Oklahoma State is a tough team to get a handle on this season. They opened with home games against Missouri State and Tulsa (hardly a murders row) and then won a tight game against a struggling Boise State on the road. Missouri State and Tulsa’s offensive talent skew the Oklahoma State defensive stats, but they still give us a decent idea about what they do well and where they struggle.
Oklahoma State’s run defense is legit, and they did a great job of keeping the Wildcats from hitting anything deep. Looking back at the film, it’s a bit of a weird defense. You usually don’t sell out to stop the run and keep a lid on the offense deep, because teams kill you in the intermediate passing. They dared Kansas State to do that, and they couldn’t. Hats off to the Cowboys.
Scoring Offense vs Scoring Defense (Points Per Game)
Kansas State Offense: 31 (60th)
Oklahoma State Defense: 19.67 (51st)
This is one of those skewed stats. Tulsa put up 23 points on Cowboy defense, which isn’t bad, but 23 points is also Tulsa’s high for the year thus far. At the same time, they only gave up 20 points against a Boise State team with decent talent on offense. I think it’s safe to assume that the Cowboys have an above average defense.
Meanwhile, the K-State offense is chugging along. If you told the coaching staff the Wildcats were 60th in the nation in scoring offense after 3 games before the start of the season, they would be disappointed. If you told them they were 60th and Skylar only made it through a game and a half, they would be happy.
The Will Howard offense is a different beast than the Skylar Thompson offense. The formula for winning is grind on opponents, hit some deep shots, and hope the defense gets tired of getting punched in the gut late in the game. That worked to perfection last week, but Ok St. is significantly deeper on defense than Nevada.
I think this game is played in the 20s and K-State needs to score in the mid/high 20’s to win. If they have to make it to 30, my confidence level drops precipitously.
Kansas State Offense: 20 (-11)
Oklahoma State Defense: 20 (+.33)
Welp, there you go, pretty much nailed this one. Kansas State had to get into the 30s to win, and they had no chance of generating that many points without Ok State helping out. The disaster of a first quarter didn’t allow K-State to dictate the terms of the game on offense, and there is only one way this team can win without Skyler, and that’s playing a tight game where the offense doesn’t have to chase points.
The ground and pound game never had a chance to work, the passing game couldn’t compensate, and the Wildcats lost.
Total Offense vs Total Defense (Yards Per Game)
Kansas State Offense: 374 (82nd)
Oklahoma State Defense: 328.7 (53rd)
The Cowboy defense has been solid. They only gave up 303 yards against Boise State on the road. I’m not sure it tells us much though, because Boise hasn’t been able to run the ball this year, and K-State has controlled games with their run game.
This is a stat that isn’t particularly important for Kansas State with Will Howard at the helm. The game is going to be shortened, snaps will be limited, and that holds down yardage. It’s quality over quantity when it comes to K-State. It’s imperative the the Wildcat defense keeps the game within a score, because this team, as constituted tomorrow, isn’t built to play at a fast pace or overcome more than a one score deficit. Got to keep it close early if they want a chance late.
Kansas State Offense: 260 (-114)
Oklahoma State Defense: 260 (+68.7)
Welp, here we go again, the Wildcats couldn’t keep it close early, which meant they didn’t have a chance late. The run game needs time, and when you’re down 21-10 at the end of the first quarter, and 31-10 at half time (partly b/c you were down 21-10 and had to chase points in the 2nd quarter) the run game doesn’t have an opportunity to win the game.
Lewis and Howard aren’t going to win the game with their arm. We may wish they could win games with their arms, but you can wish in one hand and...well, you know the rest. The offense wasn’t good on Saturday, and it wasn’t good because it got down early and had to throw the ball.
3rd Down Conversion Percentage vs 3rd Down Conversion Defense
Kansas State Offense: 42% (57)
Oklahoma State Defense: 36% (63rd)
Oklahoma State hasn’t been great at getting off the field on third down. That’s important for a K-State team that needs to hold onto the ball for their “grind the defense into fine powder” strategy to work. This is promising.
You expect this percentage to be higher for Kansas State, but they’ve faced the 3rd fewest third downs in college football this year. When they get behind the chains, they’re usually well behind the chains, and have play it safe with Howard. They’ll need to stay out of third and longs against the Cowboys, and convert their third and short/mediums. Don’t be upset if they run the ball on third and long again this week. Punting isn’t the worst thing that could happen at the end of a drive.
Kansas State Offense: 2/12 - 17% (-25%)
Oklahoma State Defense: 17% (+19%)
This is going to sound like a broken record, but after watching the game, again, everything was effected by the bad first quarter. The Wildcats had to throw more, which meant they ended up in more 3rd and longs, which means they only converted 17% of their 3rd downs. This team has to win 1st and 2nd down, and right now, that means running effectively on 1st and 2nd down. If that doesn’t happen, they can’t win.
Rushing Offense vs Rushing Defense (Yards Per Game)
Kansas State Offense: 225.7 (19th)
Oklahoma State Defense: 95.3 (28th)
This one is concerning. The Cowboys have been good at stopping the run. They held Boise State to 61 yards on 35 attempts (1.7 YPC). They’re legit (don’t get too distraught, because Boise isn’t particularly good at running the ball).
