October 11, 2008

Ground attack covers up defensive issues

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Winning is always better than losing. That may be the best and most obvious lesson following Kansas State's 44-30 victory over the struggling Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday at historic Kyle Field. Yes, the Wildcats won to move to 4-2 on the season and 1-1 in Big 12 play, but a closer look at the game delivers news of mixed results.

The brightest development to come from the game was the sign of a promising running game from the Wildcats. Not only was the ground effort, albeit coming against the Big 12's worst rush defense, productive (215 yards on 47 carries), but the number of carries also showed Coach Ron Prince's recognition that running the ball would help both his offense and defense.

The Wildcats won the time of possession duel for the first time this season, mostly because of that ground game. And while in the current high-scoring environment of college football, time of possession is not necessarily as vital as it once was, for the Wildcats it certainly holds true.

Running the ball with conviction allows Josh Freeman and the Wildcats to control the tempo of the game and to ice games when needed, as the Wildcats functionally did with their 16-play, 98-yard drive in the fourth quarter that took 7:24 off the clock. The drive included 12 rushes for 66 yards.

Now that's football.

Freeman, not known as a running quarterback, finished the game with 95 yards on 18 carries, while true freshman running back Logan Dold rolled to 115 yards on 21 carries while filling in for junior back Lamark Brown, who missed the game with a staff infection in a knee.

"The offensive line played great today," Freeman said. "We didn't plan on me running the ball as much as I did today, but we made the most of it. The guys came out and responded very well. We needed to win the game, and we came out and got the job done."

Yes, the best news for the Wildcats was the patient success of the offense kept their struggling defense off the field.

And as it turned out, that was a good thing.

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