Note: All rankings are national
Scoring Defense (Points Per Game)
Nevada - 13.5 (29th)
Kansas State - 15 (34th)
Nevada is a good defensive team, their schedule (Cal and Idaho St) is similar in quality to Kansas State’s. That said, if you take away the Wildcat’s cascading failure of a 2nd quarter against Southern Illinois, they’re statistically the better defense. I anticipate Coach Klieman playing this game close to the vest and trying to win a low scoring, ball control game.
Total Defense (Yards Per Game)
Nevada - 305.5 - (47th)
Kansas State - 245.5 (15th)
This backs up my above statement. Nevada has given up yards, but have managed to keep the opposition out of the end zone. Kansas State hasn’t given up much in their first two games, but were put in terrible spots in the 2nd quarter for the Southern Illinois game. The Wildcat defense has been dominant, while the Nevada defense has been good, but has allowed teams to move the ball. That bodes well of a K-State offense that wants to hold onto the ball for long drives.
3rd Down Defense
Nevada - 42% (89th)
Kansas State - 30% (37th)
This is another encouraging stat for the Wildcats. Nevada has struggled to get off the field on third down, and K-State’s running game should (in theory) give them plenty of 3rd and short opportunities. The goal for Kansas State is to shorten the game on offense with the running game and attack with a fresh defense when Nevada tries to get their passing game working. If the Wildcats convert consistently on 3rd down, I love their chances to win the game.
Rushing Defense (Yards Per Game)
Nevada - 146 (80th)
Kansas State - 69.5 (22nd)
This looks...promising. Nevada’s run defense hasn’t been great this season. They’re going to sell out to stop the run, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop the run. The Wildcat’s have a better offensive line that either of Nevada’s previous opponents. Connor Riley’s group needs to the collective MVP for a Kansas State win.
Yards Per Rush
Nevada - 4.23
Kansas State - 2.24
K-State needs to do a little better than 4.23 yards a carry, but not much better. 5 yards a carry should be the goal, and if they hit that metric, everything else will fall into place. Will Howard better have his chin strapped tightened up, because he’s going to play a huge role in reaching this benchmark. He’s the X factor in the rushing attack, and will need to run the read option efficiently, because Nevada is going to crash on Deuce. Howard needs to trust his ability and pull the ball when the defense dictates that he pulls it. If he continually gashes the defense early with the keeper, Deuce will have more room late on the give.
Passing Defense (Yards Per Game)
Nevada - 159.5 (27th)
Kansas State - 185 (51st)
Pass coverage is the strength of the Nevada defense. That shouldn’t bother a run heavy Kansas State team, in fact, the Wildcats are going to force Nevada into run heavy boxes (7 or 8 in the box) more often than not. That negates the main strength of their defense. I anticipate Messinghman making the safeties and corners prove they can tackle, and when they get nosey, he’s going to one-on-one match-ups on the outside with play action. If K-State can average around 5 yards a run, they’ll keep Nevada from utilizing the best part of their defense, and force them into perpetual run defense. That’s the goal.
Yards Allowed Per Completion
Nevada - 7.97
Kansas State - 9.49
K-State needs to do better than 7.97 yards a completion. If things go the way I think they will, look for Howard to attack down the field more than he did against Southern Illinois. He’s going to get single coverage on the outside when he throws the ball off play action. Nevada is going to walk a safety down to help in the run game. It’s his job to cash in on a few big plays. I anticipate a low percentage, high yards per completion passing offense on Saturday. They won’t throw much, unless forced to throw, but when they do, it’s going deep. This is the perfect game for Chabastin Taylor to make his return to the lineup. He’s on the depth chart these week, and his 6’4”, 220 frame, and ability to make the contested catch, could play huge dividends.
