Monday morning quarterback...
• IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE — McPherson High’s 28-7 victory over Abilene on Friday may have been its most impressive performance of the season when you take into consideration the quality of competition.
The Bullpups were probably better against Augusta and Hays, but those teams didn’t quite rival what Abilene brought to the table which is why it was such a quality win.
Most importantly, the game allowed the Bullpups to be tested by the best throwing quarterback the team has faced all year. It had been pretty easy for the secondary through 8 weeks as most of the opponents had been running teams and the strength of the MHS defense is its ability to stop the run because it can fly to the ball so well.
But courageous Abilene quarterback Ryan Wilson, even with his left arm dangling at times because of a shoulder injury, did his best to throw the ball downfield. He did hit on several big plays in the middle of the field and threw for 205 yards. But take away one miscommunication in the secondary and the Bullpups would have pitched a shutout against a very good team.
Offensively, the Bullpups slogged through the first half for the second week in a row, but opened things up after the break for 21 points. Quarterback Casen Hoover continued one of the most efficient years ever by a Bullpup quarterback as he does a remarkable job of taking care of the ball and was 9 of 9 after the break. He hit on three TD passes in the second half and received run support from third-string tailback Jace Kinnamon, who filled in admirably for the injured Tyson Stites and Andrew Powell by rumbling for 123 yards on 17 carries as it took more than one defender to bring him down on most of his carries. The Bullpups have an embarrassment of riches in the backfield as he became the fourth MHS carrier to have a 100-yard game.
Abilene still qualified for the playoffs, thanks to Wamego knocking off Hays, and must play at Buhler. If Wilson were 100 percent, I’d say they could give the Crusaders a test since at times they’ve been vulnerable against the pass. But Buhler will probably survive and advance.
As for MHS, Andale comes to town and when you look at the bottom half of the Class 4A Division I draw, it reads like an AVCTL directory. Five of the eight teams are either in AVCTL Division III or IV. AVCTL teams Augusta and Mulvane square off, while as mentioned Buhler hosts Abilene. Maize South, which is the other team besides Buhler to own a win over the Bullpups, hosts Ulysses, which has to make the long bus trip.
Andale rivals Buhler as the best team the Bullpups have played all year. The Indians lost to Buhler in Week 7, but they played most of that game without their starting quarterback due to an injury. What always has impressed me about Andale is its intensity and quickness, not to mention flawless execution in the offensive line. It’s never the biggest team, but is perhaps the best-coached team MHS faces every year.
• BULLDOGS NEARING THE END — The first of a two-game stretch against powerhouse KCAC teams took place on Saturday for McPherson College when the Bulldogs suffered a 47-19 loss to Tabor.
It was the most decisive loss of the year for the Bulldogs, now 1-6 in the KCAC and 1-8 overall. Mac had lost four KCAC games by 10 points or less starting the day.
Mac hung tough for a quarter as the teams played to a scoreless tie. But Tabor, with a 30 mph. wind at its back in the second quarter, took advantage by scoring 26 points, mainly because of tremendous field position.
The Bulldogs’ special teams let them down in this game and they also saw two sure touchdown passes dropped.
The game underscored the Bulldogs’ two most glaring weaknesses, areas that Mac coach Paul Mierkiewicz said he will aggressively work on to resolve in the offseason.
One is depth. Tabor had amazing depth on both sides of the ball and simply wore down the Bulldogs, whose first 22 are pretty good, but then it’s a lot of inexperience after that.
Secondly, the Bulldogs’ lack of team speed will have to be addressed. There are no burners like what the Bluejays had as they could have put together a couple of 4 x 100 relay teams. Mac has a team with mainly possession receivers, but none that can stretch the field. Given quarterback Ed Crouch’s big arm, Mierkiewicz would love to have a couple of speedsters who could fly down the field and allow arm Crouch to showcase his gun.
Mac plays at Sterling on Saturday and right now the Warriors are the hottest offensive team in all of NAIA. It has averaged 60 points over the last four weeks and took apart Saint Mary’s No. 1 KCAC defense for 51 points. The Warriors are the fastest team in the KCAC with speed to burn.
• K-STATE SURVIVES — Kansas State was well on its way to a comfortable victory over Iowa State on Saturday.
Leading 31-10, though, the Wildcats had to hang on in the fourth quarter to escape Ames with a 31-26 success.
With Baylor and West Virginia both suffering their first losses, the Big 12 race is a scramble provided somebody can knock off Oklahoma. Kansas State is still in fifth at 3-2 and its game on Saturday in Manhattan against Oklahoma State will determine its chances. OSU is 4-1, but not nearly as strong as it has been.
A key will be for the Wildcats to be able to run the ball close to as effectively as it did on Saturday. They had 247 yards of rushing, but remember it’s against a one-win Cyclone team. Jesse Ertz continues to be the offensive pinwheel and you just hope he can stay healthy the rest of the season.
The much-heralded defense gave up 339 yards through the air, which is its weakness. It’s a bit alarming since the strength of Oklahoma State is the passing of Mason Rudolph.
I’m sticking to my guns that Kansas State will finish in the Top 3 of the Big 12. If it wins this game, it could still run the table the rest of the way, though winning at Baylor could be tough.
• JAYHAWKS DREADFUL — Everytime you think the Kansas Jayhawks are looking more like a competitive Big 12 team — they’ve given TCU and Oklahoma State scares — a game like Saturday’s 56-3 loss to Oklahoma reminds us just how they’re light-years away from being a contender.
The true culprit is the offense, which too often has drives that last less than a minute and the defense has to go right back on to the field.
It starts with the offensive line. It may be one of the five worst in all of NCAA Division I. It’s not as a big as most Big 12 lines and the lack of quickness and strength is stunning.
The defense gave up 56 points, but it has no depth and gets worn down in the second half.
KU goes to West Virginia on Saturday and I would expect it will be another long game. Right now, all its attention has to be put on its game with Iowa State, the only game it will be competitive in the rest of the year.
• GOOD WIN FOR CHIEFS — It seemed like every play the Chiefs were losing a player to an injury.
Alex Smith and Spencer Ware were casualties in the 30-14 road win at Indianapolis, a team that until Sunday had been inside the Chiefs’ head as Indy had won 13 of the previous 15.
But this is a Colt team that has Andrew Luck and not much else. It’s definitely a team in transition as it can’t run the ball or defense the pass.
Any road win is good for the Chiefs. They are now home on Sunday to take on struggling Jacksonville and can’t be caught looking past the Jags. A win and the Chiefs finish the first half of the season 6-2.