Keys to a Wildcat Win

28 Oct

Kansas State (7-0) enters its homecoming game tomorrow ranked higher than Oklahoma (6-1). Not surprisingly, the #9/11 Sooners are heavily favored. Evidently, there are those who still believe that the #8/10 Wildcats’ seven consecutive victories constitute some sort of fluke.

My friend Doug Tucker, who has covered Kansas and Missouri sports for the Associated Press for over 40 years, responded to this with what he referred to as an old gambler’s saying: “If it keeps happening over and over again, it’s not luck.”

Sure, the Wildcats have won games – nearly all of them, save for Kent State and the University of Kansas – by slim margins. However, that should not cloud the fact that they have won seven straight games. Their defense plays like it’s having a blast, their offense defies all logic and moves the ball as if Daniel Thomas was not graduated and in the NFL now, and the special teams gets better and contributes more every week. Make no mistake: this is a good football team.

That said, Oklahoma is good too, despite being upset in its hometown by Texas Tech last weekend.

Here is what Kansas State will have to do in order to prevail and make College Gameday wish it had set up shop in Manhattan instead of at the USC/Stanford game.

  1. Grab momentum quickly. Whether this comes in the form of a sustained drive, a series of smashmouth defensive plays, or great special teams coverage that makes Oklahoma start its drive far away from Kansas State’s end zone, the Wildcats must do something inspiring early. Not only does this get the whole team amped up and believing, but it has the same effect on the crowd. The raucous noise and rowdy presence that fans can contribute is what home field advantage is all about, and Kansas State will need to take advantage of whatever it can to pull off an upset of this magnitude.
  2. Bother Landry Jones. Obviously, that’s not an easy task considering his entourage of talented, experience, gigantic offensive linemen – but it needs to happen. I’ve said this a few times now: Kansas State’s secondary has been giving up some long, big pass plays. Jones can capitalize on those opportunities every time, so the Wildcats’ defense had better hurry him, hit him, get hands up in front of his face, anything to destabilize him. Let him get comfortable, and you’re in for a long afternoon.
  3. Get the receivers involved. Whatever you want to say about his throwing motion, Collin Klein is a competent passer. Most people see him as a runner, so it’s important that he establish connections with receivers – particularly Chris Harper and Tyler Lockett – early so the defense has to stay honest. Everyone already knows he can run, but outside of the game against the Jayhawks, his passing skills have stayed a bit more under wraps. Also, I would like to see a few somewhat-tricky plays that get a guy open further downfield for some of the big passing plays that will make the offense more prominent like coach Bill Snyder has talked about.
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