The Kansas State Wildcats were embarrassed by the Texas Longhorns in their regular-season finale on Saturday, losing 69-31 and falling to 4-6 on the season. It seems like ages ago when K-State was 4-1 and tied for first place in the Big 12. The wheels fell off during a 37-10 blowout loss to West Virginia on Halloween, which was the first of three blowout losses K-State suffered this season. The others: a 45-0 loss to Iowa State in Ames and the 38 point loss to Texas in Manhattan on Saturday.
Texas dominated offensively and did whatever they wanted all game long, racking up 608 total yards. As a K-State fan, I was having flashbacks to watching Wildcat defenses in 2007 and 2008 when Ron Prince was head coach. Those defenses were historically bad. Chris Klieman commented to the media after the game, “We couldn’t stop them (and) we ran out of players. All of that being said, give Texas credit. That running back (Robinson) is a great player. That quarterback, in my mind, is the best quarterback in the league. They’re really big up front, and we didn’t do a good enough job of stopping them. We have to get bigger. We have to get stronger. We have to get heavier. We have to do all those things because we were mismatched today.”
All of this is true. However, every team in the country is dealing with Covid issues. I believe Texas had three players opt out of the season that didn’t even play in the game, so were the Wildcats really undermanned? I appreciate Klieman’s honesty in saying the roster has to get bigger, stronger, and heavier, but can he get that done? Recruiting has gotten better under Klieman, but it’s going to have to get a LOT better if the Wildcats want to compete at the top of the league.
Not all was bad for K-State on Saturday. Despite three turnovers, the offense performed pretty well. Running back Deuce Vaughn and wide receiver Malik Knowles played great for K-State. Vaughn is the new K-State freshman record holder for rushing yards, all-purpose yards, and yards from scrimmage and he had two spectacular touchdown runs. K-State finished the game with 448 yards of offense. They scored 31 points and still lost by 38. Yikes!
The 69 points by the Longhorns was the fifth most given up by a K-State defense in program history. The Wildcats gave up seven rushing touchdowns, the most since the Bill Snyder-coached Wildcats gave up eight to Colorado during Snyder’s first year in 1989. Ouch.
This loss leaves K-State fans wondering what happened and what needs to be done to fix it. Opinions vary. Some fans are concerned that the program is trending downward. The last five games, all losses, would seem to validate that concern. Covid issues aside, the team simply hasn’t performed well lately. The K-State offense is eighth in the league in both scoring offense and total offense and the defense is eighth in the league in both scoring defense and total defense. That isn’t going to get it done in the Big 12.
There is another large group of fans in the “this season doesn’t matter anyway because of Covid” camp. These fans are simply happy we had football games to watch and chalk up the losses and poor play to a shortened season and Covid. I disagree with this line of thinking. Every college football program has had to deal with Covid issues this fall. If the season is just a “throwaway” season, then why even play it? When the team was 4-1, these same fans were excited that K-State was playing well and was in contention for the Big 12 title. They can’t have it both ways. There is still a Big 12 championship trophy awarded in a couple of weeks and there are still bowl games to be played. There was a lot to play for this year and the team underperformed last season’s 8-4 record. In 2019 the team was 5-4 in the Big 12 and this year they finished at 4-5. It’s only a one game difference, but the way the last five games went, three of them blowout losses, cannot simply be ignored or brushed off.
The third group of fans lands somewhere in the middle. These fans agree the program had to deal with a lot of Covid issues and lost starting quarterback Skylar Thompson early in the season, but blowout losses like we witnessed are unacceptable. It’s not time to freak out, but there are red flags all over the place. To say I’m concerned about the Wildcats going into next season would be an understatement. As Klieman said, the team needs to get bigger, stronger, and heavier. I’d also add that they have to get faster at certain positions, especially wide receiver. I don’t know if they can do it or not. I’m not a fan of either the offense or the defense right now. Both coordinators should be on the hot seat for the way their respective units have performed lately. This program cannot afford to take another step backward next season and Chris Klieman has his work cut out for him to get this ship turned around. We’ll have to wait until next fall to find out whether or not he will be successful doing just that.