"I thought about it when I walked out to the field, said Marcus Watts. I wanted to fire up the crowd and when I threw it up there I just wanted to let everyone know that we were coming. We were bringing it back."
The defense resembled the kind that has been the tradition during the Bill Snyder era. Hard hits, aggressive play, good tackling and at least early on this season, it appears like the attitude and swagger has returned. It was evident in the Kansas State opening game victory over Florida International 35-21 that new players and new personnel has changed business as usual on the field and down to the man following the game- all the players spoke of team spirit and aggressive play. But don't just take the players word for it.
"We ran to the ball better, and we're a better pursuit team now, "said Head Coach Bill Snyder. "I thought we were a better tackling team, and that proved to be true. I thought we were a better coverage team, and that proved to be true as well. I think, in the case of this ballgame, I was accurate in my assessments."
"I think that we came out ready to play and showed that we could play, said linebacker Brian Archer . We gave up some big plays and some yardage but we played well for our first game."
There were 6 new players on defense who were experiencing their first ever start for Kansas State and in some cases- their first start in the sport of football. Marcus Watts, Byron Garvin, Kyle Williams, Alphonso Moran, Bryan Baldwin and Blake Seiler all got new looks and time in the defense.
It was not too long ago that Blake Seiler was at Oklahoma State on the wrestling team- far away from Wagner field and traveling a very different path.
"Who would have thought you know that I would be out here with everything that went on before. I mean this is something special for me," said Seiler. Pressed on what his goals were prior to the season Seiler immediately perked up and with a wry grin began to describe what returning Kansas State football to dominance means to him.
"The team spirit is really good and we are all pulling together as teammates and trying to support one another out there. Our goal is bring the defense back to where it was and my goals have been to start and be a part of that."
There were times early on when the Kansas State defense looked tight overall and some of the pressure that had been mounting after last years season seemingly had some effect on the polay of some players more then others.
"I wasn't really nervous said Watts, but I was kind of surprised that I wasn't. It helped when I got to start off on the special teams so that helped get rid of some of the jitters. But I think that maybe early on some of the players got tight, it was the first time out there for some players and I think you could see a little bit of the nervousness early on."
This was a better performance by the Kansas State defense, and the game plan for both offense and defense was very basic and watered down. A lack of pressure up the middle is somewhat of a concern, but with the emerging players who got their feet wet it is a positive sign that players are starting to emerge and will play this year. Time will tell if "The Lynch Mob" mentality is indeed back but this was clearly a step in the right direction. In talking about the defense, Coach Snyder mentioned that young players like Ross Diehl and Reggie Walker were in the game because they can contribute. He also mentioned that Reggie and Ross made some mistakes out there but that they will play this year and have a chance to do "special things for us."
Despite early returns, to the man this defense talks about supporting one another and team spirit.
"When someone makes a bad play you do not hear anything form the sidelines but support. Everyone is pulling for the other guy and trying to encourage him and help him raise his game. That is what we are all about and maybe if you looked some last year that was not the case," said Brandon Archer.
There are areas to work on and the players are well aware that in order to contend, they will need more repetitions and experience as well as time in the film room.
"We feel good, there are still things we need to improve on, but we'll look at tape on the game Monday and learn from any mistakes we made, said Watts. We came out flying filling our holes and gaps and I hope we showed people we're going to fight for the ball. We had our backs against the wall a couple of times, but we came through. Right now we feel pretty good about ourselves and it felt good. Hopefully we showed everyone "The Lynch Mob" is back."
There are still doubters about this years Kansas State team in general even after the victory on Saturday. Many expected a blowout similar to the ones Coach Snyder and the Cats have put together in the past and when it didn't happen the critics began forming in lines. The season is in the infancy stage with many trials, and tribulations left to come in a season where a young group of players are attempting to mesh as a cohesive unit. But make no mistake, this years squad is already helping one another and learning on the job.
"We're not worried about what everybody else is saying, said Maurice Mack who led a balanced Wildcat defensive attack with 5 tackles on the day in his first official game at the linebacker position. We know we have spirit and we came out with it today. Now we've got more to build off of and that's exactly what we're going to do. We're a lot better team than last year and now we know what we have to do to play."
The next test will prove a little more difficult for the Cats as they head to West Virginia to take on Marshall- the Thundering Herd in a game that will be televised- very early- on ESPN2. This is a game that will be very telling in terms of the progress the Cats will make this next week. it is said the most improvement in a team happens between the first and second game. It is also a game that will tell Cat fans where their team is and if it has the ability to content again for a Big 12 North title.
Remember it was Marshall that came into KSU staduim two years and handed "The Cats" an upset loss at home in a hard fought game. Improvement is the key to a season game by game and day by day and although the Cats came out with a W- they can ill afford the mistakes and turnovers that highlighted this effort.
"I think that we can beat Marshall, said Watts and even play with anyone if we cut back on our turnovers. We have the players and the talent and right now we just need to play together more and work together more and then I think we can play with anyone.
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