Three K-State Thoughts: Kody Cook surprises, secondary struggles and curious play calls

K-State quarterback Kody Cook dives for a touchdown in the first half Saturday.
K-State quarterback Kody Cook dives for a touchdown in the first half Saturday. The Wichita Eagle

Three thoughts from Oklahoma State’s 36-34 victory over Kansas State on Saturday:

1. Kody Cook is one heck of a fifth-string quarterback.

Raise your hand if you thought K-State’s offense would improve when Joe Hubener exited the game with a head injury and Kody Cook, the Wildcats’ leading receiver, took over at quarterback.

No one? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Cook exceeded the wildest of expectations by leading K-State to four touchdowns in the first half, finishing with 122 yards and two touchdowns passing and 87 yards and one touchdown running. It’s rare for a team to use a third-string quarterback for extended time, let alone its fifth-string passer. Yet Cook put K-State in position to win, throwing passes in a live game for the first time since junior college.

Oklahoma State shut him down in the third quarter, but K-State did him no favors with its play calling.

If he’s healthy enough to play against TCU (he injured his right shoulder in the fourth quarter and didn’t return) you have to think he will continue getting reps at quarterback. At the least, he should lead the wildcat formation. His ability to complete short passes, something Hubener oddly struggles with, is a boost.

"Ever since he has been here and came in as a quarterback and even when he was a wide receiver he would step out and throw with us after practice," receiver Deante Burton said. "In a way, I think he has always been preparing for another opportunity to play quarterback. When he got that opportunity he made the most of it."

2. K-State’s secondary needs Dante Barnett back.

Remember when K-State’s secondary was supposed to be the strength of its defense? Things have played out much differently.

Pass defense was K-State’s downfall against Oklahoma State. Mason Rudolph connected on 34 of 55 passes for 437 yards and three touchdowns, often lobbing passes and letting his receivers win jump balls. He picked on corner Morgan Burns early and often, victimizing him three straight times on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Danzel McDaniel wasn’t much better, allowing several big plays and whiffing on tackles.

It’s never a good sign when defensive backs lead your team in tackles, and the Wildcats had that problem Saturday. Donnie Starks made 11 tackles, Kaleb Prewett made nine, McDaniel made seven and Burns made six. Throw in another four from Nate Jackson, and K-State’s defensive backs combined for 37 tackles. They need to break up more throws and make fewer tackles.

Also troubling, they haven’t made an interception all season.

Barnett, a standout safety, can’t return soon enough.

3. Oklahoma State won the third quarter, which ultimately won it the game.

Cook surprised Oklahoma State in the first half, but the Cowboys were ready for him the third quarter, holding K-State to a single yard of offense

Credit Oklahoma State for making defensive changes, but K-State hurt itself with curious play calls.

Here is how the Wildcats started the second half:

Incomplete pass, incomplete pass, sack, punt. Incomplete pass, sack, incomplete pass, punt.

Not a single quarterback keeper. Not a single handoff to Justin Silmon. Two three-and-outs.

"It was us," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "It wasn’t anything they did."

He elaborated: "It was more us. They didn’t do anything that we hadn’t seen."

Another interesting call occurred in the fourth quarter, with K-State on top 28-26 and driving. On second-and-10 from the OSU 30, the Wildcats called a trick play in which fullback Glenn Gronkowski was supposed to throw to receiver Kyle Klein. Oklahoma State defenders got in the backfield and put pressure on Gronkowski. He eventually threw the ball away and was flagged for intentional grounding. The loss, coupled with a sack on the following play, moved K-State out of field-goal range.

A field goal would have made a world of difference in that situation, but K-State got aggressive and the plan backfired.

Here was Snyder’s explanation for the play:

"Just the feeling that the run support out of the secondary was reasonably aggressive, and it was," Snyder said. "It was Kyle who ran the route and the guy was coming up and he was going forward and he got by him. We just didn’t protect it as well as we should."

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.

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