Poor execution haunts Wildcat defense in loss to Cowboys

Senior defensive end Jordan Willis sacks Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph during the football game between KSU and OSU in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Nov. 5, 2016. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

With Saturday’s final horn, the Kansas State football team headed into a bye week that could not have been more perfectly timed, even if going in with a loss was not ideal.

After allowing the most points in a game that they had all season, the defense is ready for the week off.

“There’s so much that could have come with this,” senior defensive end Jordan Willis said after the game. “I could not care less with (it being) my senior senior season, but right now for the team it could have done so much for us.”

Willis said one of the team’s biggest struggles in the game defensively was execution. The team knew what to expect, but struggled to convert that knowledge into results.

“Obviously they do different stuff but once you get into the Big 12 it’s all a lot of the same stuff,” Willis said. “It was a matter of just execution. We didn’t execute the best we could, especially on that last drive.”

Even with similarities to other quarterbacks in the conference, Oklahoma State junior quarterback Mason Rudolph gave the K-State defense a firsthand demonstration on why he’s been talked about as a candidate for the Heisman trophy.

Rudolph cut apart the defense with his passing, throwing for 457 yards and five touchdowns. He also kept the K-State defense honest, running five times for 26 yards.

K-State’s defense only sacked him once.

Willis said some of that was on him.

“Several times I had him and I just didn’t (finish the sack),” Willis said. “I’ve got to be in a better body position to be able to get around the corner, wrap the thighs and then take him to the ground.”

Football, however, is inherently a team game, and Willis said the defense as a whole also had to get better, specifically at playing together.

“We all can do a better job of rushing up front consistently,” Willis said. “If the (defensive) ends are getting pressure, and we’re pushing the quarterback out of the pocket through the B-gaps then the inside guys have to get off (their blockers) and make the sack. We’ve just got to do a better job of working together.”

With the extra week off, the defense has work to do. Saturday’s game revealed various areas the defense can look to improve, but many of the defensive players said there was one specific area to possibly start focusing on going forward.

“(We can really improve on) giving up the big plays,” senior safety Dante Barnett said. “It’s the most big plays we gave up in a game, and if you want to win games in the Big 12 you can’t give up big plays because it’s all the offenses want to do. Most teams don’t drive the ball, they just want the big plays to score as fast as they can, so us as a defense we can’t give up those big plays.”

Sophomore cornerback D.J. Reed said the defense gave up a lot of yards in both halves.

“We’ve got to work together as a whole defensive unit to prevent big plays from happening,” Reed said.

K-State will have two weeks to prepare for their next test, another team that likes to live or die by the big play: Baylor.

The Wildcats will head to Waco, Texas to play Baylor Nov.19.

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.