It’s the annual battle of the two colleges that know the most about agronomy and animal science, and a little bit about football.
2016 Game VIII: Iowa State (1-6, 0-4) vs. Kansas State University (4-3, 2-2)
Time: 11:00 a.m. CDT
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Line: Kansas State -6.5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Kansas State SB Nation Website – Bring on the Cats
When We Last Left Off
Iowa State took on BYE last week, and Matt Campbell is still “ticked off” that Vegas tabbed BYE as the favorite. What we do know is that ISU got some much needed rest at the right time of the season. Multiple injuries by way of skilled playmakers Kamari Cotton-Moya, Allen Lazard and Trever Ryen were given time to heal, and it sounds like everyone should be healthy come Saturday.
Two weeks ago, Iowa State ran into a stellar defensive attack against the reeling and desperate Texas Longhorns. The ISU offense was held to a measly 6 points, and couldn’t convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. The defense played well, and even forced two turnovers! Either way, after exceeding expectations in their previous three games, it wasn’t enough against the fighting Charlie Strongs, and ISU lost in Austin 27-6.
It’s ok though -- Strong is still going to get a nice bonus check to leave at the end of the year
The creaky old man in Manhattan is still roaming the sidelines. Yes, after 302 games (and winning 197), the silver fox Bill Snyder is still coaching the purple cats at K-State. Going into the season, K-State was picked to finish eighth, and again, like usual, they have exceeded expectations. The Wildcats sit with a 4-3 record, and are on pace to go to another bowl game.
Just when you think they are out of it, they suck you right back in.
The defense has been phenomenal, ranking 3rd in the nation in rush defense, 23rd in total defense, and their special teams is dominating per usual. The state of Iowa only produces a few good quarterbacks at the high school level, and for some reason they keep going to K-State. Burlington, IA native Jesse Ertz commands the controls on offense, and is coming into his own as a dual-threat quarterback.
One of the few, if any, rivalries in the Big 12 that ISU still leads, with the Cyclones ahead 49-46-4. Yet, Paul Rhoads was never able to beat the Wildcats in his tenure, and the men from Manhattan have won eight straight.
If there is a caveat to that losing streak, it’s that ISU has always played close with the Wildcats. In seven of those eight losses they have kept the deficit within eight, and multiple times have had the ball with a chance to win late.
Yet, the vampire always comes out on top.
After three straight weeks of sheer domination and putting up an average of 39 points, ISU laid an egg against Texas. The ability to run the ball wasn’t there, and ISU did not punch it in the end zone when they had the chance. The two-headed monster at quarterback of Joel Lanning and Jacob Park looked serviceable, but were unable to mount any consistent drives. The line gave up multiple sacks for a second consecutive game, and needs to be addressed with coach Tom Manning. Either the receivers aren’t creating space or Lanning/Park need to make quicker throws.
Kansas State does it with a great front seven, and will force ISU to throw the ball underneath to its receivers, so look for a multitude of short to intermediate routes and a lot of catches for the stud freshman Deshaunte Jones. If Trever Ryen is back I see him getting a bevy of touches by way of screen passes, crossing patterns and even a reverse or two.
You won’t see many broken tackles by the Wildcats, so ISU is going to have to find the windows when they’re open, and the quarterbacks will have to make easy and accurate throws. I could see this as more of a Jacob Park sort-of-game with his quick release and sharp accuracy, but whoever the hot hand is, this coaching staff will ride them out.
First Key to Victory – Get the Ball in Lazard’s Hands
Remember this glorious play-call a few years ago in Ames against the Wildcats? ISU is going to need to mix it up with some razzle dazzle if they want to stretch the field and get a quick score. #5 has been limited on the field recently, but is by far the best playmaker they have in the open field. Get him the ball on screens, post patterns, and most effectively for jump balls in the end zone.
Let’s watch another highlight from that game, courtesy of my main man Jarvis West. Damn he was fun to watch!
Kansas State Defense
Did I mention this unit is good yet?
Their defensive front is one of the best in the conference, and carries with it a disruptor on the outside in senior Jordan Willis. The Kansas City native comes off Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors, and leads the Big 12 in both tackles-for-loss (11.5) and sacks (8). Good luck Nick Fett, you are going to need it.
Next to him is defensive tackle Will Geary and his long locks of love, as he and Willis were both named Preseason Big-12 picks by the coaches. The linebackers are fast and do not make mistakes. Leading the charge is Elijah Lee, who ranks third in the Big 12 in stops and can cover the field from sideline to sideline.
The defense is full of veterans, as it carries five senior starters and has held their opponents to 18.5 points below their average scoring outputs. They are 23rd in the country in total defense and 26th in scoring defense.
If there is one bone to pick, it’s the secondary, as they have allowed long passing plays and give up nearly 250 passing yards per game. The secondary is young and inexperienced, but this unit goes where the front seven takes them, so if ISU is going to find yards it is in the back end.
Verdict – Kansas State
The Wildcats make you a one-dimensional team, and they don’t make mistakes. If ISU wants to come out on top they are going to have to beat Kansas State at their own game, and convert on 3rd-and-shorts and sustain drives. It will be ever so important for our quarterbacks to make quick decisions, as they will face pressure up front, and need to get rid of the ball quickly.
