Column: Defensive performance against WVU highlights toughness, effectiveness


K-State’s performance against West Virginia can be described in three words: ugly, but effective. Poor special teams play and bad red-zone execution hurt the Wildcats. However, there were two components of the team that played up to par – defense and the quarterback.

Some thought K-State’s defense was exposed as a fraud after their contest against TCU. They got beat in practically every way possible. This week was different for Bill Snyder’s squad.

The Wildcats’ initial defensive game plan obviously worked well. They made Mountaineer quarterback Clint Trickett look very poor. He was 12 of 25 with 112 yards and two interceptions. He looked lost while he was in the game and K-State gave him very few easy completions.

When Trickett went down with an injury, the defense was unprepared for his replacement. They allowed backup quarterback Skyler Howard to complete 65 percent of his passes and throw for two touchdowns.

K-State’s run defense allowed 123 yards on the ground, but that number was inflated by the Mountaineers persistence in the ground game. They ran the ball 37 times for just 3.3 yards per carry.

In the end, the defense epitomized the game. Their final stat lines weren’t very pretty as far as yards go, but they allowed just 20 points and brought home a win.

The Wildcats were opportunistic, which resembles the program as a whole. They had their struggles, but overcame them by being in the right place at the right time. They had four takeaways and also allowed just one touchdown in the Mountaineers’ three red-zone attempts.

This sort of play shows the mental toughness that this year’s Wildcats have. They have proven themselves in close Big 12 games and they know how to get the job done when the game is on the line.

The Wildcats’ defense was a good example of the character of the team. Perhaps, the best example was a single man who plays on the other side of the ball. Senior quarterback Jake Waters had one of his best games as a Wildcat.

Waters passed for 400 yards in the game, and all of it was necessary. He had no help on the ground to speak of, with the team combining for one yard on 29 carries. It’s not easy to be effective when the defense knows what’s coming every play, but Waters was able to do it.

Obviously, it took more than just Waters to make plays. He had to have help from his offensive line and wide receivers. His leadership is what carried the offense. His mental toughness kept the pieces together when the Wildcats needed another field goal to secure the lead late in the game. He made big throws to Lockett and Burton which allowed K-State to get three points and seal the victory.

With a rivalry game against Kansas and a key game against Baylor left to go, K-State will to play with just as much fortitude down the stretch. There are many pieces of the Wildcats’ team that need some work as they round the season out, but their mental makeup is something to be proud of.