Tag Archives: Kansas State defense 2011

Kansas State’s Midterm Evaluation

19 Oct

It’s already past the midpoint of October, and just like that, the Wildcats are 6-0 and bowl eligible. Here’s a look at what they’ve done so far and what they’re going to need to do moving forward.

Mentality The team has really embraced this underdog persona. They might be favored in a few games, but both cornerback Nigel Malone and defensive end Jordan Voelker said the Wildcats always have a chip on their shoulder, regardless of the opponent, simply because many people did not expect this team to amount to much in general. That source of  sustained motivation is important, especially with “should win” games against KU, Iowa State and Texas still coming up. At the same time, I think the players genuinely believe in head coach Bill Snyder’s methodology and the preparation he puts them through, and that gives them confidence that they really can win any game. Obviously, that confidence and faith in each other is essential if the Wildcats plan on knocking off Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and/or Texas A&M.

Offense What Kansas State does with the football might not excite people right off the bat. That’s okay, though, because the results are exciting. In a league full of fast-moving, quick-scoring teams, the Wildcats’ attack is more measured, more methodical, and so far, pretty effective. While head coach Bill Snyder said the offense needs to be more prominent than it is now, he joked that the unit’s goal is to score more points than the team’s defense gives up, so up to this point, the offense has met its goals. The rushing game has been effective so far, largely because the Wildcats have a one-two punch between running back John Hubert and Klein. Both are averaging nearly 100 yards per game on the ground.

Going forward, the Wildcats need to develop a stronger passing attack. As quarterback Collin Klein continues to pile up repetitions, he becomes more accurate and makes better decisions. It looks like Snyder has cracked the playbook just a little bit more in recent weeks, but against meatier opponents with more seasoned defenses, Kansas State will need all cylinders firing.

Defense Easily the team’s most reputable unit so far, this group has been fun to watch. They like what they’re doing. The enthusiasm, passion and enjoyment of playing have made the Wildcats even more focused and disciplined. Simply stated, this is the area no one outside of the team is worried about. If there is one thing I would nitpick, it would be the secondary getting burnt on long pass plays. As Snyder says, this is bound to happen from time to time, but 10 different Texas Tech receivers had a catch of 10 or more yards on Saturday. That makes me worry a bit about what will happen when the Wildcats play Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Special teams This group has been inconsistent. (As Snyder says, his son Sean, special teams coach, would be pulling his hair out if he had any hair.) Last week specifically, it performed tremendously. There’s not much more you can ask for than a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and two blocked field goal attempts. A less glamorous aspect of that game was the kickoff coverage team, which made Texas Tech start an average of 79 yards from the end zone on their five drives that began with kickoff returns.

Like everything, improvement needs to be made, particularly by the punt return unit, but the potential here is high – think Tramaine Thompson, Tyler Lockett and David Garrett.


KSU players recognized on midseason All-Big 12 team

14 Oct

I don’t know how much longer the Wildcats will be able to claim underdog status. Phil Steele released his lists of midseason All-Americans and All-Big honorees, and eight Kansas State names sit among them.

Steele put linebacker Arthur Brown as a first-team All-American. To anyone who has seen him play, this is no surprise whatsoever. He’s 7th in the Big 12 with 38 tackles that include several sacks and tackles for loss. Numbers really do not explain what he brings to this team, though. He gets to the football like he’s magnetically drawn to it. He puts the kind of hard, jarring hits on players that make you happy that you decided to pursue a professional other than football.

Nosetackle Ray Kibble earned third-team All-America recognition. The way the defensive line has been playing, this is very much justified. The Kansas State defense ranks 16th in the nation and is particularly strong against the run. Plus, the Wildcats allow opponents to convert on third down only 30 percent of the time. Kibble has had much to do with that. Coach Bill Snyder said  he is really coming into his own as a leader as well. Fellow defensive tackle Vai Lutui received a spot on the All-Big 12 third team. This is his first season at a D-I college, as he transferred to Kansas State after helping lead Mt. San Antonio Community College to a 13-0 record in 2010.

Defensive end Jordan Voelker saw time in five games last season, a walk-on after transferring from Butler Community College. Steele named him to the second-team All-Big 12. Listed there with him is cornerback Nigel Malone, who apparently resembles players on many different teams because opposing quarterbacks keep throwing him the ball.

As part of Kansas State’s wonderfully revamped linebacking corps, 2010 Freshman All-American Tre Walker made third-team All-American. An enthusiastic vocal leader for the team, he’s one of the younger guys with D-I experience on the roster. Cornerback David Garrett is another passionate player Steele named as third-team Big 12. Wide receiver Chris Harper said Garrett epitomizes the attitude of this team: he may be small, be he’s so tough.

Running back John Hubert is the lone offensive player for Kansas State on this list, as a third-team All-Big 12 player. Averaging nearly 100 yards per game on a team that has a quarterback who averages nearly 100 rushing yards per game is pretty impressive. People worried about how the running game would fare after Daniel Thomas moved on to the NFL. It’s turned out pretty well so far.



