Kansas State didn’t make it easy on Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, that’s for sure. When he needed to, though, the Heisman Trophy hopeful dazzled just enough to keep his campaign for a trip to New York City rolling through Week 1.
In a 26-13 defensive struggle, McCaffrey finished with 210 all-purpose yards — broken down into 126 yards rushing, 40 yards receiving and 44 return yards — along with a pair of touchdowns. He would’ve had more if his 97-yard punt return in the first quarter wasn’t called back for an illegal block in the back.
On paper, his 6.6 yards per attempt checks off the right boxes. In reality, McCaffrey didn’t have such an easy time.
Generally speaking, Kansas State played exceptional defense on McCaffrey. They were disciplined in their assignments, had tremendous gap play and tackled well in the open field. Even if it was literally by a shoelace.
Put another way, it was a signature Bill Snyder defensive performance. You couldn’t have asked for much more against a guy as versatile and explosive as McCaffrey.
But because McCaffrey has exceptional burst, because he has elite top-end speed, because his moves can juke a defender out of his shoes, he’s going to get his explosive plays. Defenses can key in on him all they want — and K-State absolutely did with authority — but it’s nearly impossible to keep McCaffrey from breaking off a big play for an entire game.
Eventually, he’s going to do this …
… and this.
A punt return in the fourth quarter felt like it was on the verge of being taken back to the house, too, but McCaffrey was tripped up before he could get into the open field. He truly is one of the few players in college football who makes fans legitimately, and not figuratively, hold their breath every time he touches the ball.
McCaffrey racked up 76 yards on his two long touchdown runs. If you take those away, he averaged 2.5 yards per carry. That’s a good average for any defense against almost any running back, let alone a player of McCaffrey’s caliber.
But McCaffrey got his numbers — and against arguably the Big 12’s best defense, too. That’ll keep his Heisman hype train operating at full steam for at least another week. He deserves that. Not many players can single-handedly change a game like he can.
McCaffrey is going to make life a living hell for more teams again this year, even though he’s being schemed against. For a few plays on Friday night, he turned Snyder’s white hair even whiter. That’s just what he does.
Kansas State made him earn those big plays, though. That narrative won’t be remembered in time, but the Wildcats deserve that much recognition.
Source: CBS Sports / WATCH: Tough Kansas State makes Christian McCaffrey fight for these dazzling plays