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K-State Football: Adjustments on Defense - Volume 1

Things that worked for Arkansas State didn’t work for Oklahoma. That, my friends, is called a coaching adjustment.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 26 Kansas State at Oklahoma Photo by David Stacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hey y’all, it’s time to get your midweek hit of Oklahoma highlights to help carry you into the weekend. I’ve got a few clips lined up, but I thought this one would be a nice first taste.

Regardless of the team, one question on the tip of every fan’s tongue is, “Why didn’t they make adjustments if it wasn’t working?”

I’ve got a treat for you in this article. You may want to get a cool, damp cloth, and put some soothing music on in the background, because I’m going to show you an honest-to-goodness adjustment from the Arkansas State game to the Oklahoma game, and I don’t want anyone to have an excitement induced coronary event.

*Note: I’m better at breaking down plays on offense (which is why I usually focus on offense in these articles). Please forgive me if I don’t use the proper nomenclature.

Arkansas State

I’m not going to spend much time on this play, because it’s fairly self explanatory and I want to get to the fun stuff. In order to show the adjustment, however, I need to return to the horror show Arkansas State game for a moment.


I won’t go over the other stuff in the play, because the ASU quarterback knows where he’s going with ball right now. He’s got a 1 on 1 match up to the boundary featuring his 6’3, 220 pound wide receiver (Jonathan Adams) vs Kansas State’s 5’11, 195 pound corner (Lance Robinson).

Robinson is in press man with no safety help to the outside. If the wide receiver stays outside the numbers, any decent quarterback sees this matchup, licks his lips, and chucks it up in the air so his receiver can adjust to the ball and make a play.

Entire Play

This is easy money. Robinson is face guarding the receiver, and has no idea what’s going on with the ball. The Arkansas State QB throws the ubiquitous back shoulder ball, allowing his giant receiver to adjust, box out the smaller Robinson, and pull down the easy catch.

Close Up

The important thing to notice in the close-up is Robinson’s helmet. He is playing the man the entire time. He’s afraid of getting beat deep, and as soon as Adams stops to come back to the intentionally underthrown ball, Robinson ends up on his back (with a little help from Adams) and has no chance to make a play.


Now that I’ve stirred up some bad memories, I feel obligated to clear them from your minds with this interception.


If you go back to the Arkansas State clip, you’ll see an almost identical formation, but the defense has made a few subtle changes that turns the easy money pitch and catch from the Arkansas State game into an easy interception in the Oklahoma game.

Spencer Rattler is looking for a 1-on-1 match-up. Lincoln Riley loves going after match-ups, but this match-up isn’t as advantageous as the one Arkansas State exploited. Instead of a 6’3, 220 wide receiver on a 5’11, 195 pound corner, Rattler is going after Kansas State’s 6’2, 190 pound corner (Justin Gardner, purple circle) with their 6’0, 175 freshman wide receiver (Marvin Mims, orange square). It’s still the 1-on-1 match-up to the boundary that coaches love to target, but Gardner, on this particular play, is a better match-up than Robinson.

Everything else happening on this play isn’t super important, but for the sake of posterity, you see the Wildcats with a single high safety in the middle of the field (yellow triangle). On the field side of the formation Oklahoma’s field receiver is bracketed with a strong safety (blue triangle) and corner (green circle).

You’ll notice that Gardner is playing off man, instead of the press man coverage that Robinson was attempting in Arkansas State game, giving him more confidence in his ability to cover the deep ball.

A wise man, tweeted this during the Arkansas State game.

QB Read

Rattler sees the 1-on-1 match-up to the boundary (orange square, purple circle). The deep safety is looking for a receiver over the middle and has his back to the boundary. On the opposite side of the field he has his field receiver (red square) bracketed by a safety (blue triangle and corner (green circle). I haven’t marked it up, but he also has a wide open receiver in the flat available for what would most likely be an easy 5 yard gain, possibly more if the K-State defender misses a tackle.

Oklahoma being Oklahoma, Rattler decides to attack down the field and never comes off his receiver because he thinks he has what he wants on the outside. He misses the open receiver in the flat.

I can’t guarantee this is true, but my guess, based on film study, is Rattler was instructed to go after 1-on-1 match-ups to the boundary after Arkansas State eviscerated the Wildcats to the boundary with back should throws.

This is a totally different match-up, with a different coverage, but I’m not sure the freshman quarterback understands that this early in his career. Gardner playing off gives him a head start, and he isn’t as concerned about getting beat deep. He’s able to keep his eyes on the quarterback while feeling the wide receiver behind him.

Not This Time

Rattler sees the 1-on-1 match-up and throws the back shoulder ball, but it’s the wrong choice because Gardner has inside coverage and has his eye on the ball, and not the receiver. When the OU receiver stops to adjust to the intentionally short throw (the ball is the red dot), Gardner doesn’t fly by the receiver because he’s watching the ball as well. In fact, he’s in better position to make the catch than the wide receiver.

This ball needs to be thrown deep to the outside, because I don’t think the Kansas State safety (Elder in this instance) is going to get there in time to stop the deep ball down the sideline. Seeing Rattler’s choice in throws again makes me think this is something he thought he saw on the Arkansas State film. I’m sure he practiced throwing the back shoulder ball all week in practice.

Entire Play

Gardner is watching the ball the entire time, and I’d love a super close up, because I’m guessing his eyes looked like dinner plates as soon as he realized Rattler was trying to throw the back shoulder ball on this play.

He’s in perfect position, and he not only stops the reception, he boxes out the receiver and pulls in the first interception of his K-State career.


I gave you the Arkansas State close up again to make it easier to compare the two plays.

You can see the difference in technique and size in the two clips. Robinson is significantly smaller than the Arkansas State receiver, and never gets his head around in press coverage.

Gardner is bigger than the Oklahoma State receiver, and because he started in off-man, he’s able to keep his eye on the ball the entire time. This is a corner’s dream. He turns into the receiver and pulls in the catch for an interception.

In Summary

You want a coaching staff to study film and make adjustments.

That’s exactly what happened on this play.

Now everyone take a lap, do some deep breathing exercises, and try and get your heart rate back into an acceptable range.

I’ve got more heart palpation inducing clips in the works from this game, including the mythical half time adjustment on offense.