Uneven Performance on Defense

It's hard to figure out just how good of a defensive performance Kansas State had against Colorado Saturday in a 23-20 loss to the Buffaloes in Manhattan. Stripped of the "Lynch Mob" moniker prior to the season, the Wildcat defense has struggled to claim an identity.

There were moments when the Wildcats looked good on "D" and actually got to Buffaloes quarterback Joel Klatt, who had not been sacked in 4 consecutive games. Another plus for the defense was the defense made timely stops, including a sack in the red zone that backed the Buffs up while driving for a score. That sack represented the first time Klatt had ever been sacked in the red zone in his entire career and for those who have seen the CU QB play- sacking him has been at a premium. Both sack streaks were stopped by a Wildcat defense that when they turned it on and were able to apply pressure, really changed the momentum of the game. I used to have an uncle that would always say if pressure can bust a pipe, think what it can do to a human being and in the 3rd quarter, the Cat defense had Klatt more then a little flustered.

For the first time is several games Brandon Archer showed up and made some of the plays that we've all been waiting for since the season started. Archer, who readily admits he has been frustrated this season with his play and the expectations he holds for his play- made the big sack on Klatt and seemingly set the tone for the defense to follow. The scuttlebutt on the junior linebacker is Archer has been spending extra time in the film room and with defensive coordinator Bob Elliot to get his game back on track . It must be starting to have an effect- as he certainly played better against the Buffs then he has all year.

But defense rarely comes down to one player, and the problem is the big plays the defense was giving up. The first drive by Colorado opened up for the Buffs biggest gain as Klatt hit tight end Quinn Sypniewski on a 64-yard completion down to the K-State 1-yard line. Lawrence Vickers then scored on the next play to give the Buffs an early 7-0 lead with little to no resistance from the Kansas State defense early. Senior quarterback Joel Klatt for the Buffaloes wasn't shaken by the rowdiness of the crowd (which by the way more then did it's part), the K-State defense or the fact he was throwing into a 35 mph south wind. Two plays, seven points and little time off the clock gave notice early…. this game would be a very long contest.

The big plays given up by Kansas State were killers and in essence took away from an overall performance that at times was very solid . A 32 yard completion by Klatt to Evan Judge where Baldwin was toasted looking over his shoulder is the type of stuff that cannot occur in tight games. Fundamentals. Fundamentals are the tools that when you are having a bad game will change the course of a game and on Saturday, the Cats just were not playing fundamentally sound football. There were bad angles taken by the defense that didn't allow the players to be in the right position to make tackles and small things like jams at the line and maintaining presence running in coverage that made the big play a little too easy for Colorado.

Then there were the standout plays, such as the sack and fumble recovery by Ted Sims who went rumbling down the field ….only have it called back due to his knee hitting the turf as he recovered the football. A great and spirited play from Sims right before the end of the half when Colorado was moving the football that moved momentum back to the Cats. With K-State down 20-10 at that time, a touchdown or any score by the Buffaloes could have been a back breaker for K-State and an insurmountable lead.

There was also the spirited and improving play of Marcus Watts. The converted free safety was all over the field making plays and continuing to lay out hard hits. Although just a first year player on defense, Watts to these eyes is the most refreshing player on the Wildcat defense. Watts still is apt to make some mistakes but they are getting fewer and fewer by the week and he plays hard every down. Watts had 10 solo tackles while breaking up two pass plays in the process for the game. He continues to play with the pride, passion and intensity that many Kansas State defenses of the past that were made up of blue collar guys that loved the game.

The overall performance of the defense was rollercoaster-like with highlights on defense and then big plays given up that allowed CU to strike quickly and put points on the board. That said, it was the Wildcat defense that allowed the Cats to stay in this game making big plays when it needed them and keeping K-State within striking distance. There are times when we all get excited about a possible return of "The Lynch Mob." In all honesty, that return may be delayed as there are still too many mistakes such as blown assignments, costly penalties and poor fundamentals occurring on the field for this defense to make the next step.

With the win on Saturday, Colorado is now bowl eligible and this loss for the Cats has led to the first back to back home losses in the Bill Snyder era since 1989. For the Wildcats to salvage the season and become bowl eligible themselves, they must win two of their last three games, with two of those games being on the road at Nebraska, next Saturday at Iowa State, finishing up the year with Missouri. This is what has to be done to avoid sitting out consecutive bowl seasons for the first time since 1991-92.


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