MANHATTAN, Kan. — Tulane stormed into Bill Snyder Family Stadium Saturday afternoon, and silenced the crowd with a 17-10 upset over Kansas State.
The loss was the Wildcats’ lowest point total in non-conference play since 2018. Although Kansas State looked sluggish and fatigued throughout the game, the one aspect that caught Coach Chris Klieman’s attention was his players’ execution.
For the first time this season the Wildcats’ looked predictable on offense, and had to throw the football to win. The numbers don’t lie, and Kansas State only converted two of its’ 15 third downs. Not to mention the Wildcats four failed fourth down attempts.
The performance by the offense was a head-scratcher to Klieman though, considering how much he thought his players were ready for Tulane.
“We had a really good week of preparation, and preparation doesn’t equate to execution sometimes,” Klieman said. “So I thought we prepared well, but I didn’t think we executed.”
Quarterback Adrian Martinez completed 21 of his 31 passes, for 150 yards and a touchdown. However, he only averaged 4.8 yards per completion and couldn’t come up with the clutch pass when needed. The Green Wave’s defense held All-American running back Deuce Vaughn to 81 yards on the ground. Tulane also snapped Vaughn’s eight-game streak of 100-yard outings.
Vaughn even missed crucial time on the field because he cramped up and went to the locker room. The Wildcats’ offense couldn’t do much damage to the Green Wave’s defense during Vaughn’s absence, especially throwing the ball. And that’s what frustrated Klieman the most.
“It didn’t perform the way it needs to, stats are stats, but we need to be more explosive and more explosive in the passing game,” he said. “I thought they did a really nice job of tackling, especially on Deuce.”
Kansas State ran seven more plays than Tulane, and had the advantage in time of possession. Still, the Wildcats had three less first downs. The Green Wave also held the Wildcats scoreless in the first, third and fourth quarter. The positive take from the loss is the fact that the offense didn’t turn the ball over. And Klieman believes that’s something to build on.
Regardless, it’s back to the drawing board for Klieman and his team. As of now, the Wildcats are left with more questions than answers. From the outside looking in, it seems that Kansas State was looking ahead to the showdown in Norman against Oklahoma.
The Wildcats were well on their way to possibly cracking the AP Poll had they secured a 3-0 record. Instead Klieman and his staff have to pick up the pieces. The offense must find a way to execute without Vaughn. Opposing Big 12 defenses are going to be game-planning around him, so some other player on offense has to step up.
Malik Knowles and Phillip Brooks are two of the best in the country in the return game, but they’ll have to be more effective in the Wildcats’ aerial attack. Something must be done to build Martinez’s confidence, and reps in practice is a start.
Klieman knows his team got punched in the mouth, so leaders have to emerge, and it’s up to him and his staff to get the players motivated for game four.
“Adversity has struck, and how are we going to respond to that adversity, all of us, players and coaches.”