I’ve been mulling over what to say about Kansas State‘s first two games.
This is obviously the best case scenario for the start of the Klieman era, but I’m not sure I know much about this team. I can tell you that they are well coached, because they came out and played two clean games against vastly inferior opponents. After that, it’s hard to judge where this team is right now.
Breaking down film of the first two games, while interesting, is a fairly useless exercise other than getting an idea of what plays the Wildcats may be interested in running. After that, the first two games have been glorified scrimmages. I know what the offense wants to look like against a real defense, but I have no idea what it will look like against a real defense. I’m old enough to remember Yi Jianlian being selected with the 6th overall pick in the NBA draft because, in part, he looked good in a video where he posted up folding chairs.
Honestly, I’m not so certain that strategically placed folding chairs wouldn’t have done a better job against the Wildcat run game than Bowling Green.
I usually like to break plays down and give you some stills, but it’s pretty easy to see what happens on this play.
Kansas State blocks the correct people and Bowling Green doesn’t do anything to stop them from blocking the correct people. This is one of those times where you draw up a play, and it works perfectly on every level. That usually only happens against a team like Bowling Green.
The Wildcats might run this play against Mississippi State, but the chances of Jordon Brown jogging to the end zone after being lightly nudged by two Bulldog players is pretty small. I’m not sure what the play looks like with an actual defense on the field, but it’s not this.
Back to What I Do Know
Don’t think I’m diminishing what the coaching staff and players have accomplished the first two weeks. Everything looks to be running smoothly. The staff are getting the right packages of players on the field for every play. The play is coming in from the sideline in a timely manner. Most importantly, the players, for the most part, are executing the plays as they are drawn up. The only thing you can control in football is what you do, and the Wildcats have taken care of that.
As I mentioned, I know this is a well coached team, because they are performing like a well coached team. I just don’t know if this a good team... yet.
What I’ll be looking for on Offense
What happens when Plan A doesn’t work?
So far, everything has gone according to plan. The run game has been dominant and Skylar has been able to sit back in a clean pocket and toss the ball to relatively open wide receivers.
At some point during the Mississippi State game (probably from the opening kick) the Bulldogs are going to sell out against the run and make Thompson throw the ball against tight coverage to beat them. I expect the coaching staff to have patience with the run game, but if Mississippi State is playing 8 or 9 in the box, it’s not going to work.
Good teams are going to try and make Kansas State play left handed. They will stack the box, challenge the Wildcats to block up 8 or 9 guys, and see what the wide receivers can do against press man. Up until now, that hasn’t been an issue because the talent gulf has been wide enough to nullify any defensive scheme. You can come in with the best game plan in the world, but if the other team is significantly better than you at every position, it doesn’t matter.
In the first two games, Kansas State possessed a decisive talent advantage. On paper, Mississippi State holds a talent advantage over the Wildcats at most positions. I’m not selling Mississippi State as a juggernaut, but things are about to get real for the first time in the 2019 season.
So far this year Mississippi State hasn’t looked like the stacked team we saw last year (before they were decimated by injuries). They gave up 430 yards of total offense to Louisiana in the opening week but they also held the Rajin’ Cajuns primary running back to 31 yards on 14 carries (a not so robust 2.2 YPC for those of you mathing at home).
Southern Miss put up 14 points on the Bulldogs, and did gash them for a few big runs, but those all came in garbage time against Mississippi State reserves. When their defensive starters were in the game, the Golden Eagles struggled to move the ball on the ground.
Expect the Mississippi State run defense to be stout.
Things are not going to go as planned. Mississippi State is going to get off blocks and blow up otherwise perfectly blocked schemes. The two steps of separation the wide receivers have managed in the first two games are going to be down to a half step (if that) on most plays next Saturday. Skylar Thompson is going to have more than a few grass stains on his jersey by the end of the night. Things are going to be loud, the cowbells will be obnoxious, and it’s going to be hard to get the right packages in on offense.
What I’ll be looking for on defense
It’s all about stopping the run. Mississippi State has a monstrous offensive line. The only player under 330 pounds is their center. He weighs in at a gaunt 305. Kylin Hill has averaged 7.8 yards a carry behind that line this season. The last time Wildcat fans saw Hill he was gashing the defense to the tune of 211 yards and 2 touchdowns in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
If the defense can’t stop Hill (or whatever other back they hide behind their massive line) Kansas State can’t win. It’s that simple.
If the defense can figure out a way to at least slow down the run, things get much more interesting. Starting quarterback Tommy Stevens went down with a “head injury” against USM, and if he’s not ready to go Saturday, I think Hazelton stacks the box against the run and dares freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader to beat his defense. If Shrader (or Stevens for that matter, because again, if Hill runs for 211 again it doesn’t matter who plays QB for the Bulldogs) comes into play, the door is open for a K-State victory.
I’ll have some film breakdown of the Bulldogs over the next two days, but these are my initial thoughts on what awaits the Wildcats in Starkville on Saturday.