Alex Barnes shook his head as he thought about how Kansas State’s offense has only scored two touchdowns through two games.
“That’s embarrassing, man, that’s pitiful,” said Barnes, the Wildcats’ starting running back. “We came in wanting to be one of the more efficient offenses, and we’re nowhere near that.”
In Saturday’s 31-10 drubbing at the hands of No. 18 Mississippi State, K-State’s offense only scored one touchdown — a 23-yard pass from Skylar Thompson to Dalton Schoen that came with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter. It happened a play after Wyatt Hubert intercepted MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to set up the offense with a short field.
But when it came to mounting drives, K-State proved inefficient. The Wildcats just couldn’t seem to move the ball with any sort of regularity, and when they did, they couldn’t break off a big play or close drives. They fizzled out.
K-State’s best drive came in the first quarter, an 11-play, 54-yard journey that ended with a Blake Lynch field goal to tie the game at 3-3. Otherwise, the Wildcats stumbled, gaining just 213 yards compared to 538 for MSU.
Of the Wildcats’ 10 drives, only three went for 30 or more yards. Two of those were in the first half. They averaged just 3.8 yards per play overall.
Thompson, who started at quarterback for the second consecutive game, shouldered the blame.
“I (have) got to get better,” he said. “A lot of this falls on me, and I’ll take full responsibility. I want it on my shoulders, because our guys, they don’t deserve to feel the way they feel in the locker room today.”
He completed 7 of 17 passes for 86 yards and threw the team’s only touchdown. It wasn’t a glamorous stat line, but he was constantly on the run and on his toes. He said MSU’s defensive line was the best he’d ever faced.
Barnes carried 17 times for 75 yards. He looked good, lowering his shoulder on opposing defenders a couple times. With his team down 17-3, Barnes began the second half with consecutive runs of 15, 12 and 9 yards. The Wildcats were at MSU’s 35-yard line.
Then, Thompson was tackled for a 3-yard loss before throwing an incomplete pass. K-State, which looked to be building momentum, punted. On the ensuing possession, MSU went 95 yards in five plays to make it 24-3.
“Yeah, we were feeling pretty good,” Barnes said of the team’s drive to open the second half. “Moving the ball, getting downfield, doing what we expected to do. We’ve got to be more consistent with that stuff.
“It can’t be an every-now-and-then thing. We have to take that into every single drive.”
It seemed that, even when the Wildcats began to run the ball well, they couldn’t throw it effectively.
“The pass rush got on top of (Thompson) and he just couldn’t see well,” head coach Bill Snyder said.
Thompson quarterbacked much of the game, but Alex Delton also saw action. He said the team’s issues came down to its execution.
He was firm when speaking of the group’s ineffectiveness.
“You could just look across the board,” said Delton, who threw an interception. “I don’t think we threw the ball well, I don’t think we ran the ball well, I don’t we blocked that well. I think our receivers did OK, a pretty good job. But I don’t think we played all that well offensively, and that’ll get you beat.”
The battle for the starting quarterback job has been the top storyline since the spring. But it seems the issues on offense right now go far past the quarterbacks. Snyder said his offensive line looked “soft” in pass protection. Other than Barnes, no other running back had a carry. The group was stifled by a stingy MSU defense.
“Now, it’s just, we’re up against it,” Delton said. “We haven’t clicked like we’d like, so we’ve got to bounce back. We can’t dwell in it. We can be upset at ourselves, but we can’t let it affect us Week 3.”
The offense, which has mostly limped through the first two games, will have a chance to regroup next week against UTSA before a difficult conference slate begins with a game at West Virginia.
Until there’s a breakthrough, the unit will continue to try and find itself.
“We’re definitely searching for an identity, I guess you could say,” Thompson said. “But confidence, it’s not lost. It’s something I feel like our guys still have. It’s disappointing because we feel like we’re better than what we’re putting on the field right now, and that’s frustrating.”