Earlier today I discussed the need for K-State to establish the run to regain its mojo. More importantly, however, the Wildcats must stop the run game of the Ragin’ Cajuns. Success often begets success simply because when teams are winning, they’re having more fun. That encourages them to play harder and avoid the mental blocks that pop up when confidence becomes an issue.
If Arkansas’s success against Louisiana Lafayette is any indication, K-State should have an excellent opportunity regain its confidence in halting the run game. Cajun quarterback Terrance Broadway is solid, but the offense averaged just 2.7 yards per rush last Saturday, gaining 85 yards on 32 carries (while the team averaged over 11 yards per reception). Here’s the rub: part of the low yardage overall was the low number of attempts – lead running back Alonzo Harris only had ten touches as the Cajuns were playing from a deficit most of the game, but made the most of his opportunities. Finishing the game with 57 yards, he averaged 5.7 per attempt with a long of 17 and one touchdown.
It appears Harris can move. What brought down the Cajun rushing average was the constant pressure Broadway felt – he had -1 yards on 13 attempts, demonstrating a constant state of being flushed out of the pocket (their backup quarterback also had -2 yards on two carries – one of which was a sack). Subtracting the quarterbacks’ stats, Lafayette averaged 5.2 yards per rush. This is the stat I want to see K-State bring down on Saturday. I thought the Wildcats got decent (not great) pressure on quarterback Brock Jensen - if Broadway can be similarly flushed from the pocket and hunted down, the overall statistics will look good, but that’s not what I’m concerned with. On designed run plays, can K-State get good stops at the line of scrimmage?
There’s a lot of tape to break down, and the staff will have a volume of notes for how the new defensive starters played together. Part of the issue may just be getting defensive linemen to learn to hold their ground first, and worry about pursuit second (these can be damn hard to separate). I need to see Tre Walker step up. I’m not complaining about statistics here – save talks of overall tackles and QB pressures for another day. He needs to be the vocal leader I was told K-State lost last year following the knee injury. I still believe he can combine with Blake Slaughter and Jon Truman to create a great linebacker corps.
The safety position should be good enough to prevent any long runs broken for touchdowns – Ty Zimmerman is the best safety in the league and Dante Barnett looked like a good starter after performing solidly as a back up last year. It simply gets back to the defensive line. I really wish I had answers for you. I don’t. Those answers are coming on Saturday. That evening, we’re going to learn whether the Wildcat front four can step up and control the line of scrimmage. If that happens, the surrounding talent will bring down that 5.2 rush average. Otherwise, there’s going to be a distraught website editor wandering Aggieville with a lost look on his face. That lost look is mostly because I flew in from New York for my first game in a long time, and the construction I saw around Manhattan today has left me befuddled. But seriously, if the line gets shown up two weeks in a row, there’s trouble brewing. I believe this week will look different. Fingers crossed.