K-State's defensive line has to get tough.
That's according to Bobby Elliot, the Wildcats' defensive coordinator.
Missing several starters from last year's squad, including Henry Bryant, Eric Everley, Corey White, Melvin Williams and Tank Reese, a rebuilding job has occured along the front unlike any in the Snyder era. And while some players have stepped up to fill the void, Elliot was the first to display his disappointment in their play last weekend.
"We didn't play very well against Oklahoma State," Elliot said. "We got physically mauled at Oklahoma State. Some people might have nicked us — gotten us on a play or two — but that's the first time I recall us getting manhandled up front. That was disappointing. They came off and smacked us."
The Pokes ran up 187 yards on the ground against the Wildcats, marking the third-straight game the opposition has managed to gain more than 130 yards rushing against K-State. Marshall rumbled for 210 yards while Texas managed 133 yards.
Tatum Bell led the charge of Oklahoma State, rushing for 143 yards on 28 carries, continually plowing forward through tacklers for extra yardage. Elliot said hitting the tailback after two yards didn't mean the Cats were stopping Bell at the line. A second surge often netted five or six yards a try, and Cowboy backs fell forward every time they were tackled. Snyder, however, said those missed tackles are misleading.
"I don't know that I necessarily see (tackling) any better or worse the past however many years," he said. "I can't tell you that, collectively, tackling isn't as good now as it was the year before. But that doesn't mean it's not. It just hasn't become evident to me."
What has become evident to Snyder, and the entire Wildcat nation, is a need for change — whether it's in personnel or mentality.
Thomas Houchin is expected to start at defensive end, a run-stopping specialist that will like replace Kevin Huntly — a pass rusher — on run downs. The senior also brings a degree of experience to a defensive end that returns only Andrew Shull from last season.
"The team has to get back to its own identity," Houchin said. "You're not going to play the perfect game. When somebody messes up, we'll have to be held accountable for what we do."
And that demonstrates the chance in mentality of the Wildcat front line, intent on stopping a Colorado rushing attack consistently among the best in the nation. The excuses are over, Snyder said, and the finger pointing is over — unless the finger is directed squarely at Colorado.
"Their running game hasn't been what they want it to be, but that doesn't mean they can't get there," Snyder said. "That's always an issue. They formation you a lot — formations you wouldn't imagine are there. They run some plays we had trouble with last week, and that'll be an issue for us."
But with the defensive line focused on stopping the run, for the first time in what Houchin said feels like ages, the Wildcat's "Lynch Mob" mentality is back.
"Anybody who has watched anything saw we double-teamed Roy Williams and Rashaun Woods," Houchin said, "and deservedly so. But we'd be stupid to say Colorado isn't going to run the ball."
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