Anyone hoping to see a defensive showcase at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday went home sorely disappointed, as offense was the name of the game. The Kansas State Wildcats topped the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns 45-37 in a game that saw the two teams combine for 979 total yards.
Quarterback Josh Freeman led the way for the Wildcats, totaling five touchdowns -- three by air and two by ground. Deon Murphy caught a pair of Freeman's touchdown tosses and a boosted rushing attack totaled 198 yards on the ground.
"It was a good game to be a part of," Freeman said. "Especially because we came out on top. But there's definitely work to be done."
As good as the Wildcat offense was, posting 45 points and 470 total yards, the Ragin' Cajuns stuck with them until the end. The Wildcat defense surrendered 509 total yards to Louisiana, marking the second consecutive game K-State's opponent reached the half-century mark. Coach Ron Prince said the Wildcats were happy with the victory, but concern about the defensive effort -- the inability to bring offensive players to the turf, in particular -- was expressed.
"We need to improve on defense," Prince said. "That's our deal. That's what we need to improve."
"The entire problem with the whole (defense)," defensive end Ian Campbell said, "is tackles. That's the whole thing. People slipping off tackles. People missing tackles. People not being where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be. That all lies under doing your job, and we've just got to get people to be completely bought in."
Even the newest member of the Wildcat defense, quarterback-turned-safety Tysyn Hartman stressed the need for tackling improvement. "That's been an issue from last week and this week," Hartman said. "That's probably our main concern right now: tackling."
Just 10 days after allowing the Louisville Cardinals to rack up 577 total yards, the Wildcat defense struggled to consistently slow the Ragin' Cajun rushing attack. Louisiana gained 335 on the ground. Running back Tyrell Fenroy carried for 183 of those yards, with three touchdowns. Fenroy averaged 9.1 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Louisiana quarterback Michael Desormeaux carried for 98 yards and a score.
With time on the clock waning and the Wildcats holding on to a five point advantage, Prince made a call prompted by the possibility of the Ragin' Cajuns driving the length of the field and getting a go-ahead touchdown after a Wildcat punt. With two yards to go on fourth down at their own 42, Hartman successfully ran a fake punt to keep their drive alive.
How concerned was Prince that a punt could lead to a Ragin' Cajun lead and potential victory?
"Very concerned," Prince said. "So much so that there was even some conversation about when we got near the goal line, would we kick a field goal. If it would have been close enough, we would have probably gone for it."
The Wildcats did kick the field goal to increase their lead to eight and the defense held strong, forcing Louisiana to lose 15 yards on its final drive.
Helping the Wildcat offense in a new manner was Lamark Brown. Brown spent the week leading up to the contest learning the running back position, and he showed off his new knowledge on the field. Brown led the Wildcats with 137 yards on the ground, and also caught five passes for 36 yards.
"Lamark Brown obviously had a great debut (at running back)," Prince said of the sophomore. "We're really happy for that, and I know he wants to do better."
Brown's debut in the backfield even included one snap at quarterback, as he scored from three yards out after taking a snap from the shotgun in the third quarter.
"He's a very intriguing player," Prince said of the former wide receiver. "He did all of these things in high school."
The Wildcats led 28-3 late in the first half and seemed to have momentum on their side. However, the Ragin' Cajuns scored right before the break, and then again early in the third quarter to thwart that notion.
A Freeman fumble on the first play of the third quarter helped Louisiana cut the Wildcat lead to 11. The Ragin' Cajuns took immediate advantage of the miscue, as wide receiver Richie Falgout connected with Jason Chery on an end-around pass.
Now 3-1 on the season, the question remains: are the Wildcats prepared to open their Big 12 schedule next week against Texas Tech?
"Time will tell," Campbell said. "I think we're ready. We obviously have things that we need to take care of, but I'm ready to go play (Texas Tech)."
Hartman, who came to Prince last week volunteering to help out on the defensive side of the football, said the Wildcats will overcome any shortcomings they might currently have.
"I have faith in us as a defense," Hartman said. "We have some good leaders that are going to make it happen."