The Kansas State Wildcats ended their season on a flat note with a disappointing 29-16 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Cotton Bowl. Arkansas played well and is the better team, but K-State lacked discipline and the overall spark that it relied on to reach the 10-win milestone and outlast the competition this season.
A few bright spots can be found in their performance, but overall the Wildcats didn't execute at the level they needed to beat Arkansas. Here are offensive, defensive, special teams, coaching and overall grades for the Wildcats' performance against the Razorbacks in Dallas.
The Wildcats were unable to generate much of anything offensively until just before the end of the first half, when KSU took advantage of a Razorback turnover deep in Arkansas territory and converted for a 12-yard touchdown to avoid a first-half shutout.
The second half wasn't much better. Apart from a seven-play, 60-yard touchdown drive that ended with quarterback Collin Klein scoring his 27th rushing touchdown, tying the Big 12 single season record held by Ricky Williams, the Wildcats struggled to move the ball against the stingy Arkansas defense.
It was not a good night overall for the offense, which turned the ball over twice and failed to convert multiple promising drives into points. The o-line allowed six sacks, one of which led to a fumble deep in Wildcat territory, capping off a drive that went thirty yards backwards.
Additionally, the run game, KSU's bread and butter, was unable to develop as fully as the Wildcats hoped; the Razorbacks limited Klein and Co. to 86 yards, well below their season average.
Overall, eight of the 13 KSU drives ended in punts and two ended in turnovers, while one of the Wildcat touchdowns was essentially a gimme, spanning only 12 yards. All in all, it was not a great night for K-State offensively.
The KSU defense played better than the final score might indicate. First of all, one of the Arkansas touchdowns was a punt return by Joe Adams, so the defense itself only allowed 22 points.
Moreover, It held Tyler Wilson's offense to a touchdown and two field goals in the first half, a respectable feat, while forcing a turnover on downs on the first drive of the game and a clutch fumble just before halftime that enabled KSU to get on the board.
K-State also managed the Arkansas attack fairly well in the second half, allowing a 58-yard scoring drive and a field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Overall, the defense was fair. It held Wilson to a below-average passing output and kept K-State in the game, bending without breaking by holding the Razorbacks to field goals on multiple occasions including after Arkansas forced a KSU turnover at the Wildcat 26 early in the first quarter.
However, the Wildcats needed more big plays to win this game, and the defense only forced one turnover and two sacks, key areas that would have helped their cause.
Joe Adams' 51-yard punt return touchdown early in the second quarter broke the game open for the Razorbacks, putting them up 10-0 and generating considerable momentum. It was probably the play of the game.
The Wildcats knew Adams, who had returned three punts for touchdowns this season prior to the Cotton Bowl, was a threat. Yet they kicked to him anyway, and he showed fans why he is one of the most electrifying kick returners in college football, weaving beautifully across the field and into the end zone.
Kicker Anthony Cantele also missed a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the only bright spot for this unit was the blocked extra point and return by Nigel Malone garnering two points for K-State.
Bill Snyder is and always will be considered a legendary coach, but this was not a memorable performance for him and his staff.
He may or may not have told his punter to avoid kicking to return man Joe Adams, but regardless, Adams shouldn't have even had the chance to return that kick considering his abilities. His touchdown was a turning point in the game, which could have played out differently had he not scored.
The K-State offense was unimpressive overall, totaling only 260 yards and one legitimate scoring drive, and looked sloppy with five penalties, which is a reflection of coaching at least to some extent.
While the defense turned in a worthy effort, it failed to make any game-changing plays that could have generated a spark for the Wildcats. The defensive coaches were not able to to cook up schemes that enabled KSU to pressure Tyler Wilson or force turnovers.
On a positive note, Snyder and Co. at least had their players motivated to fight until the very end. The game was reasonably close throughout, and KSU had a chance to win until late in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats simply couldn't recapture the magic that had powered them to an outstanding 10-win season against the Razorbacks.
K-State turned in a relatively flat performance overall. The Razorbacks stifled the vaunted Wildcat rushing attack, and the Collin Klein and the offense didn't perform up to their characteristic level.
The defense fought valiantly and probably played well enough to win the game, but the special teams failed to prevent Joe Adams' from giving the Razorbacks control of the game with his scintillating 51-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Arkansas is definitely a top team, however, and the Razorbacks should be given credit for executing when it mattered offensively and playing good defense.
It wasn't a game to remember for K-State fans, but look on the bright side: the Wildcats won 10 games this season and shouldn't be ashamed about losing to Arkansas, a top team this season.