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REWATCH: K-State vs. Texas Tech

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K-State overcame an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to beat Texas Tech in overtime. TB has the rewatch.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

K-State’s overtime win against Texas Tech was much needed, both from a confidence and achievements perspective. It now gives K-State three opportunities to get one more win for bowl eligibility, and two of those are at home against West Virginia and Iowa State.

Just as importantly, K-State’s players were able to shed the ‘here we go again’ feeling that seemed to creep in after blowing a big lead against Oklahoma and failing to pull out an overtime win against Texas. Also, contrary to my assertion in the Texas Tech preview, Skylar Thompson showed that he is ready to run this offense at a winning level this year. Mea culpa, Skylar.

It was clear that K-State’s offensive coaching staff spent the week doing some soul searching and considering how to implement a plan to keep defenses off-balance and not rely as heavily on the numbers advantage provided by the quarterback run game. The result was an offensive performance akin to what we saw in the first half against Oklahoma, and the first quarter against KU (but with, y’know, actual scoring to show for it). K-State built one thing off another, using QB power and RPOs off it, as well as zone read/halfback leads and RPOs off that. Some timely Wildcat formation resulted in a touchdown for Dalvin Warmack and took running plays away from the quarterbacks.

Defensively, we introduced a Dime package that proved effective against 00 personnel for Texas Tech. I was surprised to find on the rewatch that we actually spent most of the game in our base nickel look. Not surprisingly, we didn’t blitz all that often or effectively. The highlight of the day was Boom Massie’s first significant action, and he showed discipline against the run and some energy opposite Reggie Walker.

Film Review

K-State has first down and 10 yards to go from Tech’s 48-yard line. The Wildcats are in 12 personnel, with Winston Dimel in the backfield. At the snap, right guard Tyler Mitchell pulls and Dimel leads into the play-side A gap. Tech’s linebackers, reading their keys, fire downhill to take on Mitchell and Dimel. Delton at least momentarily shows a pass look, but this looks like QB power all the way. Keep this look in mind, though.

Texas Tech has second down and 10 on its first drive. After operating out of its usual 10 personnel its first few plays, Tech substitutes a fifth wide receiver. K-State takes advantage of the refs allowing for them to substitute and brings in dime personnel. The offensive line is Boom Massie, Davis Clark, Tanner Wood and Reggie Walker, with Elijah Sullivan at linebacker, and DJ Reed, Duke Shelley, AJ Parker, and Cre Moore at corner. Denzel Goolsby and Kendall Adams are the safeties.

K-State showed a form of this look every time Tech substituted into 00 personnel. Later in the game, I noticed Joe Davies took Wood’s place on the line. Unless my notes and memory are mistaken, Tech did not run a successful play against this alignment.

It will be interesting to see if K-State shows this package against West Virginia, Oklahoma State or Iowa State. None of those teams operate out of 00 personnel much, and K-State probably isn’t willing to use this package with a running back in the game. But it could be interesting as a change of pace. If nothing else, opposing offensive coordinators will have to spend a few minutes of practice time on it.

As a note about the adjustments in football, when Tech wanted to operate with five wide receivers in the second half, they motioned the running back wide rather than substituting. K-State is probably OK with that tradeoff, though, because Tech’s running backs are not big threats as wide receivers.

On the first play of its second drive, K-State aligns in 20 personnel with Dimel and Alex Barnes in the backfield. Isaiah Zuber and Dalton Schoen are twin receivers to the field. K-State is running an RPO off its zone-read/halfback lead look. The read defender is Tech defensive back Douglas Coleman III. If he crashes down on the run look, then Delton will pull and throw. If he stays back, Barnes will take the ball behind Dimel’s lead block.

Coleman makes the read easy, though, because he cheats down to the line of scrimmage before the snap. Delton doesn’t even have to make a postsnap read, he knows immediately that he’s pulling the ball and hitting Schoen on the out route underneath the safety.

Also note that Abdul Beecham was probably an illegal man downfield. Careful there, big fella.

On the very next play, K-State has second down and four and lines up in 11 personnel with Dimel in the backfield. At the snap, both Scott Frantz and Beecham pull to the play side, and Dimel takes aim at Coleman (poor guy). Delton definitely has a run-pass option here, but the run is well blocked and none of his receivers pops open immediately. So Delton tucks and runs for three yards.

It’s important that we both show this look and show our willingness to run out of it. It puts Tech’s linebackers and run-support defensive backs in conflict every time they see pulling guards and leading fullbacks. If they hesitate, they’re giving up ground to the blockers and possibly opening a crease for Delton and his speed. But if they crash, Schoen or Zuber may slant in behind the open ground they’ve vacated for an easy completion.