K-State doesn’t have to hit their season average tomorrow, because Oklahoma State’s offense hasn’t blown anyone off the field. If the Wildcats can come in above 190 yards, things should be fine. If they don’t crack 150, I don’t see a way forward unless OK St. turns the ball over a few times.
Kansas State Offense: 62 (-163)
Oklahoma State Defense: 62 (+33)
Oklahoma is good at stopping the run. They’re not this good at stopping the run. Kansas State had 25 rushing attempts in this game. They had 48 against Nevada and 31 against Stanford. One again, a slow start means you have to chase the game, which means you have to throw the ball, which means K-State isn’t going to win.
When the 1st quarter ended 21-10, it was all over but the remaining 3 quarters of frustration. In retrospect, they may have done better sticking with the original game plan and hoping the Cowboys came back to them with turnovers, but that’s 20/20 hindsight. Y’all would have been extremely unhappy if they stuck with the run game down big.
Passing Offense vs Passing Defense (Yards Per Game)
Kansas State Offense: 148 (117th)
Oklahoma State Defense: 233 (83rd)
Oklahoma State hasn’t been good at defending against the pass. 83rd with their schedule is poor.
If this were the Skylar Thompson Cats, instead of the Will Howard cats, this stat would be disappointing for K-State. This team was supposed to feature a more balanced offense, but things fall apart, and sometimes you have to go with what you’ve got, instead of what you want. That said, the offense is going to need to find more passing yards on Saturday. I’ve got 175 yards pegged as the minimum. If they can find a way to 200+ yards (a long shot, but conceivable against this defense) , I’ll take K-State going away.
Kansas State Offense: 198 (+40)
Oklahoma State Defense: 198 (+35)
I was off on this one. I didn’t anticipate 31 pass attempts. If they went for 198 on 21 pass attempts, this stat would have a totally different meaning. 31 attempts means they were having to throw the ball, and this team can’t win when they have to throw the ball. I should have said “if they can find a way to 200+ while maintaining close the their 15 yard per completion average, I’ll take K-State going away.
Yards Per Passing Completion vs Yards Allowed Per Completion
Kansas State Offense: 15.34 (13th)
Oklahoma State Defense: 10.77
Not a bad job by the Cowboy (I keep typing Sooner, which probably wouldn’t go over well in Stillwater) defense. 10.77 puts them in the top third of teams in the nation. They’ll need to keep that up against an offense that wants to attack down the field.
The Wildcats don’t throw the ball often with Howard, but when they do, they throw the ball down the field. 15.34 yards per completion is in the top 15 in the nation. They need to continue to push it down the field whenever possible. They need to split the difference between the two numbers and come in around 12 or 13 yards a completion to give them the best chance of winning. If this number is under 10, they’re in trouble.
Kansas State Offense: 14.1 (-1.2)
Yards Per Pass: 6.4 (-3.3)
Oklahoma State Defense: 14.1 (-3.3)
I added in an extra stat to make this make sense. Against Nevada K-State averaged 9.9 yards per pass, against Stanford they averaged 10.3 yards per pass. In those games they were able to pick their spots with the passing game (even with Skylar at QB, that’s important for this offense). In this game they were forced to throw the ball.
Howard got the hook because he only completed 4/12 passes. That’s sort of what I expected him to do last week (maybe not that bad) but in a game controlled by K-State’s run game where he’s taking shots down the field into 1 on 1 coverage. Oklahoma State didn’t let that happen. Lewis threw the ball reasonably well, but also threw a pick. I think you’ll see 2 quarterbacks until Skylar gets back, because both are limited, but sort of compliment each other. Howard is the better runner and deep thrower, Lewis is better in the short to intermediate passing game when the team needs to move the ball down the field slightly faster than a glacial pace.
Sacks Allowed vs Defensive Sacks (Per Game)
Kansas State Offense: 1.33 (25th)
Oklahoma State Defense: 3.67(15th)
Oklahoma State loves to get after the quarterback. They put up 4 sacks against Boise State, and will try and get after Will on any clear passing down.
Coach Messinghman has to limit OK State’s pass rush with his play calling. Winning first and second down is critical. The offensive line is solid, but the Cowboys have some guys on the defensive line (Brock Martin vs Boise) who are hard to block when they know the quarterback is going to be in the pocket. Look play action and max protection from the offense when they look to throw deep, and the occasional pass on early downs to counter the aggressive defense. The screen game may play a bigger role in this game because Ok State likes to get defenders into the backfield.
Kansas State Offense: 2 (-.7)
Oklahoma State Defense: 2 (-1.67)
Considering the number of pass attempts, protection wasn’t an issue. Oklahoma State can get after the quarterback, and did have 8 pressures, but they only got to quarterback twice. Consider that a job well done by the offensive line because the Wildcats were in obvious passing downs most of the day.
