Lingering thoughts from Kansas State’s 24-21 victory over Texas on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium:
1. This is the offense K-State should use when Jesse Ertz is healthy.
Jesse Ertz played through a shoulder injury that limited his throwing ability, and K-State adjusted its offense accordingly, asking Ertz to attempt mostly short passes in the flats instead of asking him to throw down field.
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The strategy paid major dividends, as Ertz looked sharper than he had all season while completing 20 of 27 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
Those are numbers the Wildcats can win with.
K-State coach Bill Snyder said Ertz threw “soft” but should be back at full strength for the Iowa State game. True or not, the Wildcats should continue using him the way they did against the Longhorns.
Ertz made good decisions and K-State’s receivers made great blocks. After the game, Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls told me he thought the Wildcats had the best blocking receivers in the entire Big 12.
Byron Pringle (four catches, 42 yards and a touchdown), Dominique Heath (seven catches, 41 yards) and Deante Burton (four catches, 53 yards) all looked good clearing space for each other on bubble screens and short routes. They should keep doing that.
If there’s one thing Ertz has proven he can’t do, it’s throw deep. And he continued to struggle when he went down field Saturday, tossing an interception on a broken play when he thought he saw an opening deep and lofted a pass into traffic. Might as well play to his strengths the way K-State did against Texas.
It helped that Texas defensive backs played way off the line of scrimmage. That’s something not every opponent will do. But K-State found something on Saturday. Ertz looked better hurt than he normally does healthy.
2. K-State appears in good shape for a seventh-straight bowl trip.
The Wildcats (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) still need two more victories to reach bowl eligibility, of course, but odds are good they will get them. They are favored by a touchdown in their next game at Iowa State and they may be favored in two weeks when they host Oklahoma State. It’s not hard to envision a 6-3 start.
After that, it’s a difficult road game against Baylor, a home game against Kansas and then the season-finale at TCU, which is starting to look like a toss-up.
None of those games are freebies (except for KU) and K-State will need to take care of business and keep improving, but there is reason to hope.
Beating Texas gives K-State an opportunity to finish strong and qualify for a solid bowl. A loss would have put that in jeopardy. That’s how big Saturday’s victory was. If Texas receiver Dorian Leonard holds onto a pass on fourth down, if Texas kicker Trent Domingue doesn’t shank a field goal and if Jordan Willis doesn’t create havoc in the second half and K-State falls to 3-4, its margin for error all but disappears. It was practically a must-win, in the grand scheme of things. K-State showed good character in this win.
3. Charles Jones can’t stay out of Bill Snyder’s doghouse.
K-State coach Bill Snyder sent starting running back Charles Jones to the bench for the second time this season for dropping the football at the goal line.
But unlike Jones’ first drop, in which he scored a touchdown and was punished for celebrating instead of handing the football to the nearest official, this time he failed to cross the goal line with the ball. Just when it looked like he was going to cap a heck of a drive in the third quarter with a well-deserved touchdown run, a Texas defender jarred the ball free at the last possible moment.
A touchdown would have given K-State a commanding 28-7 lead. Instead, Texas jumped on the fumble and had new life.
Snyder was not pleased.
“When you were five years old and you went out for Pop Warner Football they told you to keep both hands on the ball,” Snyder said. “So that was extremely disappointing -- extremely.”
Jones was having a great day up to the point (81 yards on 12 attempts) but he didn’t see another carry.
Justin Silmon and Alex Barnes finished out the game.
“It’s frustrating,” Jones said. “My team deserves seven right there. I made a mistake and didn’t secure the ball. I’m hard on myself. I should have just held onto the ball. It’s a hard thing to go through … It just popped out.”
The last time Jones got benched, he missed the first quarter of the following game, too. It will be interesting to see who gets the starting nod in Ames next week at running back.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett