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Kansas State Football: Keys For The Wildcats Offense

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Ran the dang ball. Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State “Best Case Scenario Tour” takes the show on the road once again, this time to Stillwater. Mike Gundy’s Fighting Mullets will be in a foul mood after dropping a winnable game to the defensively challenged Longhorns last week, and will be looking to exact revenge on the upstart Wildcats. If K-State can pull this off and make it to 4-0, Chris Klieman and company will be the talk of college football, and it’s always good when people are talking about you (unless you’re Bill Self at the current moment).

Offense

The offense not only has to score, because Oklahoma State is going to put up points, but they need to protect the defense. The Cowboys want to trap your defense on the field, limit your substitutions, and pull away against a fading defense in the second half.

Luckily, that’s exactly what this offense is built to do.

Texas ran the ball for 217 yards last Saturday. Longhorns running back Keaontay Ingram had his most productive game of the season, rushing for 114 yards on 21 carries for a robust 5.4 yards a carry. He didn’t break off any long runs (16 yards was as far as he made it on a single carry) but he was able to consistently gash the Cowboys’ defense between the tackles.

Texas between the tackles

Ok. State plays a base 3-3-5 defense. I like the 3-3-5 if, and only if, you can consistently hold the line of scrimmage with your front 3. Texas saw a 3-man front and decided that steamrolling it was their best option. In the above play, the Longhorns blow the defensive line off the ball and the running back doesn’t encounter a defender until he’s 4 yards past the line of scrimmage. Kansas State can do the same thing against the 3-3-5.

K-State steamrolling a solid Mississippi State defense

The Wildcats’ offensive line can win this game. The key to beating the 3-3-5 is to punish it for taking a defensive tackle off the field. It’s tempting to try and run outside against their narrow 3-man front, but that’s what they want you to do. They want their clean safeties and linebackers attacking your ball carrier in space. They don’t want their undersized linebackers and safeties fighting off blocks in the middle of the field. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas State forces the Cowboys out of the 3-3-5 at some point on Saturday. This is a stylistic nightmare for their defense.

Texas Play Action

The Oklahoma State defense is vulnerable to the play action passing game because they use their linebackers and safeties to stop the run. It took me a while to find an example of Texas using this to their advantage, because Texas isn’t good at play action. They give token zone read fakes, but the Cowboy defense wasn’t buying for most of the game.

This was a better fake and it yielded a better result.

Sam Ehlinger held the ball in the running back’s pocket a beat longer than he normally does on this fake. You can see the entire second level of the Oklahoma State defense bite on the run, opening up the middle of the field for an easy pitch-and-catch first down. If the Wildcats get their running game in gear like I think they will, the play action pass will be a devastating weapon for Skylar.

K-State’s play action game is dangerous.

Oof, if Skylar Thompson has just a half second longer, this is an easy 6. The entire Bulldogs second level crashes hard on the play action and Blaise Gammon is wide open. I love this look against Oklahoma State’s defense. I think it could be particularly effective in the second half if Kansas State’s run game has successfully worn down the Cowboys’ front 3 and their safeties start walking down into the box to help against the run. If Kansas State can get the defense to bring 8 defenders into the box, I expect the play action passes to start flying down the field.

Play Action Poetry

The coaching staff makes a slight adjustment on this play and gets Skylar on the edge to buy him the extra time he needs. The Mississippi State linebackers crash hard on the beautiful play action fake and it’s an easy pitch and catch for 6. The Wildcats need to hit 2 or 3 of these to win in Stillwater. They are capable of doing just that.

Gameplan

Oklahoma State wants to run 90 plays or more a game. They managed 89 snaps against Texas and almost pulled the upset. It keeps their defense fresh and wears out the opponent’s defense. The best way to keep the Cowboys from dominating this game with their offense is to shorten the game and keep them on the sideline. You can’t run tempo with your defense on the field.

I look for the Wildcats to take their time on offense and establish their bruising run game early. It’s imperative to avoid 3 and outs on offense, because tempo teams like Oklahoma State thrive on consecutive, defense fatiguing drives. They want to put together a 12-play drive, force a 3 and out, and then put together another 12 play drive against a fading defense.

Once the K-State run game is humming, the play action passing game should open up the field for Skylar to dissect a questionable Cowboy secondary.

Patience is going to be key, because it’s possible that Oklahoma State finds a rhythm early and jumps out to an early lead. The offense has to stay the course and continue pounding the run. Tempo offenses can put up points in bunches, but they can also go on extended dry spells where they run 3 quick plays and punt. The Wildcats need to withstand the early push from the home standing Cowboys and then knock them out in the second half.

This is a great matchup for the offense. All they need to do is execute what they do best for 4 quarters and I’m confident they walk out of Stillwater as a top 20, 4-0 squad. I didn’t think that’s something I would be typing this season, but it sure was fun to hit the keys.