On the Offensive: Slow and Steady

13 Oct

Photo by J Pat Carter / AP

Kansas State faces a variety of foes with fast attacks. Baylor, Missouri, and – on Saturday – Texas Tech are just a few fellow Big 12 teams who place a high priority on hurrying. Their efficiency in getting to the line of scrimmage, calling the play and snapping the ball can put defenses on their heels. While this style may work for some teams – although apparently not against the Wildcats – Kansas State employs a slightly different modus operandi.

The Wildcats regroup behind the line of scrimmage, strategize, converse, compare notes. Smaller numbers continue to replace larger ones on the play clock. The players break from the huddle and get set. Quarterback Collin Klein and others look at their coaches on the sideline. The crowd begins to count. “Five! Four! Three! Two!” Center B.J. Finney snaps the ball.

That sort of routine is why the Wildcats lead the Big 12 and the nation in time of position, on average holding the ball for nearly 36 minutes per game. Keeping the other team’s offense off the field is certainly a priority, but Kansas State has also been careful to actually make use of that time.

“The time of possession doesn’t mean anything if we’re not getting points,” wide receiver Chris Harper said. “We had opportunities last game where we should have put more points on the board and we didn’t. We’ve got to improve on that.”

As far as the slower-moving strategy, Harper has bought in.

“I think it’s to our benefit because we get that much more time in the huddle, more time to regroup and things like that,” Harper said. “You can go harder on the next play. There’s benefits to it. Obviously you don’t get as many plays, but I think you get more quality plays.”

Besides that, resisting the urge to turn the game into the foot race shows a certain obstinate attitude, and it fits the Wildcats well.

“When we chew up the clock, it means we’re controlling the game, that we’re trying to do what we want to do instead of play at their game pace,” Finney said. “So to be able to do that is a huge advantage in our favor, obviously.”

Those steamy summer two-a-days and weight room sessions pay off when the Kansas State offense is on the field for drives that last five minutes or more. They also give the Wildcats an advantage in the fourth quarter, when the team must stifle the comeback attempts of its opponent or launch a final rally of its own.

“I firmly believe that our conditioning has helped us win the games, especially on offense,” Finney said. “When we have those five minute drives like we had this past game, being conditioned helps you execute a lot better, takes fatigue off of your mind, and helps you get your wind back in between plays. Being in shape is a huge factor going into late quarters.”

At 5-0, the Wildcats are in better shape than most imagined they would be. Pervasive skepticism before wins over Miami, Baylor and Missouri has dwindled some, but Kansas State is still the underdog going into Lubbock this weekend. The players, however, seem a little tired of addressing what they can’t control – like the perception of whether Kansas State is a legitimate threat for the Big 12 title and possibly more.

“That’s in the eyes of the media and the nation,” Finney said. “In our eyes, we are a legitimate team and shouldn’t be taken lightly because we are 5-0. We come in every day and improve, and we just take that work ethic with us and the discipline to do everything right.”

So far, that’s looking like a good strategy.

 

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