As the 48-27 final score against Louisiana indicates, Kansas State improved upon last week’s performance against North Dakota State.
But how much better were they?
Did the glaring weaknesses in last week’s loss to the Bison really improve that much?
The running game put up better numbers, but lets face it, that would have been hard not to do. The defense looked better, but still struggled in the second half with getting off the field on third down, allowing the Ragin’ Cajuns to keep their comeback hopes alive into the fourth quarter.
And the battle in the trenches? K-State didn’t look overmatched, but Louisiana more than held its own, out-rushing the Wildcats 177-149 despite playing catch up for most of the game.
Just like last week, it’s hard to quantify how many of the Wildcats’ issues were due to the abilities of their opponents. North Dakota State certainly looked like a quality team last week, and Louisiana is a favorite to win the Sun-Belt Conference this year after a 9-4 mark a season ago.
But it also isn’t hard to imagine Big 12 offenses having a hey-day against this defense.
The way he’s been performing this season, it’s not a stretch to see Hubert rushing for less than 3 yards per carry the rest of the year, wiping away any thought of a 1,000-yard season.
Not surprisingly, K-State head coach Bill Snyder wasn’t thrilled with the way his team played.
He emphasized K-State’s inability to put together four quarters of quality football.
After a strong first half, you can argue K-State simplified its offense in the second half to use clock and shorten the game, but the Wildcat defense had no such excuse. With the chance to effectively end the game early in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t get off the field.
Louisiana had back-to-back scoring drives of 80 and 78 yards where they went 5 of 6 on third down plays after failing to convert a third down in the entire first half. When K-State needed a stop, once again it couldn’t get one - until the final drive for the Ragin’ Cajuns, which saw not only a third-down stop, but a stuff on fourth down that allowed K-State to take over and run out the clock.
Snyder acknowledged the defensive unit was probably tired at the end of the game after spending so much time on the field, but reiterated he doesn’t accept that as an excuse.
“I believe that they were probably worn down a bit,” Snyder said. “I think that was the case last week, that was part of it. But to me, it’s a mindset. If you want to be worn down, you’ll be worn down. If you don’t, you won’t. That’s what we have to overcome.”
For Wildcat fans, it’s a little scary to think how this game might have gone without a special teams touchdown by Tramaine Thompson and Ty Zimmerman’s pick-6 in the second half.
But you can’t just blame the defense. Consider the Wildcat rushing attack.
Against a team that gave up nearly 300 yards on the ground a week ago, K-State still couldn’t get going on the ground, instead opting to do its first-half damage through the air. They finished with 149 yards on the ground, but only 73 of them came from K-State’s running backs. Daniel Sams was effective in limited action, and helped open up holes for Hubert by grabbing the attention of the Ragin’ Cajun defense, but it doesn’t change the fact that five of his 18 rushes went for negative yardage and his longest rush of the season went for 17 yards.
Snyder said Hubert made progress, but still needs to do more.
“He has to rise to the occasion,” Snyder said. “John has to step up and make some positive things happen.”
Snyder’s mantra has always been about consistency and steady improvement, and that hasn’t changed. But after two subpar outings by the Wildcats, I don’t think Snyder would mind if they sped up their progress.