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How serious are the pass defense issues?

Notice how relaxed he looks throwing this ball, since he knows he doesn't have to worry about anyone in purple hitting him. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-US PRESSWIRE
Notice how relaxed he looks throwing this ball, since he knows he doesn't have to worry about anyone in purple hitting him. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-US PRESSWIRE

Very few parts of the Bill Snyder winning machine were in working order for the first three quarters on Saturday, but it's safe to say it was the struggles against the pass, especially by the defensive line, that caused the most consternation.

I think we knew going in that the defensive line was the biggest weakness on this team, but the hope was that Adam Davis and especially Meshak Williams could step up and help cover up the poor play of the two juco defensive tackles. Instead, Williams and Davis combined for three tackles and KSU didn't record a sack. That's going to be a problem.

Missouri State has a decent quarterback and the Wildcat secondary could have been better, but this is still a poor FCS team that gave up more than two sacks per game last season, third-worst in the Missouri Valley Conference. Sure, K-State stopped the run, but that's not exactly special against an FCS team that averaged 3.6 yards per carry in 2011 and lost its top three (!) rushers.

Clearly, something has to change, but should we expect to see something different when Miami comes to town this Saturday?

My initial reaction on Saturday was to share the optimism of TB and Pan, who could be absolutely right when they say this was just a Snyder team starting slow and not a huge reason for concern (hopefully that's a correct characterization). After all, we all saw what happened following the Eastern Kentucky game last year.

I do think offensively the first three quarters will turn out to be more or less a complete anomaly (see the fourth quarter) and that will save us in a few games. But I'd argue it was really the poor play of the defense that kept this one close by letting the MSU offense gain way too many yards (though not points, to their credit) and keep the K-State offense off the field.

Also, historical close calls have me a bit worried. You could argue the 35-0 4th quarter makes this a moot point, because games are 60 minutes and all of that. But looking back, the results following the win over EKU are really an anomaly in K-State history in terms of whether close calls against I-AA/FCS schools mean anything for the future.

Though it may just be my generation, I feel like I was always a bit spoiled by KSU's dominance against weaker schools. The 'Cats beat Akron 67-0 in the first game I ever attended, and from 1993-2003, they basically destroyed I-AA teams every single team.

In 2004, Western Kentucky (admittedly an above-average I-AA team that moved up to the FBS in 2007) trailed Kansas State by only a touchdown heading into the fourth quarter. It was a new, scary experience for me, and it proved to be an omen of things to come, much like two other close calls since then.

Game Next game Final record
'04 vs. WKU, 27-13 vs. Fresno St. 21-45 4-7
'06 vs. Illinois St., 24-23 vs. Florida Atlantic, 45-0 7-6
'09 vs. UMass, 21-17 at ULL, 15-17 6-6

Admittedly, those last two games deserve a fairly large asterisk, as they were the first seasons of Ron Prince ('06) and Snyder 2.0 ('09). At the same time, those two teams probably played better competition (agree, Jon?) and the fact that this year's experienced group of winners would have anything in common with those teams is somewhat disconcerting.

Incidentally, the K-State defense racked up just four sacks in those three games, and three of them were by Ian Campbell against Illinois St. As much as I want to believe in Meshak, this defense doesn't have an Ian Campbell. One other note: Of the four close calls (including MSU this year) only UMass didn't achieve it by having some success through the air.

On the bright side, if you want to see a D-line and secondary that looked even worse that KSU on Saturday, just head on over to espn3 and watch Miami defense Boston College. The separation BC's receivers were able to get and the time Chase Rettig had to throw basically all day was simply astounding.

This is hard to believe unless you've seen it, but trust me when I say Rettig could have done a lot more damage than his 441 yards and two touchdowns if his receivers hadn't had multiple drops and he hadn't made an incredibly careless throw that turned into a game-changing pick six. He does have more touch and better accuracy than Klein, but most of the time (especially in the first half) the receivers were so open that it wouldn't have mattered.

As far as Miami's offense, the 'Canes have a very dangerous running game that will likely be discussed in another post. But their passing game should help us determine whether we need to be placing more blame on the secondary/coverage schemes or the defensive line.

Miami's offensive line wasn't that great at sustaining the pocket and their quarterback, Stephen Morris, doesn't have a lot of accuracy or much of a long ball anyway. As a result, the Hurricanes' only effective means of air attack came out of the no-huddle offense on short slants or passes out into the flat, where Morris can make an easy, hard throw to his quick receivers or tailbacks.

That kind of passing game essentially renders the defensive line irrelevant, as long as the receivers aren't tightly covered and have some room to run. That's what happened against BC (no pass went for longer than 21 yards) and if KSU's defensive backs and coaches allow it to happen Saturday, we're going to have some big problems.