Tag Archives: Kansas State offense 2011

Time to cowboy up

20 Jan

If Kansas State gets its first Big 12 road win of the season tomorrow afternoon, it will be a huge accomplishment.

Don’t be fooled by Oklahoma State’s 9-9 overall record. The Cowboys will be a handful on Saturday. For a long time, it seems like they have had Kansas State’s number. The Wildcats have not won in Gallagher-Iba Arena since 1993. Since the formation of the Big 12, Kansas State is 3-13 against Oklahoma State.

Coach Frank Martin said the arena is a crazy atmosphere and a difficult place to win. He recalled the last two games his team has played there, saying the Wildcats had managed the game but just came apart at the seams late, between foul trouble last year and crunch-time turnovers the year before that.

“That building is hard,” Martin said. “The crowd is off the charts, and they feed off of that.  They have great players and Travis [Ford] does a heck of a job with their team.”

The floor leader of the Cowboys is about as overlook-able as his team’s mediocre record. By now, though, everyone who has seen 5-foot-9 senior Keiton Page play knows better than to underestimate him. He leads the team with nearly 15 points per game – almost the average that Kansas State dynamo Rodney McGruder is sporting.

“Keiton is the heart of their team,” Martin said. “He might be the smallest player in the league, but he probably has the biggest heart.  He is a ferocious competitor.  I am not there every day, but I am told he is as good of leader as they have seen at Oklahoma State in years.  When you watch their team play, and you watch him, I think it is clear as day that he is the guy that guides them.”

However, Page is easily the most experienced of his group. According to Oklahoma State’s game notes, he is the lone senior on an eight-man rotation that aside from him includes one junior, one sophomore and five freshman.

Of course, the Wildcats are not necessarily loaded with experienced veterans themselves. In the starting lineup Kansas State has one senior, one junior, one sophomore and two freshmen. The Wildcats probably have more experience coming off the bench, but it would appear that both squads are in that growing-pains sort of stage.

The Cowboys are coming off a last-second loss to Iowa State in Ames. In that game, both Page and Le’Bryan Nash had 21 points. Oklahoma State had the advantage in most statistical categories, but the team also got just 10 opportunities at the foul line and took advantage of just five.

Remember, Kansas State took 39 foul shots on Wednesday in its 84-80 victory over Texas. Granted, that Iowa State had only 16 attempts against Oklahoma means probably means that game was 1) less physical or 2) being officiated differently, but I think it may be worth noting.

The aggression the Wildcats demonstrated in going to the rim against Texas is exactly what they have to do to be successful the rest of this season. It gets you to the foul line, it draws defenders into the paint to open up perimeter shooters and it allows you higher-percentage shots.

Saturday’s game starts at 12:30 and will be televised on the Big 12 Network.

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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.

 

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.