Coming into the game, the Cardinals were averaging 563.7 yards of total offense and 50.7 points per game. Louisville dominated the time of possession against K-State, controlling the ball for 11 more minutes, but the Wildcat defense was able to force three turnovers – Louisville had only given the ball away three times all season before this game – and held the Cardinals to only 401 yards of offense and 24 points, their lowest output of the season.
Players of the game – Safety Marcus Watts and running back Thomas Clayton
Watts lost his starting job at safety to Andrew Erker, and apparently there is a method to Prince’s madness. Watts rotates in with Erker and Kyle Williams at the two safety positions, and he also plays special teams. It seems like Watts sits on the sidelines to start the game and is just getting angrier and angrier as Erker takes the opening snaps. When Watts was in the game Saturday, he was making plays and rattling heads. He led the team in total tackles with nine, including two on punt coverage. He also had an interception that he returned for 68 yards.
Clayton led the Wildcats in both rushing and receiving. He had 15 rushes for 119 yards, including a 69-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter for the only score of the day for K-State. He also had five receptions for 34 yards, and had more yards than the rest of the Wildcat offense combined.
Surprise Contributor – Defensive tackle Quintin Echols
I said Echols would register a sack in this game or cause a fumble, and ‘Q’ didn’t disappoint. On the first play for Louisville midway through the third quarter, Echols stripped the ball from Cardinal running back George Stripling. Cornerback Justin McKinney recovered the ball on Louisville’s 41-yard line, but the Wildcats just went three and out.
Offensive Grade – D
Clayton was the lone bright spot for an offense that struggled to find any kind of momentum. He rushed for 119 yards and caught five passes for 34 yards, while the rest of the offense was only able manage 94 yards combined.
Meier went 14-of-33 for 121 yards and an interception, and Josh Freeman came in and went 3-of-10 for only 18 yards. The Wildcats had more third-down opportunities than Louisville, but was only able to convert 3-for-16 of those chances.
On top of that, the offense squandered numerous opportunities to put points on the board, including a 12-play drive towards the end of the first half that resulted in a Meier interception from the Cardinals 14-yard line.
Defensive Grade – B
The defense came up with three turnovers on three straight possessions in the second half, but yielded opening-drive touchdowns to start each half, including a 97-yard drive to start the game, which was the longest drive of the season for the Cardinals.
Other than the opening drives, the defense held the No. 1-ranked offense in the country in check for most of the game. The other 10 points for Louisville came on short fields due to the K-State offensive struggles and turnovers.
Special Teams Grade – A-
The Wildcats successfully recovered an onside kick in the fourth quarter, and Watts and wide receiver Yamon Figurs were excellent in the punt coverage squad. Punter Tim Reyer had to punt eight times, and he averaged 41.2 yards per punt, with half of those punts into a strong wind. He pinned Louisville inside its 20-yard line three times, and when he wasn’t kicking it away from the return man, Figurs and Watts were right there to make sure he didn’t go anywhere.
The only blip on the special teams would be the blocked field goal attempt by kicker Jeff Snodgrass.