Sacks (Per Game)
Nevada - 5.5 (3rd)
Kansas State - 5 (5th)
This was shaping up to be a battle of elite pass rushing teams, but Howard playing quarterback may nullify Nevada’s pass rush, simply because they’re not going to have many pass rush opportunities, and I’m anticipating max protection off play action when Messingham does dial up a pass. The Wildcats must stay out of 3rd and long though, because Nevada lives in the backfield on obvious passing situations and Howard does not stay composed with a rush in his face.
Tackles for Loss (Per Game)
Nevada - 7.5 (32nd)
Kansas State - 8 (24th)
This is a bit concerning. The Wildcats can’t get behind the chains by giving up tackles behind the line and Nevada is fairly adept at getting into the backfield. Their defensive front will attack the line of scrimmage more than Stanford and Southern Illinois combined. Teams that like to shoot gaps and get into the backfield have given this offense fits in the past (think West Virginia) because much of the run game is predicated on slow developing runs. Will Howard’s ability to make the right read and in the zone option game will be crucial, he can’t come into the play with a set plan, and must truly run the zone read, because Nevada will try and blow up the mesh point if possible. He can’t be afraid to pull the ball.
Red Zone Defense
Nevada - 67% (26th)
Kansas State - 100% (89th)
Nevada has allowed six red zone attempts in their first two games. They’ve given up two rushing touchdowns, one passing touchdown, and one field goal. Kansas state has allowed four red zone attempts and have given up two rushing touchdowns, one passing touchdown, and a field goal.
Don’t freak out over K-State’s last place (tied with a bunch of other schools) red zone defense. This directly tied with the 2nd quarter from hell against Southern Illinois. Three out of the four red zone appearances Kansas State has allowed this year came in that quarter. One of the drives started on the K-State 9-yard line.
Simply put, Kansas State has to score touchdowns in the red zone to beat Nevada. When the opportunity to score arises, the Wildcat’s must finish in the end zone. I’m not sure how many opportunities they’re going to get on Saturday, but you don’t win games like this kicking field goals (or...even worse...missing field goals). Keep an eye on this stat, because if this game is close, like I think it will be, the most efficient team in the red zone should win (unless K-State is able to skip the red zone with big plays).
Passes Per Interception
Nevada - 64 passes attempted, 1 interception (63rd)
Kansas State - 58 passes attempted, 3 interceptions = 19.33 (17th)
Nevada has only pulled down one pick this season. Kansas State can’t throw them the ball on Saturday. They were able to overcome a Thompson and Howard interception against Southern Illinois, but I don’t think they’ll be able to do the same against Nevada. Got to limit Howards attempts, make the reads crystal clear, and stress the importance of tucking and running if the first read isn’t open. Howard’s problem last week was throwing to his primary receiver, regardless of the defense. He’s got to see the field better this week, and I think that means fewer “quick” throws, and more deep throws off play action, outside the numbers, where the reads are usually cut and dry. A pick-6 for Nevada in this game would be catastrophic.
My Take Away
This game will come down to Kansas State’s ability to impose their run game on Nevada, or conversely, Nevada’s ability to slow the Wildcat run game. Efficiency is the the name of the game for Kansas State on offense. They must consistently pick up yards on first and second downs in order to keep Will Howard out of obvious passing situations. After last weeks performance, Coach Messingham may still elect to run the ball in obvious passing downs to avoid interceptions if the game is close. Don’t get frustrated if this happens, because Coach Klieman is going to try and win this thing on defense.
Nevada hasn’t been great at slowing down the run this year. They’ve been much better in pass coverage. They’re going to be put to the test on Saturday. If Howard can manage the running game, keep everything on schedule, hit one or two big plays down the field, and keep from throwing the ball to Wolf Pack defense, I like the Wildcats chances.
I can’t conceive of any way K-State wins a shootout. They have to cash in on every red zone opportunity and put together enough offensive consistency to keep their defense fresh enough to close in the 4th quarter. It’s all about efficiency and long, clock eating drives on Saturday. Coach Riley and the offense line will have the opportunity to win this game. If they dominate the Nevada front, and Howard doesn’t turn the ball over, I predict a K-State victory.