Know Your Opponent: Oklahoma State

Kansas State University plays Oklahoma State University at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on November 18, 2017. (Cooper Kinley | Collegian Media Group)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys will roll into town on Saturday to battle K-State for the Homecoming football game.

Head coach Mike Gundy brings a 4-2 Oklahoma State squad that just got beat in a close game by Iowa State in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Gundy’s team has one Big 12 win, a 20-point beatdown of Kansas in Lawrence.

Gundy is a disciple of ex-Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones, a power run game advocate. He was a quarterback and an assistant for Jones. He also teamed up with Dana Holgorsen, an air raid descendent, and picked up a lot of cutting-edge ideas to make a truly unique spread offense.

They run the ball a little more than would be expected from their reputation, thanks to senior running back Justice Hill’s skills.

They play mostly out of the shotgun with Hill a step behind and to the side of the senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius, the other four eligible receivers spread out wide to create as much lateral space in the defense as possible.

An offensive set they seem to really like against Boise State this year had the one running back in the backfield with Cornelius and a two-receiver stack outside the numbers on each side.

Out of that formation, they ran a few different looks. They sent both receivers on the short side of the field straight out, 10 and three yards respectively, before the close receiver planted and looked for a pass on a curl route, the other receiver blocked for him.

The very next down, they lined up like that again, but this time the front receiver ran a straight-up go route and the back receiver ran a slant. The corners bit on the foot plant for the slant, but Cornelius out threw his receiver, who was open with a step down the numbers.

It will be interesting to see if they use this formation a lot against a K-State secondary that is small and refuses to play anything resembling press coverage consistently and struggles to tackle in the open field.

On defense, they run a base 4-2 defense, but do not hesitate to pull a tackle in favor of another linebacker (3-3) in second and third and medium situations. The six-man front, much like Texas, allows for a third safety to play in their base defense.

They are not afraid to bring a blitz on third down and have 12 more sacks than the next-best sacking defense in the conference.

Despite the six-man front, as opposed to a traditional seven-man front, Oklahoma State has struggled to stop the pass but squashed other teams’ running games this season.

They average just 117 rush yards allowed per game, the best in the conference, while allowing 272 pass yards per game, next to last in the conference.

This does not bode well for a K-State team that has been using the run game as a crutch for a poor passing attack all season.

Sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson should make another start this week, he played well last week in the absence of junior quarterback and head-coach-favorite Alex Delton. If he is on his game Saturday, he could have a good day against a bad pass defense.

Key matchups

K-State versus themselves: The Wildcats have not looked like a Bill Snyder-coached team this season. They are minus-three in turnover margin and have shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with penalties, especially along the offensive line.

The fact is that a team as untalented as this one cannot afford to constantly turn the ball over and give the other team free yards and free first downs. Snyder’s teams have been competitive despite a lack of skill in the past because they out-executed everyone, this team is not doing that.

Hill versus K-State defense: This K-State defense is slow up front, small in the back and lacks the ability to tackle across the board. The weakness in the fundamentals was apparent against Baylor, where K-State missed 23 tackles and gave up 171 yards after contact.

Hill is a big, strong, fast running back who will run through arm tackles and will not be rattled by big hits. Running full speed and diving at him and hoping to bowl him over will not work this week.

K-State defenders will have to break down and make open field tackles if they want to compete, something I do not seem them doing.

K-State really should not be competitive in this game, but I said that last year and K-State won in Stillwater. This K-State team is a lot worse across the board than that team was, though. Oklahoma State 41, K-State 24

Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.