Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
In the run up to the January 3 Fiesta Bowl between K-State and Oregon, The Jug will be running a series of potentially overlooked variables that should determine the game’s final outcome. Up next: total number of plays.
There is no doubt in the mind’s of K-State fans that the starters for K-State can line up with the starters of Oregon and play all day long. In fact, it would be fun to tell each team they’re only allowed to put 25 players on the team and see what happens. But that’s not what’s going to happen, as each side will have every scholarship player on the sidelines on Thursday. And Oregon’s depth is probably a lot better than K-State’s.
The answer to limited depth is not putting yourself in a position to need it. No one can control when and where injuries will strike, but pace of the game can be dictated. Oregon’s opponents are constantly in fear of the fourth quarter, as the speed spread offense of the Ducks gradually wears down defenders throughout the game. With plays being run every 15 seconds or less, defensive linemen in particular have a hard time catching their breath.
Safety Ty Zimmerman’s conditioning in particular may beg for a low number of plays. Although Zimmerman went through as many workouts as coach’s felt comfortable, his injury caused him to miss a month of playing time and may be a little slow yet to recover.
K-State’s one advantage compared to most team’s is that it doesn’t rely on bulk, and shouldn’t wear down as fast. Star linebacker Arthur Brown and defensive end Meshak Williams are lighter than many of their peers at their respective positions. But a play every 15 seconds will catch up with anyone eventually. The question is whether K-State’s offense will slow down the game enough for the defense to recover. Of course, a quick strike is always welcome over a grinding drive that kills seven minutes but fails to end in a touchdown. However, the more plays the defense sees, the more tired they’ll be, and the more apt players are to make mistakes as fresh playmakers are substituted in on the Oregon side.