Kansas State defense looks to redefine its reputation

14 Sep

After finishing the 2010 season ranked as one of the worst defenses in the country, Kansas State currently sits in the No. 1 spot.

Of course, the team has only played one game, but with its next matchup coming against a Kent State team that managed only 19 points between its first two contests, it looks like Saturday will be a great opportunity for the Wildcats to continue what they have started. In its season opener against Eastern Kentucky, the Kansas State defense allowed only 129 yards of total offense. The players, however, don’t want to dwell on that.

“One game doesn’t define the whole season, so we’re really looking on building on that, keeping up the things we did well and improving on the things we did bad,” said defensive end Jordan Voelker, who had two sacks against Eastern Kentucky.

While the Wildcats’ defense looked fantastic in its debut, keeping the Colonels out of the end zone the entire game except when they started a drive on Kansas State’s one-yard line, Voelker said it is important for them to make corrections from that game and improve their tackling because the team will only face tougher opponents as the season wears on.

“Consistency is something Coach Snyder preaches about all the time,” said defensive back Tysyn Hartman. “We can’t have roller-coaster performances where we play great one game, terrible the next. I feel like that’s something we did last year, and we feel like we’re a better defense than last year, so we’ve got to prove that.”

And after a few games against increasingly talented opponents, maybe it will be proven.

“If we put a few good games together, I think people are going to start recognizing that K-State defenses are maybe somewhat back, and hopefully we’ve changed the perception of being one of the bottom defenses,” Voelker said.

Players say the early bye week – a quirk in the schedule, as head coach Bill Snyder referred to it – helped them come back to earth, so to speak, after their great performance in the opening game.

“It brought us down off our high a little bit maybe,” Voelker said, “and we realized that we still have a lot of things to accomplish and we’re not – statistically we’re the number one defense in the nation, but we don’t see ourselves as the number one defense in the nation with the mistakes we made. There’s always those things that we have to improve on, just the small things we’ve got to do to keep getting there.”

Cornerback Nigel Malone said the intensity of the defense has not faded since the win and that the team should be able to maintain it going into the Kent State game and the games after that. While the Wildcats want to be aggressive and tenacious, they also want people to tell that they are enjoying playing the game.

Voelker said that as the Wildcats watch tape of the Alabama-Kent State game, they were impressed by the Alabama defense and wanted to take on a similar look as far as effort and enthusiasm.

“We really like the way that Alabama was flying to the ball,” Voelker said. “That’s the image we want to try to put off, is a defense like that just looks like they’re enjoying playing football and enjoying playing with each other and having a good time and making plays while you’re doing it.”


Reasons to be optimistic about Game 2 for the Wildcats

12 Sep

1. Unity is an element that head coach Bill Snyder emphasizes. The Wildcats demonstrated that in a big way as they persevered through a long, largely futile and somewhat embarrassing 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky in the season opener. Not only did they grind away until finally getting some points, but according to quarterback Collin Klein, the mood on the sidelines was supportive despite the fact that the defense was thriving (allowing only one touchdown, and that when EKU recovered a fumble at the Kansas State one-yard line) while the offense struggled.

“We hung together as a team, didn’t start picking at each other as an offense, or our defense didn’t get on us when they were playing really well and we were struggling,” Klein said. “There wasn’t that animosity back and forth. We didn’t start falling apart. We hung together.”

2. The performance against Eastern Kentucky was only the first game of the season. After watching film of the game, Snyder said the majority of mistakes were correctable ones. Among those were inconsistencies in footwork along the offensive line, which the coach attributed in part to some of the players being a little nervous in their first game and therefore not focusing enough on the mechanics of their position on each snap.

“We’re young,” Klein said. “I know that the guys are working hard. We all did things at times that were uncharacteristic of us. I made a couple decisions that I would like to have back, but it’s trying to stay at it, be diligent, don’t get down … It really is a marathon and not a sprint.”

3. It was a bad game. Simply and truly, the game against Eastern Kentucky was not a demonstration of the Wildcats all performing at their maximum potential. Mistakes were made. In fact, center B.J. Finney called the game a “crapshoot of mistakes.” Obviously, the good news here is that not every game will be a bad game.

“I would like to think it was just a bad performance and that’s not a true read, an accurate assessment of where we’re at,” Klein said. “I know a lot of times I’ll have a one-time instance that isn’t who I am or what kind of player or person I am. It’s the kind of thing where obviously it’s a wake-up call … I know we’re further along than what we showed on Saturday, but like you said it’s a matter of proving it, and we’re going to do the best we can to do it.”

