Injured Wildcat Defense Gets Job Done

Just two weeks ago, the K-State-Iowa State match-up was expected to feature a Cyclone offense led by running back Stevie Hicks and wide receiver Todd Blythe facing a Wildcat defensive unit led by safety Marcus Watts and cornerback Byron Garvin. When the Wildcats' 31-10 victory ended, none of the aforementioned four players had seen a snap.

The Wildcats knew Watts would not see the field, the result of a season-ending hand injury. In his stead, K-State started Courtney Herndon at the free safety position, while former-starter Andrew Erker also saw time at the position.

"I thought they all played really well," defensive end Ian Campbell said of the players who earned new opportunities in the Wildcat secondary. "I'll attribute the sack I had today to being a coverage sack, because he had to hold on to the ball longer than he wanted to. I was able to get to him because of that. That's what happens a lot. I attribute a lot of the things I'm able to do to, and the front seven is able to do, because they do well."

"We knew, ever since two-a-days, that we have a lot of depth (in the secondary)," corner Justin McKinney said.

"(The younger players) are just coming in and doing their jobs," McKinney said. "They stepped up today. There's nothing else I can say. All the guys they put in there came in and did the exact same job that Marcus did."

Unlike Watts, Garvin was expected to see the field. The junior had started the previous four games, but did not see the field even though the Wildcats spent much of the game in the nickel defense. His status was not addressed following the game. Josh Moore and Devin Anderson started at cornerback and nickel back for K-State. Moore found some struggles, being flagged for a pair of pass interference penalties and dropping an interception opportunity. Meanwhile, Anderson game up with one of the key plays in the game, thwarting a Cyclone comeback attempt by picking off a pass and returning it 31 yards for a touchdown. That score put the Wildcats ahead 31-10.

"We were really in a zone defense, but we've been working on our techniques to show man in the slot," Anderson said. "I faked like I was in man and sometimes when you play the defense to the right technique, things will hit you right in the face and that's what happened."

Blythe entered Saturday as the Cyclones' leading receiver and scorer, but did not suit up for the game as he reportedly battled the flu. "He has a virus," Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said after the game, "so he couldn't go today…

He was just really sick." Without the 6-5 junior, the Cyclone passing attack still performed strongly against the Wildcat defense, but struggled to put the ball in the end zone. In all, Cyclone quarterback Bret Meyer passed for 280 yards but seemed to struggle finding a go-to replacement for Blythe. The K-State defense combined to sack Meyer six times.

"We did a good job of pressuring the quarterback," Campbell said. "Not just up front, but the front seven. We all took a bite out of Meyer. It was nice to get back there and see everybody as a team get to the quarterback."

Hicks entered as Iowa State's leading rusher, with 523 net yards. He was averaging 65.4 yards per game, but his rushing duties fell to reserves Jason Scales and Josh Johnson. Scales performed admirably, gaining 67 yards on 12 carries and scoring a touchdown, but Johnson averaged just over two yards-per-carry on seven rushing attempts.

Despite the recognition the two opposing players had received, linebacker Brandon Archer said the Wildcats' defensive game plan did not waver when the Cyclone offense took the field without Blythe or Hicks. "That's all gray matter," Archer said. "We don't worry about personnel. To me, it's just another guy lined up against me. But I was surprised that they didn't play."

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