Kansas State sat at the top of the Big 12 Conference standings three weeks ago with a 4-0 record in conference play and a No. 16 ranking. When they defeated Kansas to achieve the 4-0 Big record, they had two punt returns for touchdowns and were making noise with special teams.
Now, after back-to-back losses against West Virginia and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats must win their last three games to compete in the Big 12 Championship game. Lack of production in special teams is a big reason for their losses in the last two games.
Sophomore wide receiver Philip Brooks is the big playmaker on the special teams this season for the Wildcats. He had two punt returns for touchdowns in the 55-14 win over Kansas.
Special teams’ success can make a big difference for K-State, and the members of special teams want to produce each week.
“We are Special Teams U, so we plan on making a big play on special teams every week,” Brooks said. “We go into every week trying to return things, trying to block kicks, trying to create big plays, flip the field. Like I said, we’re going to go into every week and try to make a big play on special teams. That’s what we plan on doing this week.”
In the Wildcats’ four wins this season, they scored at least 21 points. In their last two losses, they scored 10 points and 18 points.
Because of the Wildcats’ special teams success in their four wins — especially against Kansas — teams have taken an extra initiative to shut them out. Opponents are scheming the Wildcats differently, which caused some problems for the Wildcats.
“There will be opportunities [against Iowa State] to take advantage of,” Brooks said. “So, even though they might be scheming differently, we can still have the ability to scheme ourselves and create big plays on special teams.”
Touchdowns from special teams will certainly help the Wildcats — especially with a struggling offensive featuring a freshman quarterback missing other key players, but good returns on punt and kickoff returns for good field positioning will really help.
“It is huge for us [when special teams] can put us in positive field position,” offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said. “When we have got to take over the ball inside the red zone we have been able to score points. As a team, we are always trying to find ways to win with offense, defense and special teams.”
Brooks is the main production on special teams right now for the Wildcats, and he will hope to gain good yardage on returns if not produce touchdowns against Iowa State Saturday.