Credit KU for hanging in against K-State

By Steve Sell
October 30, 2017

This is why I’m not a betting man — at least on matters I have no control over.

Last week I railed against the odds-makers who installed Kansas State as a mere 24-point favorite over in-state rival Kansas, wondering what they were smoking.

Kansas State was coming off a last-second loss to mighty Oklahoma (and a game it probably should have won as it blew a double-digit lead), while Kansas had just produced a putrid 21 yards of total offense against TCU and had been outscored 88-0 in its last two games.

If I were a betting man, I would have wagered all my worldly possessions that Kansas State would cover the spread. KU looked like dead team walking and anxious for the season to get over.

But playing at home before a Kansas State-influenced crowd, the Jayhawks not only covered the spread, but actually played the Wildcats toe-to-toe before losing 30-20. 

I realize Kansas State played without steady quarterback Jesse Ertz. And his backup, Alex Delton, went out in the second half, forcing the Wildcats to dig deep into the reserves for the never-used Skyler Thompson. But Delton — who led KSU to 35 points against OU — did play the first half and the Wildcats managed only a 10-6 lead, built on the 99-yard kickoff return by D.J. Reed.

But what stood out for me was the yardage the much-malinged Kansas offense accumulated, most of it through the air with Carter Stanley at the controls.

Stanley, in his first start this season, had been the fans’ choice as they had grown weary of the more-heralded Peyton Bender missing open receiver after open receiver and having feet of cement. Stanley used his arms and legs to propel KU to a whopping 482 yards on 76 plays, while Kansas State was held to 340 on 59 snaps.

Had it not been for KU’s Keystone Cops impersonation on special teams, the Jayhawks might have pulled off the most stunning upset of the Sunflower State series. They deserve all the praise for making this a competitive game.

Kansas State continues to be perplexing. It finally discovered that Alex Barnes can handle a heavy workload and the Wildcats would have been lost without him. He ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns and had 23 touches after carrying just 6 times for 108 yards last week.

I get it that Kansas State has to pare the playbook without Ertz. While talented, Delton is still quite inexperienced. He’s an outstanding runner and seems to be accurate, though Bill Snyder and his coaching staff appears gun-shy on letting him throw the ball. This is a Kansas State team that’s built to run the ball behind a massive offensive line and that’s what it did.

But what does a slim 10-point victory over Kansas mean for K-State, when the other Big 12 teams have been using the Jayhawks as a punching bag? I’m sure their players are human and had seen how KU had reached rock bottom against TCU. Maybe they thought all they had to do was walk on the field and win by 45.

Kansas State, a team I thought could win the Big 12 before I realized that Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and, yes, Iowa State, were better than I thought, is now just 4-4 overall. It has four games left and given how Stanley threw for 418 yards against the KSU secondary, it makes me wonder what’s in store for the ‘Cats on Saturday when they go into Lubbock and face Texas Tech’s pass-happy attack.

The Wildcats then have games left at home against West Virginia (another pass-heavy team), on the road at Oklahoma State and at home against Iowa State. Kansas State doesn’t have a bowl berth clinched yet and unless it figures out its pass defense, it’s no longer a done deal that it will earn a bowl game.