Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too
Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I’m running behind
It’s said the best songwriters can create genius from even the most routine situations, like how Jackson Browne turned a hit song out of just simply running out of gas…figuratively and literally. Browne’s Running on Empty album is one of my favorites because it has tracks that were recorded in hotel rooms and even on tour buses.
When I think of this season as a whole to this point, it’s more than a program running on empty. It’s almost as if this season is a boat with a cannon ball sized hole in the side of it, stranded alone somewhere in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. As fans, we are afforded a bird’s eye view to this tragedy, watching from afar as this coaching staff and players run around trying to figure out how to fill this hole as the ship is sinking rapidly.
The only problem is they cannot fix it. They cannot call for help. And they cannot get a new boat.
The only thing they can do is bail water out faster than it’s coming in.
First Down - The Enemy:
Kansas State tasked Chris Klieman to replace the wonderful college football wizard, Bill Snyder, after his sudden retirement. Chris Klieman looked to be a home run hire for Kansas State, as he owns four NCAA Division 1 FCS National Championships in five years at a program like North Dakota State, which is as close to a D1 program as it gets at the FCS level.
So far, the hire really has been a home run. Of the four new coaches in the Big 12 (Miles at KU, Wells at Tech, Neal Brown at WVU, Klieman at KSU), Klieman is currently the most successful. He took over a program picked ninth in the preseason poll, littered with question marks at nearly every position, and has made them bowl eligible his first season, including handing the conference favorite Oklahoma it’s only loss on the season.
Second Down - Key Players:
The Wildcats offense is led by quarterback Skyler Thompson. Thompson is averaging 170 passing yards a game and only completing 60% of his passes. He isn’t exactly a prolific passer, but as we saw with Carter Stanley, Austin Kendall and Max Duggan, you don’t have to be in order to beat the Texas Tech defense.
Joining Thompson in the backfield is a committee of running backs with Harry Trotter, James Gilbert and Jordan Brown. The trio has combined for 230 carries for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Senior wideout Dalton Shoen leads the team in receptions with 32 for 541 yards and four touchdowns. Lining up opposite of Shoen is former three-star recruit and Mansfield product, Malik Knowles who has 22 receptions for 350 yards and three touchdowns.
Kansas State also utilizes the 6’4 redshirt freshman tight end Sam Wheeler in the flex spot. Much like ISU’s Charlie Kolar, Texas Tech cannot afford the let this athletic tight end get the best of the middle of the defense.
Kansas State is another team that has utilized the 4-2-5 system that Gary Patterson and TCU employ, and the results have been surprisingly really good. Ranking 43rd in overall total defense, 71st in rush defense and the first overall ranked pass defense in the Big 12. In conference games, KSU has allowed the lowest percentage of red zone trips that result in a TD.
Notable defenders for the Wildcats are sophomore defensive lineman Wyatt Hubert, who leads the team in sacks with five, senior safety Denzel Goolsby who is tied for first on the team in tackles with 30 with veteran linebacker Elijah Sullivan and freshman safety Wayne Jones.
Third Down - By the Numbers:
• Matt Wells track record in one score games: Before Texas Tech 7-15 (2-13 on the road); at Texas Tech 0-3 (0-2 on the road).
• Game of inches: If Texas Tech beat Baylor, Kansas and TCU (all one score games), they’d be in second place in the Big 12 as it stands right now.
Fourth Down - Prediction:
Everything about this game that I’ve lined out above screams blowout by Kansas State. A pretty good offense against a banged up defense. A defense that is looking to bounce back against a limited and one-dimensional Texas Tech offense. A coach and team that, no matter how hard they have fought, hasn’t found a way to win close games.
Yet, somehow, Las Vegas has Texas Tech favored in this matchup. I have been burned several times this season going against Vegas.
And I’m going to do it, again. There’s a lot to like about this season and if you look hard, there have been some improvements. But it looks like our “Bowl Game” will be played in Austin this season.
Kansas State Wildcats, 38