Tackles For Loss Allowed vs Tackles for Loss (Per Game)
Kansas State Offense: 4.67 (37th)
Oklahoma State Defense: 7.3 (26th)
This is another not so great stat if you’re a Kansas State fan. Ok State had 7 tackles for loss against Boise. They spent the majority of the game in the Bronco’s backfield with an additional 7 quarterback hurries to go with 4 sacks and 7 TFLs. They are aggressive in their front 7 and do a great job of jumping into gaps on the inside and flying off the edge.
Negative plays are poison for this offense. If Oklahoma State ends up with 7+ negative plays, it’s going to be tough for the Wildcats win. Keep an eye on this stat. Will has to make the right reads in the run game and the running backs have punish the Cowboys with their vision. When teams jump into gaps, they open up the opportunity to bounce runs to the perimeter. That needs to happen on Saturday night.
Kansas State Offense: 7 (-2.3)
Oklahoma State Defense: 7 (-.3)
Oklahoma State basically hit their season average for tackles for loss. The Cowboys ended up with 7 negative plays and Kansas State lost.
Once again, teams that attack the line of scrimmage and jump into gaps give the big, but not super athletic offensive line trouble. They want to fire off the line and drive the defense back, that doesn’t work as well when the defensive front is running stunts and twists, and the linebackers a shooting gaps and getting into the backfield. Teams the rely on guards pulling around and blowing open holes struggle when defenders get into the backfield and throw off the timing.
The coaching staff has to figure out a counter to teams that play this way on defense. It’s been a clear problem during the Klieman/Messingham era at K-State.
Red Zone Offense vs Red Zone Defense(% of Scores Inside the Red Zone)
Kansas State Offense: 91.7% (36th)
Oklahoma State Defense: 80% (57th)
The Cowboys have given up 10 red zone opportunities and allowed 3 rushing touchdowns, 1 passing touchdown, and 4 field goals. They’ve made 2 stops.
Kansas State has 12 red zone appearances and punched in 9 rushing touchdowns, 0 passing touchdowns, and have kicked 2 field goals. They’ve been stopped once. This is the type of red zone scoring coaches love. Not only are they scoring in the red zone, they’re scoring touchdowns. This has to continue. When you’re a power run time that wants to limit the number of possession in a game, you’re got to put the ball in the end zone when you get inside the 20. Oklahoma State’s offensive woes allow Klieman to be a conservative in this game and kick field goals on 4th and shorts in the red zone (at least early) but more than 2 red zone field goals in this game will be tough to overcome.
Kansas State Offense: 100% (+7.3%)
Oklahoma State Defense: 100% (-20%)
This stat is funny. K-State was 1-1 in the red zone, with a field goal on the first drive (they only made it into the red zone on 4th down, but it still counts). They didn’t make any more appearances in the red zone. Knowles ran back a kick, Deuce turned a weird play into a miracle long touchdown, and Winkel nailed a 45 yard field goal.
I don’t think you’ll see many Kansas State wins the involve 1 red zone attempt.
My Take Away
Oklahoma State has been solid against the run on defense. Kansas State has a devastating run game capable of wearing out a defense. Early downs are critical for Wildcats on Saturday. They have to stay out of 3rd and 5+ situations. The Cowboys are going to try and get into the backfield and derail drives with tackles for loss and sacks. Much like last week, this comes down to the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage and Will making the correct reads in the run game. It’s always tempting to hand the ball to Deuce, regardless of the read, but Will’s going to have to pull it and keep the ball, even if that means getting back to the line instead of getting blown up in the backfield. That’s the key for this game.
Oklahoma State wants to get Kansas State off schedule with their aggressive front 7. If they do that, the Wildcat defense has to hold the Cowboy offense to 17 or fewer points. If Will and the offensive line limit negative plays, this offense can put together long drives and punish the defense.
I like K-State if they can put up 24+ points on the road. That’s going to require another big day out of the offensive line and Howard needs to hit a few big plays in the passing game while avoiding any catastrophic turnovers. I was confident in victory last week. This week I’m significantly more reserved. With Skylar, I would give this team a 75% chance to win, based on Ok State’s anemic offense and K-State’s dominant defense. I’ve got the Will Howard led Cats as toss up. If Ok State can force Howard to throw the ball 20+ times, I like their chances. If K-State can follow the same basic, but brutally effective, plan they employed against Nevada, I like their chances.
Should be an exciting game. I think it’s going to come down to the 4th quarter again this week.
My Take Away
It’s weird, because this game looked and felt like a blowout, but take away Howard’s buttery fingered fumble and Lewis tossing an interception at the 22 instead of at least getting a field goal on an otherwise positive drive and this thing is much closer, if not a K-State win. Maybe in an alternative timeline, we’re celebrating another grind it out win. This, unfortunately, is not that timeline.
Without Skylar, a team with a small margin of error turns into a team with no margin for error. Even with Malik pulling back a touchdown on special teams, they couldn’t overcome two turnovers. I’m not sure what happened with the defense in the first half, but am encouraged that the got it somewhat sorted in the second half. That gives me a shred of hope against Oklahoma (I’ll get to that tomorrow).
In summary, Oklahoma State dominated that 1st quarter, forced K-State to throw the ball 31 times, and that’s not the recipe for success. This team is only going to win a slug fest until Skylar gets back, and even then, it’s still going to require a slug fest to win.
On to Saturday.