Wildcats look to shore up pass defense during bye week

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

Kansas State head football coach Bill Snyder and select players held their weekly press conference Tuesday. Here are three things that stood out:

1. The pass defense needs to improve quickly.

K-State has allowed 529, 372, 222, 339 and 457 yards through the air in each of the past five games. To put it simply, that is not good. The Wildcats’ struggles were especially apparent on Saturday against Oklahoma State.

Junior quarterback Mason Rudolph torched the K-State defense all afternoon while the Wildcats allowed passes of 48, 54, 48, 34 and 82 yards.

“The largest negative is giving up substantial yardage plays in the passing game,” Snyder said. “You go back and look and you hold them, you hold them, you hold them and (then) somebody gets out of the gate for 80 yards or 60 yards or whatever the case may be.”

K-State will need to shore up its defense before heading to Waco, Texas, to face a Baylor team that has speed on the outside and won’t be afraid to air it out.

The Wildcats will have the help of sophomore defensive back Duke Shelley, who missed the latter part of Saturday’s game because of injury. Snyder said he is certain Shelley will be able to go against Baylor.

2. This bye week comes at a good time.

The Wildcats’ last Saturday off was Sept. 10. They have played eight straight games since then. While it may be tough to get a week off after such a heartbreaking loss, players said the break is here at a good time.

“It is definitely bittersweet,” sophomore tight end Dayton Valentine said. “After a tough loss, we want to get back out there and get a win. At the same time, we can use it and learn from mistakes. We can get better and we need to prepare for a tough game at Baylor. I think it will help us out.”

Freshman defensive end Kyle Ball said the rest is needed.

“It is kind of nice to have a week to just refocus, regather and let our bodies heal up a little bit before we take on Baylor,” Ball said. “An extra week will be good because they are a great team. We are working to improve on the mistakes that we have been making and just working on making ourselves better.”

3. The offensive line is making strides.

The offensive line has been improving week after week and is miles ahead of where it was at the start of the season, which shows.

K-State has now had three straight games of at least 200 yards rushing and have allowed just four sacks total in those same games.

“As I had indicated, or I imagine I indicated, they would get better over a period of time considering their commitment to it,” Snyder said. “And they have remained committed to it and I think they have gotten better every week.”

Freshman running back Alex Barnes said the line played a big role in the Wildcats’ running success against Oklahoma State.

“They were just blowing open holes for all of us,” Barnes said. “They were really good at identifying blitzes and things that Oklahoma State was trying to do. They were able to recognize that and open up the holes for us.”

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