Defense wakes up late, preserves Wildcat win

Sophomore defensive back D.J. Reed pushes Texas Tech wide receiver Jonathan Giles out of bounds during the game between K-State and Texas Tech on Oct. 8, 2016, in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (George Walker | The Collegian)

It took the Kansas State Wildcats’ defense some time to figure out the Texas Tech Red Raiders offense, but by the second half they did, helping the offense secure a 44-38 win Saturday night.

After allowing 14 point-per-quarter in the first two-quarters, the Wildcats held the number one offense in the country to just three points in the third quarter and seven in the fourth.

Senior defensive end Jordan Willis said the biggest change from the first half to the second one was getting used to the speed of the Texas Tech offense.

“They’re going so fast, they’re throwing those slant routes so you have to get your hands up,” Willis said. “You’ve just have to play it right. In the second half we didn’t really change a whole lot. I think what helped us is the offense getting ahead. (The Red Raiders) felt like they were behind so they started holding the ball more, which gave us the opportunity to get to the quarterback and help them even more.”

Willis said the team improved their pressure in the second half even when Red Raiders junior quarterback Patrick Mahomes II was playing well.

“We did a much better job, even when he was getting the ball out quicker in the second half of getting in his face and affecting him even more,” Willis said.

Willis had four solo tackles and two sacks in the game, helping the defense manage a Red Raider offense that entered the game averaging 59 points per game.

Though the Wildcats allowed more points in the first half than in the second, the defense was able to get to Mahomes early when sophomore defensive back D.J. Reed intercepted a pass with 4:19 left in the first quarter and returned it for a touchdown.

Reed said he learned a lot from the West Virginia game last week that allowed him to play better against Texas Tech. Prior to that game, Reed said he didn’t watch nearly enough film. Because he didn’t, Reed said he went into the game against West Virginia blind.

“This game I didn’t do that,” Reed said. “I embraced the opportunity. I watched film every day for at least an hour, so I had a real good perception of what I was getting into.”

He said he looked at how different receivers on the team ran their routes and even how the Red Raiders played special teams.

“I just really dove into film this week, and that’s why I made the plays,” Reed said.

Not only did Reed have an interception returned for a touchdown in the first half, he nearly had one in the final five minutes of the game. Reed made a play on a pass and came down with the interception, but a pass interference penalty was called on him, negating the interception.

Texas Tech eventually got a touchdown on the drive and an onside kick but were unable to make the complete the comeback despite the penalty.

Reed said the biggest change for the team at halftime was adjusting to the offense.

“We just got some issues cleared up at halftime with blown coverages,” Reed said. “We got a good picture of what their offense was trying to do. We just dialed in and that’s how we were able to get stops. And then the crowd was rocking very loud, and that just gives us more confidence when we’re at home.

Junior quarterback Jesse Ertz said the offense let the defense down a few times by having to turn the ball on third downs but said the defense’s plays were huge.

“They got the stops they did and kept giving us chances and luckily we were able to capitalize a couple of times,” Ertz said.

The Wildcats lost to a West Virginia team statistically weaker than the Red Raiders, but in the end Willis said the team was improving.

“The biggest thing (with) this week from last week (is) I think West Virginia has the same capabilities Texas Tech just did,” Willis said. “Texas Tech goes at such a fast pace, and a lot of times in a game it’s not so much that you’re making mistakes as you get behind if you’re not up with the tempo. So we caught up to the tempo, the offense got us ahead so that made it hard on them.”

K-State head football coach Bill Snyder said the offense improved a little this week while the defense made some mistakes he sees as correctable, though he also said he’ll have to watch the tape to get a better feel for what the defense needs to work on.

“We got out of position a few times and they schemed us a few times,” Snyder said. “There is a reason (Mahomes) is the leading passer in the world. He has got some talent.”

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.