The message was sent when the Wildcats won the coin toss.
Coach Ron Prince did something he’s not used to — he deferred to the second half. He wanted his defense to set the tone for the game — and with members of the 1998 team watching, the Wildcats displayed a defensive effort that would have made them proud.
The K-State defense limited North Texas to 205 yards of total offense and held the vaunted Mean Green passing attack to a meager 100 yards.
The Wildcats used different schemes to confuse sophomore quarterback Giovanni Vizza.
The 3-4 defense was absent throughout most of the game. The Wildcats used a 3-3-5 and a 4-2-5 defensive alignment to attack an offense that ranked 18th in the nation last year in passing at 289.7 yards per game.
Prince said he was pleased with the effort of his defense.
“I thought we got a lot to build on tonight,” Prince said. “I was very concerned about this offense. I thought by and large our defense did a nice job.”
Junior linebacker Olu Hall lined up at defensive end on some snaps, and senior defensive end Ian Campbell even took some snaps at defensive tackle.
Prince said this year’s personnel allows them to move players around more.
“We try to put people in a position to being able to make a play to get a matchup,” he said. “I think that kind of versatility is what we were missing last year.”
Campbell said he was happy to move past the 2007 season.
“I feel like we did pretty decent,” he said. “I feel like there’s a lot of things we can get better at, though.”
The Wildcats at times struggled with their tackling and pass rush. Campbell said he expects that to improve throughout the season.
“I’m going to allude to the fact that some guys missed some tackles due to some pregame jitters,” he said. “I felt like we should have gotten more pressure than we did sometimes and that lies on my shoulders and the other defensive linemen.”
As good as the defense was, the Wildcat first-team offense was even better.
Quarterback Josh Freeman completed 18 of his 24 passes for 232 yards, compiling a quarterback rating of 197.45, which was the top mark of all performing Big 12 quarterbacks this past weekend.
Prince said he was impressed with the play of his quarterback.
“I thought he was spectacular tonight considering
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the kind of pressure we gave up at various times,” Prince said.
Freeman, who looked more agile after losing 15 pounds during this offseason, also ran the ball five times for 23 yards and two touchdowns, including two option plays.
Freeman said he is willing to run at any time.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I do whatever Coach tells me to do. If the game plan allows me to run the ball, then I’m all for it, and I am going to do my best to make the most out of it.”
The Wildcats put on an air assault featuring new receivers Aubrey Quarles and Brandon Banks.
Quarles, one of the most sought-after junior college players in this year’s recruiting class, caught six passes for 57 yards.
The 5-foot-7, 148-pound Banks electrified the Wildcat crowd with touchdown grabs of 43 yards and 30 yards.
The game also featured the emergence of 6-foot-3, 225-pound wide receiver Lamark Brown, whose four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown were more than he had his entire freshman season.
Prince said he was not surprised by his receivers’ performances.
“I think you could see some of the talent that they have,” he said. “We’d like to be able to take advantage of that with the kind of quarterback we have.”