What positives can one pull from Kansas State's 48-24 victory over Missouri State on Saturday night? According to Coach Bill Snyder, there's one: "We won." After a moment of reflection, Snyder admitted that there were other items he could be pleased with. After all, the Wildcats did compile nearly 500 total yards and nearly 50 points. Missed opportunities and defensive struggles, however, left the coach wanting more.
"By and large," Snyder said, "we have to be a more consistent football team to have any degree of success.
On the positive end, the K-State backfield led the way for the Wildcats, with quarterback Carson Coffman throwing for 280 yards and three scores, both career highs, and running back Daniel Thomas rushing for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On the negative end, the Wildcats scored on just one of their first four possessions and the defense gave up 447 total yards after surrendering just 313 to UCLA a week earlier.
"We were happy with the win," offensive lineman Wade Weibert said. "We were not at all happy with the way we played."
With an FCS opponent that surrendered 350 passing yards to Eastern Kentucky just a week earlier on the opposite side of the field, Coffman knew he would have a chance to make some things happen in the passing game on Saturday. "We thought we were going to have the opportunity to have some big plays against them," Coffman said. The Wildcats did, as Coffman tossed touchdown passes of 42, 23, and 7 yards.
Though, statistically, Coffman had the best game of his Wildcat career, he was not willing to grade his performance following the game. "I had pretty good numbers," Coffman said, "but I didn't feel like I played that well throughout the game."
Snyder's assessment of the quarterback play followed suit. "He completed some passes, so I was not unhappy with what he did," Snyder said. "Twelve-for-16 is not bad. The numbers were good, but there are a lot more things that go into playing well than just numbers."
On the ground, Thomas opened the scoring with a 45-yard carry on the second play of the Wildcats' second possession of the game. The carry was the longest of Thomas' career. His rushing total moved the senior to 10th on the list of the career rushing yardage leaders at Kansas State. Thomas now has 1,636 career rushing yards, needing 237 yards to pass Cornelius Davis for ninth on the charts. While Thomas topped 100 rushing yards for the seventh time in his career at Kansas State, Missouri State left feeling as if they had done respectable work in containing him.
"(Thomas) is a good back," Missouri State coach Terry Allen said, "but I thought we did a nice job in the first half defensively."
Led by quarterback Cody Kirby, the Missouri State offense piled up 447 total yards against Kansas State. Kirby passed for 281 yards and also added 52 on the ground. "Giving up over 400 yards to anybody, no matter who they are," Snyder said, "is not going to win you a lot of ball games."
At least one Wildcat defender felt the struggles on the defensive side of the ball came as a result of a lack of focus. "The biggest thing is running hard and being focused," said defensive tackle Prizell Brown, who tallied six tackles and picked up K-State's only sack. "We have to focus on our keys and know what we need to do to be better."
"We didn't finish," safety Tysyn Hartman said. "They got most of their yards in the second half, especially late in the game. It's not something we're proud about and we definitely have some things to correct."
Coffman had his first chance to really attack through the air on the Wildcats' fourth possession. The senior quarterback opened the drive with back-to-back completions to Brodrick Smith and Aubrey Quarles. Two plays later he hooked up with Tramaine Thompson for a 35-yard gain. Though Coffman threw for 55 yards on the drive, it would stall and ultimately prove fruitless when kicker Anthony Cantele came up wide on a 26-yard field goal.
Smith led the Wildcats with a pair of touchdown receptions and 99 receiving yards, while Quarles grabbed seven passes for 82 yards and a score.
In the second quarter, Kansas State pushed their lead to 13 thanks to a play most fans would not expect to see out of the Snyder playbook. Facing a fourth down on the Missouri State three, the Wildcats faked a field goal and kicker Cantele dove into the end zone after receiving an option pitch from his holder, punter Ryan Doerr. Snyder said the decision to run the trick play was one made in attempt to give the Wildcats a boost. "We were struggling at the time," Snyder said. "We were having a hard time moving the football and getting to the end zone."
The score was the first touchdown Cantele had ever scored at any level of football. Alas, the moment lost luster when he followed it by striking the upright on the extra point, leaving the Wildcats with a 13-0 lead. "That kind of dampers everything," Cantele said.
The K-State lead grew to 20 when Coffman connected with Smith for the longest passing play of the day: a 42-yard hitch-and-go with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half.
After Missouri State got onto the board with a 66-yard pass from Kirby to Jermaine Saffold, K-State answered in quick fashion. Operating entirely through the air, the Wildcats moved 68 yards in just four plays, scoring when Coffman found Quarles for a 23-yard touchdown.
At his best, Coffman was remarkably efficient. Midway through the third quarter, he completed three consecutive passes of at least 10 yards before finding Smith for a seven yard score.
The Wildcats open Big 12 Conference play next Saturday, meeting Iowa State at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.