Coming up empty last week against TCU was hard on everyone associated with Kansas State’s offense. Watching replays of the game was even harder.
“Film was definitely tough to watch,” K-State receiver Dalton Schoen said. “There were a lot of plays we left out there, a lot of plays that could have changed the dynamic of the game, and totally shifted momentum.”
After letting all those mistakes sink in, quarterback Alex Delton offered a matter-of-fact analysis ahead of K-State’s upcoming football game against Oklahoma.
“I have got to be better,” he said, “and we have got to be better as an offensive unit to win ballgames.”
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In what areas can the Wildcats improve? Take your pick.
But red-zone efficiency is a good place to start. K-State twice crossed the TCU 20 last week, but walked away without a single point.
On its first trip to the red zone, receiver Byron Pringle appeared to catch a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone, but the score was negated by pass interference. K-State fumbled on the next play, allowing TCU to take a 13-3 lead moments after it appeared the Wildcats were about to make the score 10-7.
Later, K-State drove 57 yards to the TCU 8 and got stuffed on fourth-and-short. A touchdown would have made it 20-13. Instead, the Horned Frogs were on their way to a 26-6 advantage.
Under Bill Snyder, the Wildcats have traditionally been one of the nation’s most efficient teams in the red zone. They scored on 91.9 percent of their red-zone trips last season, finishing drives with 43 touchdowns and 14 field goals on 62 attempts. This year, they are converting on 84 percent of their red-zone visits with 14 touchdowns and seven field goals on 25 attempts.
“That was a significant element of the ballgame the other day,” Snyder said. “We were first-and-goal on the 7-yard line and could not get it in. There are a lot of things that contributed to the loss, and it is probably encapsulated in maybe four snaps in the ballgame. You cannot rely on putting the ball in between the uprights all of the time. You have to get in down in there. You cannot afford to lose four points constantly down there, and that was the case. We were inside two times and failed to get any points on the board. We have got to be better.”
That mission starts on the ground. The easiest way to score in short-yardage situations is with a powerful running game, but the Wildcats don’t currently have one.
Running backs Alex Barnes and Justin Silmon both entered the season on the Doak Walker Award preseason watch list, yet neither has rushed for 100 yards in a game. TCU held them to a combined 21 rushing yards on nine attempts, leading both Barnes and Snyder to criticize offensive coordinator Dana Dimel for calling predictable plays that fail to properly utilize personnel.
“We just have to make sure that we have a good feeling about what we are capable of doing,” Snyder said, “and make sure we invest our time and effort in those things.”
Execution could also be better. The offensive line rarely picked up blitzes last week, which left Delton with little time to find receivers and make accurate passes. He completed 11 of 29 for 146 yards.
If Jesse Ertz is unable to play and Delton makes his second college start against Oklahoma, he knows what he needs to do.
“We are confident we are better than that,” he said. “We know we are better than that.… Last week, that was the first full game I played since I was in a Hays High Indian uniform. It’s kind of different, but I have prepared for it. I am supposed to be here right now. It was different for sure, but I feel acclimated to the game. After the first possession or two I felt in a rhythm, like this is where I should be.”
K-State will need Delton to play at a higher level to compete with Oklahoma, a team that averages 42 points and 575.5 yards before senior quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Then again, the Wildcats probably need everyone to step up in this game.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett