Wildcat Defense Among Nation's Best

While the Kansas State offense has struggled with injuries, the defense has shut down four opponents. Still, the question is, are the Wildcats as good as their statistics? Earning a number 13 ranking for total defense at the hands of the nation's 61st best offense (Cal), the 115th best offense (Troy State) and two I-AA opponents (McNeese State & UMass) leaves the Wildcat staff wondering how they will fare against the nation's 13th best offense, Marshsll. 13 verses 13 will be lucky for someone.

The defensive side saw the loss of six starters from a unit that allowed only 69.5 yards per game to opponents, setting a new record for Kansas State that was almost 30 yards per game less than the old record. They only gave up 11.8 points per game in 2002, also only allowing a stingy 179 yards per game passing in 13 games. So far in 2003, the 13th best defense has given up averages of only 13.5 points, 62.5 yards rushing and 196.5 yards passing per game in each category. Against Cal, Troy St. and the two I-AA offenses, K-State has still given up 260 yards per game and 54 points, including UMass burning the secondary deep for a 7-0 lead last Saturday before losing 38-7.

On the defensive line, only defensive end Andrew Shull (6-5, 260 senior) returns as a starter. The second-team All-Big 12 player led the team with 10 sacks and 17 tackles-for-loss in 2002 and has two more sacks and four tackles-for-loss to go with 17 total tackles so far this year. At the other end, junior Kevin Huntley (6-8, 265), a junior college player who red-shirt in 2002, has come on to become the starter opposite Shull and leads the team with five sacks and five tackles-for-loss.

Inside, the tackles, senior and two-year letterman Justin Montgomery (6-2, 281, 20 tackles and three tackles-for-loss to date) nailed down one spot out of spring ball. He started seven games in 2001, but only in the Holiday Bowl verses Arizona State in 2002. Beside Montgomery is junior college red-shirt junior Jermaine Berry (6-0, 295), who played at Butler County Community College with Herd receiver Tremel Guillory Berry is fourth on the team through four games in tackles with 22 stops and two sacks.

At the three linebackers, the two outside backers return for their senior seasons while in the middle, K-State looks to replace National Football League draftee, Terry Pierce, He is one of 21 former Wildcats drafted since 2000, seventh-most in the nation. Seniors Bryan Hickman (6-3, 230) and Josh Buhl (6-0, 210) return at the "will" and "sam" linebackers for Kansas State. Buhl led the team in tackles in 2002 with 136 total, including 10 tackles-for-loss, and has 59 tackles in four games. He leads all K-State tacklers by almost a two-to-one margin. Hickman is second in tackles with 32 and was fourth on the team with 79 and third with 13 tackles-for-loss in 2002. The new "mike" backer in the middle will be sophomore Matt Butler (6-2, 226), who lettered in 2002 with 23 tackles. Butler is third on the team with 30 tackles in 2003. Backing up this group is sophomore Ted Sims (6-1, 230), who started three games last season, and junior Maurice Thurmond (6-2, 220) who made 28 stops last year.

The defensive secondary lost the top defensive back in the nation in graduated senior Terance Newman, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top secondary player. Two starters return among six returning lettermen. Cornerback Randy Jordan (6-2, 175 senior) returns for his second season manning the outside, already posting 14 tackles, one interception and five passes broken up. He is the leader returning in interceptions with three in 2002. He also recorded seven passes broken-up and recorded 30 solo tackles of 46 total. The other corner will be Louis Lavender (6-0, 185 junior). Lavender took a red-shirt in 2002 after transferring to K-State from West Los Angeles Junior College. He has 12 tackles and two passes defended. The strong safety is just that, strong, for the Wildcats. Senior Rashad Washington (6-3, 210) is a three-year starter who was an honorable mention selection on the All-Big 12 team. He was third in tackles for K-State, racking up 80 total tackles and 50 solos. Washington leads all returners with 10 passes broken-up and had one interception. Thus far, Washington is playing at the same level. He has 20 tackles, two sacks, two tackles-for-loss and two interceptions returned for 67 yards. The free safety is sophomore Jesse Tetuan (6-0, 185), who lettered in a back-up role in 2002, amassing 21 tackles and a pair of interceptions. Other defensive backs in the mix include Cedrick Williams (5-9, 165), a junior college transfer from Garden City Community College. David Rose (5-10, 180 junior) and Marcus Patton (6-1, 210 junior) have both lettered, as has senior James McGill (6-3, 215).

Marshall's 13th rated offense will have to test the K-State defense. The Herd is 12th in the nation in passing, averaging 310 yards per game, while the Wildcats have given up197 passing per game to two I-AA teams, Cal (34th ins passing) and Troy State (114th in passing). MU has also rushed for 163 per game, while K-State has given up 100 per game less than that.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Kansas State special teams return a punter, kicker and both long-snappers (for placements and punts). While not the starter in 2002, senior punter Jared Brite (6-2, 185) has kicked off for K-State this year and punted 22 times his first three seasons. Brite is a pitcher on the K-State baseball team and played on the 2000 USA Junior National Team. He may still kickoff and try long field goals and is averaging 38 yards per punt this season.

The place kicker is junior Joe Rheem (6-2, 210). He is leading the team in scoring and has 148 points in his career, only 10 short of the Wildcat "Top 10" in scoring. Rheem has hit on 38 straight extra-points, back to November of 2002, and hit a pair of 40-yard-plus field goals against McNeese State. He is five-of-six this year on field goals, with a long of 44, and a 38-yard kick verses UMass. The holder is backup quarterback Dylan Meier. The long snappers are Russ Vanover (6-1, 185 junior) for placements and Mike Wilson (6-4, 250 senior) for punts.

K-State currently ranks 49th in net punting (36.7 yards per punt), 38th in punt returns (11.88 per return) and 37th in kickoff returns (23.67 per return). Marshall must hang on to the ball to win. The Wildcats have eight give-aways and eight take-aways, while MU is 116th, next to last, with only two turnovers gained and 11 lost, including five in each of the first two home games.


Herd Haven Top Stories