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Kansas State Defense: In Need of a Closer

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With Khalid Duke out, who will step up for the Wildcats.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Allstate Kickoff Classic - Stanford v Kansas State Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In his press conference this week, Coach Klieman mentioned that losing Khalid Duke was a huge blow, because the 3-3-5 they are running was designed around his ability to play both defensive end and linebacker.

I went back and looked at the Oklahoma tape, and sure enough, there was a Duke sized hole in the defense. On several occasions, K-State was in the right defense, made the right read, but couldn’t finish off the play. In this defense, Khalid was supposed to be the closer. He was the guy they planned on scheming free to get the quarterback on the ground. The scheme is still working, but the quarterback isn’t hitting the turf like he was earlier in the year.

I thought this play, in particular, was a good example of what Coach Klieman was talking about in his presser.

Pre Snap

This is a clean look at the 3-3-5 Kansas State employs this year. You’ve got three down linemen (blue box), three linebackers (green box), two cornerbacks (red circle) and three safeties (purple triangle).

Post Snap

I’m not going to worry about what Oklahoma is trying to do on this play, because what they’re trying to do doesn’t work, even though they score a touchdown. After getting picked apart with a 3 or 4-man rush in the first half (understandable with Rattler’s struggles to read coverage this year), Klanderman brought more pressure in the second half.

On this play, he sends both of his outside linebackers (green box) on a blitz to heat up the quarterback.

Perfect Defensive Call

This is what every defensive coordinator in America wants out of a blitz. The offensive line picks up Austin Moore at the bottom of the screen, but Ryan Henington has a running start at Rattler, and no one has bothered to block him. This is the perfect play call. This has to be a sack 10/10 times.

Swing and a Miss

This, unfortunately, is not a sack. Worse yet, it’s not a forced throw away. Henington has to get home on this blitz, or at least force Rattler to chuck it out of bounds, because the blitz opened up the entire right side of the field. He can’t over run this play and let Rattler get outside.

He’s Outside

Whatever Oklahoma was attempting on this play is out the window. Rattler is outside the pocket in acres of space. His only decision now is whether to run for a first down, or extend the play and wait to see if a receiver breaks free in the scramble drill.

Wide Open

Not sure what happened with the coverage, but asking a defensive back to cover Oklahoma’s stud wide receivers for an extended period of time is usually death (or in this case a wide open touchdown pass).

In Summary

Let’s bring this back to Coach Klieman’s press conference quote about missing Duke. I can’t guarantee you that Duke is the free rusher on this play, but I can guarantee you he would be the free rusher on at least one of the plays I watched that ended without the quarterback eating turf. This isn’t to bash on Henington. He got excited, over ran the play, and wasn’t athletic enough to slam on the brakes and still make the play. It happens. It doesn’t happen very often when Duke is the player hunting down the quarterback.

Duke makes this play, maybe even throws a strip sack in the mix while he’s grinding Rattler into the turf.

Looking back on the Oklahoma game, the defense looked fine in terms of positioning, but came up short when it came to making plays that were available to make. A bone rattling sack here could have changed the momentum of the game, instead, O.U. put another 7 on the board.

I know the knee jerk reaction to blame the coordinator when things go wrong, but the unavoidable truth of the matter is the coordinator can’t call the defense and make the tackles. I still like what I see out of the Wildcat defense, but someone has to step up and make game changing plays when they are available.

The guys on the field will have plenty of opportunities to make plays against Iowa State. It’s up to them to finish. Khalid Duke isn’t walking through that door the rest of the season, it’s up to guys like Henington and Moore to play in his stead. Let’s hope the same play is available on Saturday and Purdy is left laying on his back staring at a crop duster while the ball heads in the other direction.

Go Cats!