I show this next play mostly to show appreciation for Dalton Risner and Dimel’s blocking. It’s the first play of the second quarter, and K-State has second down and five on its own 19-yard line. The Wildcats are in 21 personnel. At the snap, Risner pulls to kick out the unblocked defensive end on the play side, while Frantz climbs to the second level to find the middle linebacker. Dimel leads into the hole and seals another Tech linebacker (aided by said linebacker’s terrible run fit) and Silmon has all the room he needs to gallop 42 yards into Tech territory.

On the replay, also notice that Delton pulls Tech’s safety, Vaughnte Dorsey, a couple steps out of position by executing his run fake after handing to Silmon. That little detail probably added 20 yards to the run.

Here’s the reward we reap from the QB power. K-State has first down and 10 inside Tech territory and aligns in 11 personnel with Dimel in the backfield. At the snap, Risner pulls and Dimel leads. Watch Tech’s linebackers fire to the playside and look at all the green grass they leave open behind them.

To the field, Schoen runs a wide receiver screen to pull up the safety, vacating the deep middle for Pringle. Pringle’s corner is in off coverage because he has no help, so Pringle has leverage to run a deep slant underneath him. That’s an easy throw for a 20-yard gain. It set up K-State’s second touchdown of the game three plays later.

Sometimes you only notice players when they blow an assignment or miss a tackle. Trent Tanking missed a tackle on a draw play in the first quarter, but was otherwise nails against the run. This play illustrates his technique and leverage.

Tech has second down and 10 and lines up in the pistol formation. At the snap, Tech’s H-back leads into the A gap for running back Justin Stockton. Tanking meets the H-back hard to prevent vertical displacement but, crucially, keeps his right shoulder free so he can shed the block and at least slow Stockton until help arrives. Turns out he doesn’t even need the help and makes the tackle unassisted.

Here’s another example of K-State’s dime look. Tech has second down and nine and aligns in 00 personnel. K-State drops Sullivan into coverage, so they have seven defenders for five receivers. Nobody is open and Shimonek is nearly sacked before he throws the ball away.

Conclusion

For my money, this was the best offensive performance of the year. K-State now has a suite of plays that will be difficult to defend because they can make postsnap reads that make defenses wrong no matter what they choose. Additionally, the significant use of pulling guards opens up the possibility to run a straight play-action with a pulling lineman later this year. Keep an eye out for that.

West Virginia’s defense is both more aggressive and better than Texas Tech’s. But they’re below average against the run and susceptible to giving up big pass plays. Whoever plays at quarterback for K-State next week will have to maintain their composure in the face of WVU’s zero blitzes and find the open man. And there will be open men.

Defensively, I know we’re all tired of giving up 400 yards passing every week. And after Dylan Cantrell inflicted that game on DJ Reed, we should have concern about matching up 5’9” corners against the tall receivers we’ll face down the stretch. That means David Sills for West Virginia, Marcell Ateman for OSU, and Allen Lazard and Hakeem Butler for Iowa State. Reed competed his ass off just to hold his own against Cantrell, but he and Duke Shelley face a huge disadvantage against tall receivers and accurate quarterbacks.

That said, the defense has been mostly effective even if it’s not always pretty. Six big plays for KU turned into one for Texas Tech, and that one was out of an exotic look with an inexperienced player (Elijah Walker) in coverage against Keke Coutee, Tech’s best receiving threat. In film this week, I’m quite sure the coaches reminded Walker that if he is one of three defenders to the trips side of the formation, and he’s matched up with one of the top deep threats in the Big 12, then he has no responsibility other than to keep the receiver in front of him, so there’s no reason to peak into the backfield.

Finally, while I’ve noticed a few people seem to think we were lucky to win this game, I disagree. K-State had a touchdown taken off the board because Zuber’s foot was an inch out of bounds, an infraction that was correctly called but had zero bearing on how Tech defended the play and provided no advantage. And on Tech’s final touchdown, Reggie Walker whiffed on sacking Shimonek, who shot-putted a pass between Tanking and Jayd Kirby, either of whom were inches from knocking it to the ground, and then found Cantrell, who was only open because Cre Moore inexplicably followed Shimonek as he scrambled wide even though no fewer than three K-State defenders had that aspect of the play covered.

In other words, it took three breakdowns on one play for Tech to score. And when it mattered most, K-State’s defense made a huge stand in overtime to get the win.