After accumulating a Big 12 worst nine sacks in their first seven games, the Wildcats’ defense came to play against Oklahoma State with four sacks total.
One of the problems this season for the Wildcats has been that senior defensive end Ryan Mueller is constantly battling double teams. He was the Big 12 defensive lineman of the year last season and has just 2.5 sacks so far in 2014.
On Saturday, he was not alone in causing havoc in the Oklahoma State backfield.
Junior defensive tackle Travis Britz had two sacks in the game as well as another tackle for loss. He’s been a solid player for the entirety of his career, but really broke out against Oklahoma State.
“Travis has just gotten better day in and day out,” head coach Bill Snyder said. “It’s because of the effort he’s put into it, and the mindset that he has that he can improve. It’s not that stabilized mindset, he’s just always trying to get better.”
Sophomore defensive end Jordan Willis was also heavily involved in disrupting the Cowboys’ offense as he had two sacks in the game.
Britz and Willis are big keys to success for K-State’s pass rush. If they can perform at that level, it will begin to take double teams away from Mueller. If all three can get after the quarterback, the Wildcats’ front four becomes almost unstoppable.
The pass rush for K-State was much bigger than just the four plays that resulted in a sack. It made the offensive play calling much different and it made Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman fidgety.
“It’s not always the sacks,” Snyder said. “It’s maybe forcing some errant throws or forcing the scrambles. I thought it was a combination. We had some good movement up front and we had some hard pressure off the edge and inside.”
A pass rush has been the missing link for this Wildcat team. The run defense is solid and the offense produces at a high enough level to win games. With the ability to pressure the quarterback, this team becomes elite and their biggest deficiency is gone.
Obviously, this one game is a small sample size compared to the rest of the season. and coming into the game, Oklahoma State had given up the most sacks in the conference.
Just because the Cowboys’ offensive line is not up to par with some of the conference’s best doesn’t mean this game can’t help K-State. Success against any opponent can carry forward from week to week.
Most of defense is strategy and talent, but part of it is an attitude. After their biggest performance of the season, it’s possible that the Wildcats can have a renewed confidence in their ability to get to the passer.
In K-State’s coming games, pass rush will be more important than ever. They face three explosive offenses in West Virginia, TCU and Baylor through their last four games.
If the Wildcats are successful at getting to the quarterback in their last four games, they have a legitimate shot at running the table. If they can’t, the season could spiral downward quickly.