K-State reflects on mistake-filled loss at Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There were numerous what-ifs for Kansas State to ponder on what was likely a sleepless flight home late Saturday night.


Mistakes are magnified in a close game, and the Wildcats walked away from a 14-7 loss at Vanderbilt shaking their heads in dismay.

A K-State offense that put up 55 points each of the first two games against lower-level opponents ran up against a Vanderbilt defense that belongs in the SEC and was ground to a halt. Quarterback Jesse Ertz ran for 126 yards but that was the extent of the production.

Dropped passes by receivers, some inaccurate throws by Ertz along with two fourth-quarter interceptions and debilitating penalties all contributed to the setback.

“It’s a tough loss,” Ertz said. “The offense totally feels like it’s our fault. That’s a good team we played but we didn’t make enough plays to win. Our defense played great.

“We didn’t execute. We didn’t make enough plays to win. We didn’t deserve to be in the game.”

Yet, they were.

Even after Ertz was picked off for the second time and Vanderbilt (3-0) converted the takeaway into the go-ahead touchdown with 8:23 remaining, the Wildcats (2-1) had the makings of a touchdown drive. They reached the Vandy 17 with just over a minute to play after a four-yard run by Alex Barnes but Ertz lost two yards on second down, Dominique Heath dropped a ball that would have been a first down and Ertz managed only six yards on a fourth-and-8 scramble.

“It’s very frustrating to have the expectations you have for the season and have a game like that,” said offensive tackle Dalton Risner. “As an offense, we pride ourselves on being able to score and it’s very frustrating to not. That’s about all you can say.”

Risner had a crucial penalty on that final drive, a personal foul late hit after Barnes picked up 17 yards.

“You get coached to go to the whistle and apparently I was too late,” Risner said. “I run by on the option and see Alex Barnes still up and hit somebody and get a penalty. It’s upsetting.”

It was one of many mistakes, the most glaring of which were the multitude of dropped passes by numerous receivers.

“It goes back to discipline and focus and trying to go someplace before you have the ball in your hands,” coach Bill Snyder said.

Just an all-around off night for the offense, which had 277 total yards.

“It’s a number of things,” Risner said, “whether it’s not being prepared for some of the defensive looks or not being able to pass protect or throw the ball down field as well as we should. Every drive we’re out there to put points on the board but we kept backing ourselves up with penalties. It definitely felt like we were shooting ourselves in the foot all night.”

The Wildcat defense had its share of issues with some coverage breakdowns but overall continued its pattern of improvement over the course of three games.

“You take away the second possession they (Commodores) had with a long, extended drive, the rest of the time I thought we played quite well,” Snyder said.

Running back Ralph Webb ran for only 46 yards while quarterback Kyle Shurmur completed 14 of 23 passes for 205 yards and one touchdown for Vanderbilt, which had 270 total yards.

“We took a pretty big step forward,” said defensive end Reggie Walker. “We came in with the mentality to prove that we can be just as great as their defense because we knew they had a great defense. We took a step forward and we can always learn from our mistakes.”

Walker provided the type of pass rush that made him the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year last season, while tackle Will Geary turned in a dominating performance with five tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.

“We could have played a little better and prevented some things but they are a pretty good football team so you have to give them their credit,” Walker said.

“We got better on defense,” said cornerback D.J. Reed. “We got tougher. Vanderbilt is a tough team so they challenged us and we answered the call but came up short.”

The Wildcats have two weeks to deal with this loss, facing a bye this week before opening the Big 12 schedule at home against Baylor on Sept. 30.

“It’s as good a time as any,” Ertz said of the off week. “You have time to watch film and digest what happened. We’ll get ready for Baylor and that’s all you can do. It’s not the end of the road for us. It feels a lot like West Virginia last year. It’s a tough loss but we won’t lay down.”

“There’s no other choice but to bounce back,” Reed said. “I’m not a loser, my team’s not a loser. We’re not losers. We have to get back to work.”

Contact Ken Corbitt at (785) 295-1123 or @KenCorbitt on Twitter.



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