defending the best spread attacks in the Big 12. It can’t continue to get caught off guard in the first quarter against them.
3. There was lots of trash talk surrounding this game.
Fair or not, Oklahoma players took a mid-week comment from K-State defensive end Reggie Walker, in which he said OU running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine were “easy to tackle” so long as you play fundamentally sound defense and hit them hard, as an insult and used it as motivation during Saturday’s win.
When it was over, Mixon shot back on Instagram.
Lee, after making 10 tackles that included one really hard hit in the second half, had some words of his own.
“It felt good,” Lee said of his big hit, “because they talked the whole game, they chipped, they played dirty, pushing you and stuff like that. Whenever you get a chance to make a clean, hard hit you have to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett