I thought it would be interesting to look back at my breakdown of the Nevada defense and see how I did last week before moving on to Oklahoma State. If y’all think this is dumb or unnecessary, let me know and I’ll come up with something else. Until then, let’s take a look back at the Nevada win.
(My article from last week will be in italics.)
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.\
Nevada - 38
Kansas State - 17
Nevada was a good defensive team for three quarters before they ran out of steam because of the withering Wildcats ground attack. Coach Klieman played this close to the vest, and the Wildcats controlled the ball, but it wasn’t a low scoring game like I anticipated. I was on the right track, but I underestimated the cumulative effects of the run game on the Nevada defense, and the resulting 21 unanswered 4th quarter points.
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.
Nevada - 398
Kansas State - 331
Nevada was making their “bend, don’t break” defense work until the 4th quarter, when it bent and broke. The Wildcats did a great job of consistently moving the ball in the first three quarters, even when those drives didn’t end up in points. The Nevada front seven couldn’t hold up to the physical punishment dished out by the offensive line and the mental stress of dealing with superstar Deuce Vaughn (127 yards), a dynamic Joe Ervin (82 yards) and an efficient Will Howard (56 yards) on the ground.
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.
Nevada - 56% (5-9)
Kansas State - 47% (8-17)
K-State didn’t have many 3rd downs to convert because they dominated first and second down. When they did get into a 3rd down situation, they converted at a impressive clip. The Wildcats converted consistently on 3rd down, but it didn’t play as big of factor as I anticipated because they only faced nine 3rd downs. Those five conversions did help wear down the Nevada defense.
On the other side of the ball, I was disappointed in K-State’s inability to seal the deal and get off the field on defense. Giving up nearly 50% of 3rd down attempts won’t cut it moving forward. This is a place of concern to keep your eye on as the season progresses. For this team to win in the Big 12, they’re going to need this percentage in the 30’s.
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.
Nevada - 269
Kansas State - 25
I’d like to puff my chest out and claim clairvoyance on this one, but it was clear to everyone going in that K-State was going to try and run the ball. Nevada sold out to stop the run, but in the end, couldn’t stop the run. For my money, Connor Riley’s group was the collective MVP in the Wildcats win.
Nevada wanted to run enough to keep the defense honest, and they couldn’t do it. The stifling front seven (or six) allowed Klanderman to keep the back end of the defense focused on pass coverage.
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.
Nevada - 1.1
Kansas State - 5.6
I nailed this one. Howard played an important role in the running game, and the Wildcat’s rolled late in the game. Will did an incredible job of managing the run game. His decision making was crisp and effective. They hit the 5 yards per carry metric, and everything fell into place.
What else can you say about the K-State defense? Total domination.
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 Messingham 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.
Nevada - 129
Kansas State - 306
Got this one right as well. Nevada only gave up 129 passing yards, but that’s because K-State didn’t pass very often. When they did pass, it was more efficient than I anticipated. The goal for Messingham was to not give Nevada the opportunity to defend the pass because the run game was cooking. That’s what happened.
Conversely, Nevada was able to break 300 yards passing, but mainly because they could not run the ball...at all. K-State turned them into a one dimensional offense, and that’s usually the goal. After halftime, the Nevada quarterback would step to the line, count the box defenders, see six in the box (a run box), and passed the ball because the Wildcats were shutting down the run game while not dedicating resources to the run game.
Yards Allowed Per Completion
Nevada - 7.97
Kansas State - 9.49
K-State needs to do better than 7.97 yards per 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.
Nevada - 10.93
Kansas State - 14.33
K-State almost doubled their normal yards per completion, and the yards per completion Nevada usually allows. Will Howard attacked down the field against single coverage because Nevada had to walk a safety down to help in the run game. He cashed in on a few big plays (including the second play of the game). I thought a 6/15 performance, with high yards per completion, was in order. I was happily wrong on this one. Will did a great job of taking what was given, and Coach Messingham did an excellent job of calling pass plays at the right time. Chabastin didn’t show up in the box score on Saturday, but Daniel Imatorbhebhe, filled the “one catch, one touchdown” role perfectly.
