• WILDCATS MISSED CHANCE FOR STATEMENT — Kansas State’s nationally televised football game against Auburn Thursday night brought back memories of my golf game when I experienced a forgettable period of the shanks.
Three missed field goals and a through-the-hands interception in the end zone deprived the 20th-ranked Wildcats of an upset of the No. 5 Tigers at the energized purple madhouse known as Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
The Wildcats certainly proved without a doubt they belonged on the field with the Tigers in the 20-14 setback. It’s not often a Snyder-coached team beats itself, but the Wildcats’ self-infliction of wounds caused them to miss a golden opportunity to make a national-stage statement and put a dent into the supposedly impenetrable SEC shield.
In addition to the unexpected misfires on the field goals — the 22-yarder may have been the dagger — the Wildcats could never mount any semblance of a running game, which I thought going into the season was their glaring weakness with the graduation of John Hubert and no proven backup from last year. KSU managed just 40 yards rushing on 30 attempts, with DeMarcus Robinson tops with 25.
I really don’t like seeing the Wildcats run Jake Waters as much as they do, given that I don’t even know the name of Kansas State’s backup quarterback. Last year Daniel Sams would come out of the bullpen to provide excitement, but this year is all about Waters and the Wildcats will go as far as he’ll take them.
The Kansas State defense did an excellent job in the first half, but wore down in the second. The Tigers, however, still finished with less than 400 yards and just 128 on the ground. The Wildcats wanted to make Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall throw the ball and he did better than I expected.
The Wildcats certainly will have something to say about the Big 12 race, judging from this game. But they do have to play at both Oklahoma and Baylor, considered the other favorites. KSU didn’t exactly play well in its first road game, coming from behind late to edge expected second-division finisher Iowa State.
• PENNANT FEVER IN KC — Well, this is it. Make-or-break time for the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals host AL Central-leading Detroit tonight in the first game of a three-game series that figures to greatly determine the division winner.
It’s also the final home series of the year, as the Royals play the final week on the road, where they actually have been far better. KC has been 10 better to .500 on the road at 42-32, but is just 41-36 at home.
And, of course, they have been next-to-awful against Detroit this season, going 5-11. The Tigers have used the normally strong Royals’ pitching staff like their own personal pinata, as many of the games have been lopsided routs.
The Royals go with soft-tosser Jason Vargas tonight, Big Game James Shields on Saturday and Jeremy Guthrie on Sunday. It’s imperative the Royals win the first two, since the Tigers light up when they see the batting practice that Guthrie has thrown against them. There seems to be no in-between for Guthrie, as he’s either nails or serves up fat pitches on a platter.
The Kansas City hitters have to show up, no doubt. Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Billy Butler are mired in terrible slumps, with Nori Aoki, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain, of all the unlikely trios, carrying the load.
Butler, in fact, has practically been nailed to the bench as manager Ned Yost is going with the hot hand and you have to wonder if Butler will even be on the postseason roster if the Royals get that far. Yost got tired of watching Butler ground to short and third repeatedly and had no other choice. Would he reward Butler for his meritorious service if the Royals do make the playoffs since he’s been with the team longer than anybody and has dreamed of playoff baseball in Kansas City forever? That will be a tough call if the choice has to be made.
Even if the Royals don’t win the division, they could make the wild-card. It’s basically come down to a three-team race with KC, Oakland and Seattle. The Royals are 83-68, the A’s are 83-69 and the Mariners are 82-70. Remember, though, the Royals pretty much know they’re going to lose the suspended game in Cleveland on Sept. 22, so in reality they are 83-69 like the A’s.
It will be interesting to see what kind of crowds the Royals have this weekend. You have to believe they’ll be close to 35,000 for each game, unless Detroit wins the first two. Royals fans are a skeptical bunch and have had their hearts broken more times than they count.
• CHIEFS AT MIAMI SUNDAY — The Kansas City Chiefs may have been lulled into a false sense of security last week.
The Chiefs basically played the high-powered Denver Broncos to a standstill despite losing stars Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry early on to ankle sprains.
Yet, the Chiefs bandaged their fife-and-drum club to the point where they looked like a legitimate playoff team.
The Chiefs stay on the road Sunday at Miami. Kansas City has had a lot of trouble in the state of Florida in the past, but this is a game it could steal if it plays close to last week’s form.
The only problem is, last week might have been the Chiefs’ shining moment. They really can’t expect Knile Davis to be that effective (79 yards and two TDs) and to keep the ball for a 2-1 advantage in plays.
If those factors play out, however, maybe the Chiefs can come away with their first win. Somehow, though, I doubt it.