Pictured above: DeFiNiTeLy NoT a MoLe.
Look, I know I don’t feel as bad as the players in the program. I know it’s not possible, or probably even close. Which is saying something, because I was absolutely SICK after this game. It’s going to sting for a while.
“The Gap” has officially been closed, because the better team lost on the scoreboard Saturday night in Lawrence. If these two teams play 10 times, KU wins at least 7 of them.
There’s no doubt in my mind that’s a true statement.
And if KU had either one of its upperclassmen quarterbacks available, the Jayhawks probably win 9 of 10 times. Absolutely no doubt.
I’ll do K-State a favor here and take out the yardage from the last 3 offensive plays of the game, since they were huge negative plays that were designed to kill the clock. For the game, KU’s offense went for 6.9 yards per play (nice) while K-State went for 6.1 ypp. Kansas rushers averaged 5.7 yards per carry, while KSU went for 5.6 ypc.
Ball security haunted Kansas all night long. KU fumbled twice, losing one, and muffed a punt that was recovered by K-State as well. There was a blocked PAT. Additionally, Cole Ballard tossed 2 INTs, while Will Howard had just one. Each QB probably should have had another INT as well that the defenses just didn’t convert on.
KU converted on just 5-11 third downs, which is uncharacteristically low for KU’s offense this year, while K-State hit on 8-15, which is slightly higher than their season average. However, as is par for the course for this Jayhawk defense, KSU converted on all four of their red zone chances - and all four for touchdowns, no less. On the flip side, KU went 3-4 in the red zone.
Even though K-State was called for just 2 penalties (compared to KU’s 5), I won’t complain about the officiating because questionable calls and missed calls benefitted both teams, probably to an equivalent extent, which is a change from even recent editions of this matchup.
Give KSU credit, when KU shot themselves in the foot, K-State absolutely stepped on the wound, and hard. Lance Leipold is finding out just how difficult it is to change a culture that has been so deeply ingrained into a program over the last 50 years. After all, K-State is used to beating KU. And the Jayhawks have mostly obliged despite numerous chances over the last 20 years: 2005, 2009, 2017, 2018, even 2022. Now add 2023 to the list.
With 10:36 to play in the third quarter, KU led 27-16. On 1st-and-10 from their own 13-yard line, Will Howard threw a pass to a wide open Rich Miller - just a gift-wrapped pick-6. It would have put KU up 34-16 and all but ended the game right then and there. Instead, the ball bounced off Miller’s hands and hit the turf. K-State broke off a 52-yard gain on the very next play, and the Wildcats would score a few plays later to make it a 3-point game. And I can’t think of a two-play sequence that exemplifies the last 15 years of this rivalry than that.
Miller will no doubt relive that play in his nightmares for the next 50 years.
That wasn’t the only reason Kansas lost, however. There were multiple special teams miscues (more on that later). The playcalling became noticeably conservative when KU had a lead. And KU’s true freshman, walk-on quarterback made some true freshman, walk-on mistakes. But none of those plays, individually, lost this game for Kansas.
However, consider this:
No one play can lose you the game but one play can win it and that was the pick 6 we missed!!!— Daymond Patterson II (@DP2Nice) November 19, 2023
Completely agree. One of those plays goes the other way, especially the potential pick-6? Probably a KU win. Kansas had literally nothing go their way, and still had the ball with a chance to win late in the 4th quarter.
Lowest postgame win expectancy in a win, Week 12:— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) November 19, 2023
Mich St > Indiana 21%
Iowa > Illinois 42%
K-State > Kansas 44%
NC St > Va Tech 46%
Wisconsin > Nebraska 52%
App St > JMU 52%
Washington > Ore St 54%https://t.co/fjsWyQQv5n
The bottom line? K-State was lucky to win this game.
Devin Neal is a beast. Assuming he returns for his senior year, he will likely leave KU as the all-time school record holder for rushing yards and rushing TDs, as well as a couple of other stats.
Sunflower Showdown: Same as it ever was.
I’m sick and tired of having anyone who has ever worked at K-State involved in KU football. It should be a non-starter. Put it on the job application. Have you ever attended a single class or received a paycheck from Kansas State University? If Yes, move on to the next resumé.
First we had Sheahon Zenger. Now, my ire is directed at Sean Snyder (pictured above). What is it about his special teams unit that they just fell apart two years in a row against K-State? I think I know. I think you know. Let’s just be honest with ourselves. Is it an easy target? Sure, no doubt. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, though.
Three major special teams miscues on Saturday: 2nd quarter blocked PAT returned for two points by K-State, and then the 4th quarter kick-catch interference giving K-State an extra 15 yards as well as the 4th quarter muffed punt after a 3-and-out that K-State would turn into the go-ahead touchdown. Even worse, those two 4th quarter plays happened on back-to-back possessions. All were huge plays, and they completely killed any momentum KU had built up.
Cole Ballard started despite some gamesmanship from KU in the hours before the game. Ballard had a decent game, going 11-16 for 162 yards and a TD, but threw two devastating INTs that, with more experience, are throws I don’t think he makes. Ballard added 70 tough rushing yards on 10 carries. Kid is definitely not afraid of contact. He’s got some Carter Stanley in him, and I love it. That said, I’d still prefer he not take another snap until 2025.
What can anyone say about Devin Neal anymore? He’s just a complete beast. Neal went for 138 yards and 3 TDs, averaging 7.7 yards (!!!!!!!) per rush. You might say he’s the ... Real Deal.
Daniel Hishaw added 30 yards on 9 carries.
Torry Locklin saw 4 carries, picking up 19 yards.
Luke Grimm had 3 receptions that went for 44 yards.
Quentin Skinner added 23 yards on his 2 catches.
Lawrence Arnold saw 4 targets but was only able to haul in 2 receptions for 17 yards, one of which went for a TD.
Mason Fairchild had just 1 reception, but it was huge, picking up 59 yards and setting KU up for a touchdown early in the 3rd quarter.
Austin Booker led KU with 6 tackles, including 2 TFL with a sack.
Kenny Logan was also credited with 6 tackles.
OJ Burroughs and JB Brown added 4 tackles each.
Craig Young had 3 tackles with a TFL.
Ra’Mello Dotson had a tackle and an INT.
Seth Keller was officially credited as 3-3 on PATs, but one was blocked, so is that really how that works? Kansas did not attempt a field goal.
Damon Greaves bounced back after last week’s rough outing, booting 3 punts for a 39.7 average, with all three downed inside the 20.