Lingering thoughts from Kansas State’s loss at Stanford:
1. K-State needs to stop taking delay-of-game penalties.
The Wildcats were penalized eight times for 44 yards on Friday. Those mistakes will always upset K-State coach Bill Snyder, and this was no exception. He said penalties were the largest issue with K-State’s offensive woes.
“The biggest thing was penalties continually putting us in a difficult situation,” Snyder said.
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The worst, and most needless, of those penalties were of the delay-of-game variety. K-State let the play clock expire three times against Stanford, including during a two-minute drill near the end of the second quarter. The Wildcats used timeouts to avoid a few more delays.
“I was pretty disappointed in us as a team from that aspect,” K-State running back Charles Jones said. “We were just beating ourselves. It would be third-and-short and then we put ourselves in third-and-medium and third-and-long. We just weren’t executing.”
What specifically led to the delays?
K-State quarterback Jesse Ertz suggested crowd noise was a factor, but admitted it shouldn’t have been.
Jones had a blunt explanation: “Overall communication, and not hurrying up to the line. We were just kicking ourselves in the butt.”
The Wildcats like to use as much clock as possible between plays in order to control possession and get the best possible look at a defensive formation, possibly leading to an effective audible that up-tempo teams don’t get a chance to use. But they wasted too much time in the opener. Delay penalties should be rare. K-State needs to act with more urgency between plays.
2. Elijah Lee and Dante Barnett are going to make a lot of tackles this season.
K-State held Stanford to 272 yards of offense and 26 points, keeping the Cardinal below 30 points for the first time in 14 games.
Linebacker Elijah Lee and safety Dante Barnett were the main reasons why.
Lee made a game-high 12 tackles, including one for loss. Barnett made four tackles, including 2.5 for loss. It was fun to see them playing together again after Barnett missed 12 games last season with a shoulder injury.
Lee made several solid tackles in traffic and in open space. He is well on his way to leading the Wildcats in tackles for the second year in a row. Barnett helped K-State’s front seven against the run. A year ago, several teams reeled off long runs against K-State because its defensive backs took poor angles when trying to stop the run. That wasn’t the case on Friday with Barnett back in the fold. His return was noticeable immediately.
The Wildcats still have some work to do against the pass (Stanford was 11 for 11 in the first half), but they appear good to go against the run. Take away touchdown runs of 35 and 41 yards from Chrisitan McCaffrey, and K-State consistently stopped the Cardinal on the ground.
3. The Wildcats should remain patient with Jesse Ertz.
Jesse Ertz couldn’t channel Collin Klein against Stanford, but that doesn’t mean K-State’s current starting quarterback is doomed to fail this season.
This was his second career start, but it might as well have been his first. It was almost exactly a year ago when he tore his ACL and was lost for the season after one play. Seeing extended action for the first time in a K-State uniform while coming off a major injury is not a recipe for success, especially against a top 10 opponent on the road. Ertz looked timid early and battled cramps in the third quarter, but he showed promise late. His final stat line -- 16 of 34 for 207 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one safety -- wasn’t impressive, but he did throw for 134 yards and a score in the fourth quarter. He also looked good running.
Those clamoring for Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson are better off staying patient with the guy who proved himself in practice.
Here’s guessing Ertz improves as he gains experience. New quarterbacks typically struggle at K-State. When Klein took over the offense as a junior, it took a late touchdown pass for K-State to beat Eastern Kentucky 10-7. The offense looked like a train wreck that day, but Klein quickly turned things around and the Wildcats won their first seven games. When Jake Waters made his first start against North Dakota State, the Wildcats lost 24-21. And Waters went on to set the school’s single-season record for passing yards the following season.
Like Ertz, they both had rocky starts. Like them, Ertz will have the opportunity to improve.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett