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October 31, 2013
Game Up Close: Chasing QBs
It might not be the main emphasis for Kansas State's defense, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be there on a consistent basis. Pressuring the quarterback is important and it continues to be an issue for the improving Wildcats. Actually, it's undeniably one of the biggest causes of concern with this team up to this point.
Whether it's allowing an opposing quarterback to sit in the pocket and have time to convert a big play or permit the signal caller to survey multiple options, the lack of pass rush is an ongoing struggle for this K-State squad entering its eighth game of the season.
"That is kind of a double-edged sword," Wildcat coach Bill Snyder said. "We only had one sack in the ballgame (against West Virginia last Saturday), but Ryan Mueller stripped the quarterback. The numbers can be somewhat deceiving. Was it enough? No. Did we get enough pressure? No we did not. But that did create a turnover and a turnover is big. I will take a turnover ahead of two or three sacks in a ballgame.
"I think you take some young guys that will fight it and fight it and fight it and guys doing a good job up front that if you cannot get there, then get your hands up and maybe force a tip ball. We had two in the ballgame, and those are critical. They are not exactly a sack but it's pretty close. It means they did not have a chance to complete a pass, which is part of the result of a sack as well.
"So I think they are a little deceiving but we still are not getting as much or as frequent of pressure on the quarterback as I would like us to."
Through seven games, K-State ranks No. 82 in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 12 pass sacks for 53 and No. 71 with 40 total tackles for loss (5.7 per contest). Both of those categories rank eighth in the Big 12.
The good news? The Wildcats, 3-4 overall and 1-3, play host to an Iowa State, 1-6 and 0-4, team at 2:30 p.m. Saturday that has struggled mightily in both areas. The Cyclones are last in the Big 12 in both sacks and total tackles for loss, ranking No. 119 of 123 teams in giving up 26 sacks for 161 yards in seven games and No. 118 in tackles for loss by allowing over eight per game.
"If you're not prepared as smartly as they are, you're going to be in trouble," Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said. "Our full focus is on this game and its preparation and going down to Manhattan and do something we haven't done in our five years."
The opportunity will most certainly be present for K-State to exploit Iowa State's weak pass protection, but Snyder knows it will still be difficult.
"There is always that thing where look at people, look at numbers and statistics and ask, 'They have given up a lot of sacks, so how vulnerable are they?' Well, what are they working on all day, every day? They know right now what the numbers are, so they are working more diligently not only in their pass protection but also how quickly they get the ball off and maybe pulling some backs in to help wherever they may be having trouble," he noted. "People work on it and people get better at it. Good programs eliminate mistakes and Iowa State is an awful good program. It will not be the easy task that the numbers might indicate."
A player that has made it look easy and poses as the biggest threat to Iowa State this weekend is Mueller. The junior defensive end is the Big 12 leader alongside Texas' Jackson Jeffcoat with six sacks and third in the conference with 9.5 tackles for loss. Mueller accounts for 50 percent of K-State's sacks and nearly 25 percent of the total tackles for loss and is a player Rhoads and the Cyclones have their eyes on.
"When you get challenged with a player that has that kind of frequency, you can't just necessarily always make your normal protection," he said. "You have to be away. You chip, you do things like that with the running back and he will be something we will be geared towards to try to provide the time we did (last) Saturday with pretty good consistency."
With much of the primary focus on Mueller, this leaves the door open for defensive ends Marquel Bryant, Alauna Finau and Mike Moore to make big plays. If K-State can find away to get in the backfield and pressure the quarterback, it will put less stress on the linebackers and secondary and boost the Wildcats to another victory.
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