After a seemingly endless offseason, the Big 12’s Kansas State Wildcats finally faced off against the #8 Stanford Cardinal on Friday evening in Palo Alto, California. This under appreciated match-up provided viewers with two football programs known for their physical approach and tenacity. Stanford came into the game with sky-high expectations after a very successful 2015 campaign capped off by a 45-16 victory in the Rose Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Despite finishing last season with a 6-7 record, the Wildcats came into this game unfazed by their opponents ranking or surrounding Heisman hype.
The ranked Cardinal, with Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey in tow, offered up an attractive target for Bill Snyder’s young Wildcats. Kansas State seemed intent on using the opportunity on national television to make a statement by getting the proverbial train back on the tracks. But on this picturesque evening, Stanford would do just enough to survive a game where the Wildcats could not convert while victory still remained within striking distance.
Stanford’s Ryan Burns made his first start at quarterback and was held to 156 yards and one touchdown on 14-of-18 passing. The Cardinal appeared to impose their will and dictate their style of play when they went ahead by the score of 17-3 at halftime. However, a salty K-State defense began to discover ways to pressure Burns and this would create opportunities for their offense in the second half. And though the Wildcats’ running game seemed to catch its stride in the second half, the offense and special teams were simply unable to take advantage of the opportunities with which they were provided.
Maintaining a healthy starting quarterback, the Achilles’ heel of just a season ago, was once again an issue for the Wildcats on opening night. The inexperienced Kansas State offensive line allowing 8 sacks on the evening, including one for a safety late in the fourth quarter, is of major concern for the remainder of 2016. While quarterback Jesse Ertz received the start and finished with 16-of-34 passing for 207 yards, a touchdown and an interception, he was unable to remain on the field consistently. In what was deja vu for Wildcat fans, Joe Hubener entered in Ertz’s stead but struggled mightily to provide any offensive rhythm or passing production.
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey was already in Heisman-contender form on this evening. The Wildcats scored a touchdown at the 2:20 mark of the fourth quarter and pulled within six points of the Cardinal at 19-13. Eight seconds later, McCaffrey provided Kansas State’s death knell with a striking 41-yard run to the end zone to put Stanford ahead at 26-13. He finished with 126 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a very impressive showing. As long as McCaffrey remains healthy you can give this man a tuxedo and a plane ticket for a return visit to NYC.
Despite the 26-13 loss there is no need for Kansas State fans to begin to panic. Yes, the offensive line gave up 8 sacks. Yes, there was a lack of consistent offensive rhythm. Yes, the quarterback position is just as much a question mark as it was before the season started. And yet, with all of those factors at play, this excellent Stanford team was unable to take a sigh of relief until less than 3 minutes remained in the game.
What can be said about Bill Snyder that hasn’t already been said many times over? The man annually finds a way to put together a squadron of players that plays hard until the clock expires. It’s almost as if we forget during the off-season what a formidable opponent Kansas State truly can be. Snyder’s Wildcats may not be star-laden with recruits who gained schoolboy praise from the recruiting services, but this is a program comprised of athletes that simply refuse to give up the ship in defeat.
|3rd Down Eff||6-12||8-18|
|4th Down Eff||0-0||2-4|
|Yds Per Pass||8.8||5.9|
|Yds Per Rush||3.5||2.9|
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
Brady took to Periscope after the game.
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) September 3, 2016
Fans of the Wildcats shared their sense of frustration with an offense that struggled throughout the night…
Kansas State football explained in a photo pic.twitter.com/YrG7j7nGA1
— Charlie Burris (@Charlie_Burris) September 3, 2016
But Kansas State gave it their best effort, all the way up to the very end.
It’s not over yet. What a play on 4th and 10! Get to FS1 now! https://t.co/cHhwtON2vs
— FS1 (@FS1) September 3, 2016
Let us appreciate the greatness of Christian McCaffrey, who finished with 126 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
This is how you finish in the 4th quarter. Christian McCaffrey does it again. https://t.co/iSyuIpDefc
— FS1 (@FS1) September 3, 2016