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Kansas State Football: It’s All About Execution

The playcalling has been fine, the execution has been...not fine.

Baylor v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Like most of you, I’ve been thinking about the TCU game for what seems like an eternity. At one point I was so delusional, I considered calling this game a must-win.

That’s silly.

Coach Klieman’s story in Manhattan will be written by games against teams like TCU, but this particular TCU game isn’t some sort of critical climax. We’re 6 games into the post, post-Snyder era and while a win against TCU would be much appreciated, there are still plenty of opportunities for a signature win down the line. I do, however, think this is a critical game for Courtney Messingham.

For the most part, Coach Klieman has quelled some of the fear in Manhattan with 3 early season victories. He fits the K-State football culture and his recruiting has been above average. There are still fans who think he won’t get the job done, and for all I know, they might be right, but he’s not going anywhere for a while. Attacking a new hire with a winning record 5 games into his tenure isn’t a good look, and reads more like sour grapes that whoever their chosen coach was didn’t get (or take) the job.

Out of all the new hires (including Klieman) the fans are most comfortable with Scottie Hazelton and for good reason. His defense is currently 22nd in the nation in terms of points against (19 PPG), and considering how paper thin it looked coming into the season, that’s impressive. Injuries are still a major concern, but Hazelton has found depth on the field that didn’t look promising on paper. The defense has played well enough to win every game this year. Even the Baylor game was deceiving, because that was a classic case of the defense finally breaking after being on the field all game. The Oklahoma game will most likely put a dent in the PPG average, but outside of that game, and potentially the Texas game, I don’t see any teams on the schedule that can gash the defense.

Courtney Messingham, on the other hand, is on shaky ground in Manhattan. That’s weird to say 5 games into his tenure, and by no means does that mean he’s in danger of being fired, but the fan base wasn’t sold on Messingham when he was announced. A huge part of his issue has nothing to do with Kansas State and everything to do with Iowa State. Cat fans remember his tenure as Iowa State’s offensive coordinator under Paul Rhoads, and that’s not a good thing. It’s unfair to judge anyone on their inability to succeed under Rhoads, because no one succeeded under Rhoads, but the stain still remains.

It’s easy to blame the offensive coordinator when the offense isn’t working, but after watching the Oklahoma State and Baylor film, I don’t have a huge issue with the playcalling. You’re never going to get it right 100% of the time, but plays are available.

The execution has been poor.


Playcalling is obviously an important part of the game. It becomes even more important when you’re facing a talent deficit. At the same point, players have to execute the play calls. The offensive coordinator can have the perfect play called, but if one player doesn’t execute, it can still fail.

I saw that a good bit against Baylor.

The second drive of the game against Baylor was a perfect example of the Wildcats’ struggles.

1st and 10

Great start to the drive. James Gilbert excels on this type of run. He’s not the most elusive back in the world, but he’s good at hitting the hole and taking the yardage available.

You should be able to move the sticks with 8 yards on 1st down. It also opens up options on 2nd down. 2nd and 2 is the perfect time for a play action pass.

I’m not sure what Baylor is doing on defense with this call. Kansas State has struggled to run against stacked boxes and have struggled to win against man coverage. Baylor gives the Wildcats a favorable box and soft zone.

6 blockers on 6 defenders with the rest of the defense in a soft zone? Yes please, more of this.

2nd and 2

Oof, 2nd down has not been kind to the Wildcats recently. If you’re going to run it on a great playaction down, you can’t lose yardage.

Note: I usually save the Gif and then mark it up. I messed up this time and did it in reverse order.

Baylor gives K-State 7 in the box (red box) but also has 2 safeties crashing (blue box). By the time Gilbert gets the ball, he’s looking at a 9 man box. It’s still 9 on 9, but that’s a bunch of bodies to get blocked up.

Sometimes it’s interesting to see what the opponent is doing away from a play. There isn’t a Baylor defender within 5 yards of Malik Knowles on the slant and the safeties are both looking in the backfield. If Skylar Thompson pulls it, Knowles is wide open across the middle,

That said, it’s hard to blame Messingham for trying to get the run game into rhythm early. Everyone (including myself) has been calling for K-State to just line up and run the dang ball down their throats. That’s easy to say, but harder to execute.

3rd and 5

Baylor isn’t doing anything exotic on this play. They’re in man across the board, with a deep safety and a spy on Thompson.

Skylar makes the right read, but throws a poor pass. This has to be a reception if the offense is going to work. Baylor challenged K-State to throw it deep to the outside, K-State threw it deep to the outside to their best receiver.

It didn’t work.

This play has to work.

There is nothing exotic about this coverage. Baylor is challenging K-State to beat man coverage. They have a safety deep in the middle (out of screen) but he’s not going to get over to break up a pass down the sideline. You can pick the match up you like and attack.

Knowles has the Baylor DB set up perfectly for the back shoulder throw. He’s looking back for the ball and Baylor DB is still trying to get turned. This has to be a reception, but Thompson’s pass is high and outside. He has to drill this into the numbers. He knows Knowles is stopping and coming back and he doesn’t have to worry about the safety.

Messingham had a solid play called against the Baylor defense (it’s the same route I was begging Skylar to throw against Ok. State) but the players didn’t execute. It should be 1st and 10 at the 40. Instead it’s a 3 and out and a punt.

In Summary

I’ve watched a good bit of TCU film (I did a preview and a postgame breakdown on the Purdue SB Nation site earlier the season). TCU is going to do the exact same thing Oklahoma State and Baylor did against K-State. They are going to crowd the line of scrimmage and make the Wildcats prove that they can throw the ball and make plays against man coverage. There are plays to be made, but the offense hasn’t been able to consistently capitalize on them.

It’s easy to blame the offensive coordinator, but I’m seeing poor execution more than poor playcalling at the moment.