K-State/West Virginia Game Thoughts - Enough Of Second And Long!


It was a second straight disappointing loss for K-State Football on Saturday, losing 24-20 to West Virginia in a game they could have won at the end if not for a Skylar Thompson interception.

My Dad and I were talking a few weeks ago that it seems that offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham and Chris Klieman are pretty stubborn about running the ball right up the middle on first down for little to no gain.  Watching the game again on Sunday it was almost maddening how many times K-State ran for short yardage on first down, leaving them in a second and long situation.  Granted, sometimes they converted on second and/or third downs, but it makes the offense's job much more difficult trying to convert on second and long.  Most of the time second and long means a punt back to the opposition.

On first downs for the entire game, K-State ran 21 times and passed 13 times.  However, on the last drive of the game they started the drive with 2:53 left in the game down by four points and passed five times on first down on that drive because they were trying to save as much clock as possible and they were trying to move down the field quickly.  If you take away that drive, K-State ran 20 times on first down and passed 8 times, or 71 percent of the time.  How successful were they on first down runs?  They ran for 50 yards on first down plays, an average of 2.38 yards a carry.  That means when they ran on first down, they were in a 2nd and 8 on average.  That's not a good strategy to win football games.

When passing on first down, Thompson was 10 of 12 for 164 yards with one sack.  Take away the first play of the game, a 68 yard touchdown pass, and he was still 9 of 11 for 86 yards, an average of about seven yards per play.  I understand you can't necessarily pass on every first down play during a game, but they are MUCH more successful passing on first down than running it.  Yet they continued to run it on first down on just about every drive other than the final drive.

I broke down all the first downs on the K-State offensive drives below if you're interested to take a look.

Drive 1 (score 0-0)

1st and 10 - 68 yard touchdown pass to Schoen.

Drive 2 (Score 7-7)

1st and 10 - run for 8 yards
1st and 10 - pass to landry weber for 35 yards
1st and 10 - rush for 2 yards
1st and 20 - rush for minus 5 yards
1st and goal - run for no gain
Field goal.

Drive 3 (14-10 WVU)

1st and 10 - run for one yard
2nd and 9 - incompletion
3rd and 9 - interception

Drive 4 (14-10 WVU)

1st and 10 - run for minus 4 yards
1st and 10 - pass for 6 yards
1st and 15 - run for 6 yards

Drive 5 (14-10 WVU) 4:40 left in the half

1st and 10 run for 1 yard
1st and 10 run for 2 yards
1st and 10 run for no gain
1st and 10 pass for four yards
Field goal.

Drive 6 (14-13 WVU)

1st and 10 run for 6 yards
1st and 10 run for 4 yards
1st and 10 pass for 11 yards
1st and 10 pass for 7 yards
1st and 10 Thompson sacked
1st and goal run for 2 yards
Touchdown run on 2nd down

Drive 7 (KSU 20-14)

First and 10 run for 2 yards
First and 10 run for 2 yards
Punt

Drive 8 (KSU 20-17)

First down run for five yards
Punt

Drive 9 (WVU 24-20)

First down run for no gain
First down run for 11 yards
First down run for minus one yard
Turnover on downs

Drive 10 (WVU 24-20)

First down pass for two yards
Punt

Drive 11 (WVU 24-20) 2:53 left in the game

First down pass for 11 yards
First down pass for 5 yards
First down pass incomplete
First down pass incomplete
First down pass for 15 yards
First down run for two yards
Interception.

In closing, I don't understand running the ball up the middle on first down and constantly leaving your offense in second and long situations.  This is the first game I really analyzed this instead of it being just a passing observation.  It might be interesting to track this in the last two games as well.  I think it's time for a little bit more imagination on first down plays.  The defense did their job in this one, especially in the 4th quarter.  There were a couple blown coverages, but that's to be expected throughout the course of a game. The offense needs to be better, especially on first down.

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