This was the best passing game the defense has faced all season, and they held up well, only giving up a little over a yard over their season average. They gave up underneath stuff, but tackled well and kept most everything in front. Nevada had to make up ground with their passing game, because their run game was non-existent. They couldn’t do it.
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.
Nevada - 0
Kansas State - 3
The play calling, paired with solid protection, didn’t allow a sack against the aggressive Nevada defense. The Wildcat’s staying out of 3rd and longs (and ran it anyway when those came up) helped as well. Howard only attempted 10 passes, but worked from a clean pocket on most of those attempts.
Nevada held up well against the K-State pass rush. Even though they didn’t get home as often as normal, the five quarterback pressures along with the three sacks kept the heat on the Nevada quarterback. The pass rush is one of the key reasons Nevada couldn’t get their yards per completion average up. They had to get the ball out quick because of the Wildcat pass rush.
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.
Nevada - 3
Kansas State - 6
This was huge for the offensive line. The offense had to stay on schedule, and they only gave up three negative plays. Howard masterfully managed the run game, and kept the running back from getting smoked by a crashing defensive end in the backfield. The offensive line hulked up and reestablished the line of scrimmage two or three yards beyond the line of scrimmage on a regular basis.
Nevada’s pass dominant defense kept the Wildcats from racking up their normal tackles for loss. This stat usually correlates with the number of runs in a game. Getting six tackles for loss on 23 carries is impressive.
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).
Nevada - 100% (3 touchdowns and a field goal)
Kansas State - 100% (2 touchdowns and a field goal)
Kansas State was able to skip the red zone on a 68-yard completion by Imatorbhebhe and a 22-yard touchdown run from Joe Ervin. They made four trips to the red zone and came away with 24 points. That’s a great day at the office. The offense’s ability to finish drives in the 4th quarter kept demoralizing the Nevada defense.
Nevada was inside the Kansas State red zone three times, and the Wildcats gave up 17 points. Nevada also happened to score 17 points for the game. What this tells me is the Wildcat defense, for the most part, limited big plays (although it’s tough to pin the 2-yard touchdown on the red zone defense after a 55-yard pass, and it still took Nevada four downs to punch the ball in the end zone). The defense was stifling.
Passes Per Interception
Nevada - 64 passes attempted, 1 interception = 64 (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.
Nevada - 13 passes attempted, 0 interceptions = 0
Kansas State - 40 passes attempted, 1 interception = 40
Nevada managed to cut the Wildcats pass per interception in half, but K-State turned that interception into three points.
Against Southern Illinois, it looked like every Will Howard pass was going to be intercepted, against Nevada, no passes were intercepted. The offensive staff found plays he was comfortable with and called them at the correct time. I also enjoyed the Jaren Lewis package. He came in, got crucial in-game experience (with the game very much in doubt) and avoided mistakes. Howard is going to run the ball, and that raises his chance of getting injured. Getting Jaren in the game, if only briefly, is good insurance.
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.
My Take Away
This game came down to Kansas State’s ability to impose their run game on Nevada, and Nevada’s inability to slow the run game. Efficiency was the name of the game for the Kansas State offense. They consistently picked up yards on first and second down in order to keep Will Howard out of obvious passing situation. Coach Messingham elected to run the ball on obvious passing downs in order to avoid interceptions early in the game. Coach Klieman was content to win this game with his defense, until his offense ground the Wolf Pack into dust down the stretch, and took winning a close game off the board. I’m occasionally accused of sunshine pumping, but I undersold the Wildcat’s last Saturday.
Nevada wasn’t great at slowing down the run. Howard managed the running game, kept everything on schedule, hit a big play down the field, and didn’t have an interception (pats self on back, nailed it!)
Kansas State didn’t win a shoot out, because the Nevada offense couldn’t keep up with the K-State offense in the 4th quarter. Efficiency was the name of the game for the Wildcat offense, They averaged over 5 yards a carry, completed 9/13 passes and didn’t turn the ball over. Coach Riley and the offensive line won the game by dominated the Nevada front.
Stay tuned for my breakdown of Okie State.