What to Take Away from Week 1

4 Sep
Getting a last-minute 10-7 victory over an FCS school that is on your schedule as a given W is not the way a team wants to begin a season. Nevertheless, that is the way the 2011 Wildcats have started off, and here’s your guide to interpret yesterday’s ridiculousness.
  • Arthur Brown, who led the Wildcats in tackles, struggles to bring down EKU wide receiver Tyrone Goard. (AP Photo)

    DEFENSE: THE OVERVIEW The defense played aggressively, and at the end of the day it had four sacks and a pair of interceptions – not to mention a win – to show for it. Although the opponent was an FCS team without its starting quarterback or all-conference receiver, that is still a good sign. The Kansas State defenders cannot control who the opponent is; they can just defend the players who are out there, and they did that very well. Although there were some troubling moments, such as when an Eastern Kentucky player squirmed away from two or three Wildcats before continuing down the sideline, those were few and far between. *All in all, it’s a good day when the opposing team can only score when it starts a possession from the other team’s 1-yard line.*

  • DEFENSE: THE NEW GUYS Some exciting debuts were made by linebacker and captain Arthur Brown, who had a team-high 7 tackles (1 solo, 6 assisted); Jordan Voelker, a defensive end who moved into the starting lineup after seeing time in 5 games last season, had 5 tackles that included 2 sacks; and Meshak Williams, who transferred from Hutchinson Community College, had 3 solo tackles that included two tackles for loss of 11 yards. Both defensive ends, Voelker and Williams showed persistence in getting off blocks and causing unrest behind the line of scrimmage. Williams was not the starter heading in to the game, but he may very well be a starter heading into the next game.
  • DEFENSE: STATISTICS While the Kansas State defense had very few pass breakups (2, to be exact), that isn’t necessarily a reason for concern. While Eastern Kentucky freshman quarterback Jared McClain threw 26 passes, only 9 were caught, and part of the reason for that was that some of the throws were so far off that they really did not necessitate a breakup by a defender. Also not as bad as it looks is that the Colonels totaled 51 tackles in the game, while the Wildcats had just 31. However, looking at other stats, that discrepancy is probably explained by the fact that Kansas State’s offense was on the field more, eating up 36:43 of the game clock with 77 plays compared to just 53 by Eastern Kentucky.
  • DEFENSE: ATTITUDE I saw more celebratory jumping and hugging on the field than I ever have by this Kansas State defense. The guys seemed amped up for every play, and it looked like they took the time to savor – just a little – the success of each tackle or chase, whether it was by one individual or another. They really stayed enthusiastic, and their persistence and tenacity was great. *What they did last night was the equivalent of a pitcher throwing a no-hitter to get his team a 1-0 win.*
  • Collin Klein hands it off to John Hubert, who got 17 carries on the night ... compared to Klein's 25 rush attempts. (AP Photo)

    OFFENSE: THE OVERVIEW Basically, the Wildcats struggled mightily. Not scoring for 49 minutes and 49 seconds against an FCS team is truly inexcusable. The lack of points becomes more disturbing when one considers that Eastern Kentucky gave up 68 yards through penalties, keeping several drives alive for the Wildcats, and yet Kansas State finished with just over 300 yards of offense: 175 on the ground, 128 through the air. Lastly, notice this: the Wildcats ran 56 rush plays and only 21 pass plays. *I don’t want to question head coach Bill Snyder, who has been around football for a few decades longer than I have been alive, but it surprises me that Kansas State put such an emphasis on trying to run the football against a team whose run defense finished first in its conference last season.*

  • OFFENSE: THE PLAYERS This probably is not how quarterback Collin Klein pictured his debut. He had a fumble (though honestly it happened because of a poor snap by new center Shaun Simon) and an interception and took two sacks. However, coming through it the clutch with a 33-yard zinger to wide receiver Chris Harper in the end zone showed some guts. It speaks to the character of the team that Klein and the other guys on offense kept working hard – and kept out of the “I can’t believe we haven’t scored on an FCS team yet” mentality – to get the job done, even if it was not in a pretty, flashy manner.
  • OFFENSE: THE OUTLOOK I’m inclined to believe Snyder when he says the early bye week could be a blessing in disguise. Clearly, there are aspects of the offense that need to be ironed out. The team needs to pick a running back and a backup running back (John Hubert, who had 91 yards rushing, followed by Bryce Brown seems a viable option), and I would imagine it will do that over the next two weeks. Also, it seems like the passing game needs to be taken up a notch; maybe Brodrick Smith and Tramaine Thompson could get some catches, for one. The offensive line needs to figure out a way to hold its ground because it got bullied; obviously, that front is essential to the operation of the whole offense, so those guys have to gel and get their act together quickly. *I don’t think you could say any offensive player was stellar in this game, and while none of them may ever be stellar, these are competent guys, and two weeks from now, I expect much more from them.*
  • SPECIAL TEAMS: THE OVERVIEW Two fumbles in the special teams game do not a happy coach make. Snyder is all about discipline, and fumbles are an unnecessary evil. Two of Kansas State’s five fumbles (four of which the team lost) came on muffed punt returns – one by senior safety Tysyn Hartman and one by sophomore safety Ty Zimmerman. Both those guys are solid players, and perhaps their struggles can partly be attributed to the wind that was whipping around down on the field. Still, though, that can’t happen. Against a Big 12 team, that’s instantly 14 points. On the bright side, freshman wide receiver Tyler Lockett showed promise, holding onto his punt returns and even breaking off a big run that was called back by a block-in-the-back penalty. Cornerback David Garrett returned two kickoffs (one at the start of the game, and one after the Colonels’ only touchdown) for 78 yards. That is exciting. Look for him and Lockett to tear it up on returns throughout the season.