Wildcats’ defense ready for tough test against new freshman quarterback

Senior linebacker Charmeachealle Moore waits for a call from a referee at the game between K-State and Texas Tech in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 8, 2016. (File Photo by Hallie Lucas | The Collegian)

For the second straight year, the Kansas State defense will take on a freshman quarterback when the Wildcats play the Baylor Bears.

It didn’t work out so well for the defense last year.

Freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns in relief of senior quarterback Seth Russell when the teams played in Manhattan.

This year, freshman quarterback Zach Smith will get the nod, and the K-State defense isn’t taking him lightly, nor are the players expecting the Baylor offense to alter its game plan around him.

“We expect them to do what they do,” senior linebacker Charmeachealle Moore said. “(We expect them to) throw the ball, throw real quick attachment plays, run the ball like they try to do, throw deep balls. We expect them to do the same thing.”

Smith entered the game for Russell after he fractured his ankle against Oklahoma last Saturday. Smith threw for 144 yards and one touchdown in that game, ending with a higher quarterback rating than Russell had.

K-State head coach Bill Snyder said he was impressed by the freshman.

“I just liked the poise in which he seemed to handle himself thrust in the situation he was in this past week,” Snyder said. “In the previous ballgames it was substantial leads that put him on the field and he handled those fine, but under the pressure that existed in this previous ballgame I thought he was just as collected as anybody you could imagine.”

Moore said in initial film study he can see Smith has ability.

“From what I’ve seen he’s a great passer,” Moore said. “He knows the system.”

Moore, however, said the team is ready. Last year, he said, the team learned not to take freshman quarterbacks for granted.

The Wildcats will also have to counter senior running back Shock Linwood, who has ran for as much as 237 yards in a game this season against weak competition, but who has also been stuffed by better defenses like Oklahoma State, who held him to just four total yards.

“He’s a good back and I think we’ve been doing real good on defense (and) on our run-stopping,” Moore said. “We’re ready to get after him.”

Like last season, the Wildcats enter the game against Baylor coming off a bye week that was preceded by a loss. What remains to be seen is if the Wildcats made some of the needed improvements to stay competitive in the Big 12 for the rest of the season.

Inconsistency has been one issue, and it’s one junior linebacker Elijah Lee said the team worked on.

“We can’t be OK against the pass in one quarter and then in the next quarter we let up a lot,” Lee said. “Or be just be good against the run and then let up big runs. We have to be consistent throughout the whole game and that’s something we really worked on and that’s something that was emphasized the whole practice.”

Moore said he’s excited to play Baylor.

“Since I’ve been here we haven’t been able to beat them,” Moore said. “It’s a very big challenge for us and we’re ready to face it.”

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.