The Lynch Mob Is Back


OK ... let's have a show of hands, please.

How many thought Kansas State's defense wasn't worth a hoot seven weeks into the season ... just a month ago?

The Wildcats were 4-3 at the time, and in four games had given up 28, 27, 24 and 38 points. Those were numbers K-State folks weren't used to seeing around these parts.

"We could feel people doubting us. People we thought were in our corner weren't," said defensive tackle Jermaine Berry, pointing, in particular, to the fans and the media. "Everybody thought we were weak on defense and that hurt our feelings."

While K-State was not making collective defensive stands or individual highlight tackles, linebacker Josh Buhl said he didn't have any doubts that the pieces were there.

"We just couldn't figure out what it took to get us clicking,'' he said. ''We knew we had the potential, but had to start clicking, playing together and holding each other accountable."

If there was a turning point, it came in Stillwater, where the Wildcats lost to Okie State, 38-34.

Sure, the points stung, but it was the manner in which the Cowboys gained its 377 yards that was embarrassing.

The week before, Kansas State had given up 24 points, but only 290 yards against Texas. Defensive coordinator Bob Elliott was encouraged that the Wildcat defensive unit had arrived.

But then came Oklahoma State, where Elliott said, "We just didn't play well. Our guys have a lot of pride and they were embarrassed. It wasn't the 38 points, but the way they ran the ball against us. It served as a wake-up call. We were humiliated."

Elliott admits there were some "harsh words" the following week in practices, but added that the positive thing was that ''... they were listening. Our guys deserve credit for not being defensive, and accepting the hard coaching we gave them."

The next week K-State started its present five-game winning streak with a 49-20 victory over Colorado when the defense gave up 422 yards.

But starting the following week against Kansas, the defense became ... well, the Lynch Mob of old:

•K-State 42, KU 6: The Wildcats allow just 160 yards and forced three turnovers.

•K-State 38, Baylor 10: The 'Cats gave up just 213 yards.

•K-State 45, Iowa State 0: K-State gave up only 140 yards.

•K-State 38, Nebraska 9: The Wildcats allowed just 77 yards in the second half, and 293 for the game, plus forced four turnovers.

In those 16 quarters of football, the defense gave up just one touchdown ,and that was by NU's Jammal Lord, who threw a TD pass with one knee on the ground.

K-State now ranks No. 5 in the nation in total defense (271), No. 6 in pass defense (163), No. 10 in scoring defense (15.7) and No. 17 in rushing defense (107).

Despite playing one more game than the others, the Wildcats have allowed just 182 first downs, second fewest in the Big 12, and leads the league in Red Zone defense allowing scores just 64 percent of the time.

Looking back on the season, Berry said K-State's early-season woes might have been because "... we were looking forward to the future too much. We were worrying about accomplishing this, and this, and this. Then we lost a couple games and realized we had better get back to playing one day at a time, one practice at a time."

Buhl added, "Mainly, it was just holding each other accountable. In our defense, everybody must be in the right spot. We started catching on to that."

And since then, offensive teams haven't had a chance.

KSU's history on 'D'

K-State has ranked in the top five in the nation in total defense in seven of the last eight years, and now are poised to make it eight of the last nine.

Year Total Def. Scoring Def.

2003 — 271 (5th) 15.7

2002 — 249 (2nd) 11.8

2001 — 262 (3rd) 16.3

2000 — 270 (4th) 18.5

1999 — 235 (2nd) 13.1

1998 — 268 (3rd) 11.3

1997 — 257 (4th) 14.5

1996 — 298 (16th) 15.6

1995 - 251 (1st) 12.6

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