Across the Field: Questions For the Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State brings a well-deserved reputation for solid fundamental play into Saturday's game with West Virginia. Are the Wildcats living up to that this year? And does it really possess a defense worthy or its current statistical number one ranking?

To get these and more answers, we went to Joel Jellison, the sports editor of the Manhattan Mercury. Jellison has been at the hometown publication since 2007, and covers numerous teams on the Manhattan sports scene.

Q: K-State has the reputation of being one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the nation.  However, this year Bill Snyder has expressed concerns with the number of penalties and mistakes being committed. Is this a short term issue, or something you think might continue?

Jellison: The penalty issues are short term for the Wildcats. K-State had two penalties against Missouri State in the weather-shortened game last week, showing improvement from the 13 committed against Florida Atlantic. The Wildcats broke in a number of young or inexperienced players on the offensive line in the first two contests, and the number of holding penalties on wide receivers this season would seem to be an anomaly.

Q: The Wildcats have been dominant on defense. How much of that is due to the quality of opposition? Could K-State wind up being the best defense in the league?

Jellison: The Wildcats performed well against the run in Week 1 against Stanford, containing Christian McCaffrey on all but two runs. The questions for K-State will come in the pass game. Stanford had success in the first half throwing the ball, but backed away from passing in the second half. When the Cardinal did throw, K-State showed some of the same weaknesses defending the pass that it did last season. K-State looked better against the pass in the second and third games, albeit against weaker opponents.

Q: K-State was hurt badly with quarterback injuries last year, but still managed to win six games and get to a bowl. How has the stability at the position so far this year helped, and does that give K-State an extra boost, knowing that its game plan won't be so limited?

Jellison: It's clear now through three games that Jesse Ertz is the best quarterback of the three who were in the mix before the season. Ertz won the job last season, but suffered a season-ending injury on the first play. He shook out some cobwebs against Stanford, and then steadily improved in the last two games. He indeed brings stability to the offense with his ability to run and pass, and having a mixture of weapons on the offense helps the Wildcats run a balanced scheme that plays to Ertz's strengths.

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