One way to do this is to roll both Lanning and Park out of the pocket. If the running game isn’t working (which will be a tough task), ISU will have to move the ball by dinking and dunking it down the field.
Second Key to Victory – Finish Drives and Take Advantage of Opportunities
This will be a knock-out drag-out game with a battle of field position, and if ISU wants to win they are going to have to put points up on the board when given the opportunity, most significantly in the red zone. So far this season they have been excellent at converting inside the 20, but this game there will be few chances to convert, and ISU has to score 6 and not 3.
Talk about an improvement from game one till now, this defensive unit has progressed and meshed well, and they are really buying into the program. One player I have been impressed with is Jhaustin Thomas, and he slides into the defensive tackle role after playing on the outside to start the season. The 6-foot-6 senior’s light has finally turned on and he can be a huge factor opposite Demond Tucker.
Another pleasant surprise is the play of true freshman JaQuan Bailey. This 19-year old has been thrusted into the starting lineup and played brilliantly. Boy, I am excited for the future, as he has gotten better each and every week.
K-State loves to run the ball, especially with their quarterback. We will see a ton of designed quarterback runs with a lead blocker and pulling guard, and the only way ISU can slow them down is with disruption from the defensive line.
The linebackers will be busy, and we may see more of a 4-3 set as opposed to the standard 4-2-5 scheme usually played against pass-happy teams. That means more Bobby McMillen III and Josh Jahlas, and I guess Kane Seeley, if it comes down to it.
Third Key to Victory – Win the Turnover Battle
This will be the hardest task of the day, as K-State never beats themselves. In fact, the Wildcats have a big fat zero in allowing points off turnovers. Nada. Zip. The Cyclones can’t give the ball away, and if there is an opportunity for a batted ball, flying duck, or loose ball on the field, it has to be corralled by a man in the cardinal and gold.
The strength of this defense is in the passing game, but the Wildcats will not give them a lot of opportunities. I could see a make-or-break game based upon Kamari Cotton-Moya’s status. He is so valuable to this team, as both a leader and a playmaker, and if he is back to full playing health that could ultimately swing the outcome.
Kansas State Offense
Probably one of the most boring teams to watch on Saturdays, unless you were born in the Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi days. This K-State team is not flashy, but they love to ground and pound the football.
The “Wildcat” formation was founded at this university and we will see it from time to time, especially in crunch time and on short downs. The man getting most carries is none other than Charles Jones, who seems like he has been in a purple uniform for Obama’s two terms as President. So far on the season, the eighth-year senior leads the team in rushing yards with 402 yards and a 5.3 yard per carry clip.
Not far behind him is Jesse Ertz, the 212-pound junior quarterback who has at least 75 rushing yards in three contests this season, and has crossed the goal line six times. His arm isn’t impressive, as he only averages 132 passing yards per game, but he moves the ball effectively and doesn’t turn it over.
K-State kills you with ball control and tempo. There is nothing sweeter for Bill Snyder (other than a Taco Bell Supreme Crunch Wrap) than a 15-play 8-minute drive that will wear the defense down and keep your offense off the field. And when the Wildcats get in the red zone, they convert, as they rank number one in the nation in efficiency.
The offensive line was young coming into the season with four new starters, but they have come through in flying colors, ranking third amongst all schools according to Pro Football Focus.
The receivers don’t scare me much, as Dominique Heath only has 26 catches on the year, and their passing efficiency, well, isn’t very efficient.
Verdict – K-State by a Vampire Nose
If you were to look at the remaining schedule and see what ISU can take advantage of, I would say we can win against pass-happy teams. ISU has a legitimate strength in the secondary, but their run defense is lacking.
Therefore you have to give the win to Kansas State in this one.
Kansas State preaches special teams like Donald Trump talks about “building a wall.” They are one of the best at scoring points the unconventional way, as they have the most non-offensive touchdowns in the nation since 1999, and it isn’t even close.
They have two game-breakers in punt returner Dominique Heath, who averages 15 yards per return, and kick returner Byron Pringle, who ranks ninth in the nation with a 30.5 average.
Their kick coverage is just as good, as they rank 27th in net punting, so I don’t see a big day out of Trever Ryen or Allen Lazard back there.
Don’t expect another 40-plus yard return out of kick returner Kene Nwangwu either. We may have to hold out for another game before he hits pay dirt for the first time.
Verdict – Kansas State by a Pinocchio Nose
I know what you all are thinking. Bill Snyder is past his prime. It is finally time for ISU to win one against the Gipper. Luck has to come our way against the purple cats.
Well, I’m here to crash the party.
Kansas State leads the country in opponents kicking the chair in front of them, clapping their hands at disgust and is the all-time leader in contributions to the WRNL swear jar.
Just when you think you have them stopped on third down, they will convert. They will wear you down physically, and they sure as hell don’t beat themselves.
I wish I could say Matt Campbell wins his first game in conference play, but that silver fox is just too much for the Clones.
Kansas State 24, ISU 17