The end is finally in sight. Football is almost (mercifully) over for the Jayhawks, and we can almost concentrate on the REAL college sport. But to get us through today, I reached out to Jon Morse over at Bring on the Cats. He was kind enough to answer a few questions in preparation for today's game.
RCT: So obviously this year didn't go as planned for the Wildcats. Some have traced it back to early injuries, others to expectations being too high. What happened this year?
BOTC: It really is injuries, mostly. The bulk of K-State's problem has been the secondary, which lost two all-conference players -- one in the opener, the other before halftime of the second conference game. That said, coaching in the secondary has clearly been awful, and the loss of Jesse Ertz on the second PLAY of the season probably hobbled the offense just enough to lose against Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor, and maybe Texas even with the defense's issues. The offense manages to score around 30 a game despite having a quarterback who usually can't even complete half his throws, so they may very well have been able to cover the defensive deficiencies with Ertz running the show.
RCT: I can't imagine anyone actually forcing him out, but I've heard rumblings that many are unhappy with the job Bill Snyder has been doing the last couple seasons. Is there a growing sentiment in the fanbase that it is time for Coach to hang it up for real this time?
BOTC: It's not that anyone is unhappy with Bill Snyder *as a coach*. There are a raft of questions surrounding his coordinators, and there are questions about just how much he's delegating. But as a coach, the only real mistake we feel he's made this year was not going for it on fourth down against TCU, settling for the field goal to tie. That had two impacts: going for it and making it would have at least run more time off the clock and would have created a shorter field goal attempt had it been necessary, and settling for the field goal told the offense they couldn't be trusted to pick up a first down even though they'd been able to run on TCU all day. That crushed the offense's confidence, leading in part to the Oklahoma disaster.
There are two real issues which the folks who think it's time for Snyder to step aside lean on. The first is that with the mass vacancies this fall, finding a solid replacement for him a year or two from now might be a lot tougher because a ton of great candidates are about to come off the board, and trying to hire one of them away from South Carolina is a very different thing than trying to hire one away from a team outside the Power 5. Some folks argue that this isn't the year to be looking for a coach, but others believe that the K-State job is actually a job worth having, the donors have open checkbooks when it's time to move, and K-State could actually make a big splash by grabbing a qualified candidate this December.
The second is that changes have to be made to the coaching staff, and he just won't do it. His loyalty is admirable, but it's also reached the level of a Paterno-like problem. (I hate using the Paterno comparison because the situation I'm referring to has been permanently overshadowed by a shower scene, but it's still the most apt... right down to trying to hang on until someone finally decides to give the job to his son.)
RCT: Since neither of these teams have been any good this year, I doubt that either fan base has been following the other's team. Give me a couple players on each side of ball that we need to be on the lookout for in the game.
BOTC: You can find most of them on the sideline in a jersey and sweats, assuming they make the trip.
More seriously, Charles Jones has been pretty good carrying the ball. Gronk's still around, and even threw a touchdown pass last week. Duke Shelley's a very talented freshman cornerback who covered Colby Listenbee so well against TCU that Trevone Boykin never even tried to throw to him. The defensive line -- Travis Britz, Will Geary, Marquel Bryant, and Jordan Willis -- are still a solid unit. Linebacker Elijah Lee is a playmaker, but he's been slowed by injury (and I literally mean slowed; the last few weeks watching him pursue has been painful).
RCT: So how do you see the finale going between these two teams? The Jayhawks are playing for a single victory on the year,while the Wildcats are trying to stave off further embarassment, especially after a big comeback against Iowa State last week. Can the Jayhawks pull off their own upset win?
BOTC: We've been down this road before, so just let me again say I'd really like to see you guys become relatively decent again. It's good for the conference, it's good for the rivalry, and it makes beating KU an accomplishment worth being proud of rather than just a thing to be smug about. Think of how empty you felt when KU would beat the Jim Wooldridge-era Wildcats in basketball, and then realize even they were never this bad.
But right now, no. K-State should have little difficulty tomorrow. Texas aside, all of K-State's losses have been to Really Good Teams, and three of those could very easily have been wins. Other than TCU, the Jayhawks have been just horrible, which is really nothing more than one should expect from a team with fewer scholarship players than a topped-off FCS squad. KU is simply not capable of playing on the same level as their competition this year; it's an unfair disadvantage. Frankly, for putting KU in this situation, Charlie Weis should be sued for negligence to recoup his buyout, because he sure as hell doesn't deserve it.
RCT: BONUS - We get the feeling that Kansas Football fans are in for a rough season. To do our part to help, we are taking up collections. What alcoholic beverage would you contribute to the storehouse to help our fans drown their sorrows after a loss?
BOTC: That depends. Those of you I like (and there actually are quite a few of you) get Evan Williams, a perfectly cromulent bourbon with an affordable price point.
The rest get Tvarscki vodka, because my capacity for cruelty sometimes overcomes my boundless compassion.