There has already been plenty of discussion about K-State’s last series against Oklahoma State with a potential game tying (or possible go ahead) opportunity in the balance. This _FANframes will look at the last three plays from the game, all three coming from different versions of the same formation. All anticipated OSU being in man to man coverage and all three having slight (but not major) miscues allowing them not to be executed for scores. I agree with many that would’ve liked to see Klein run the ball, or at least a run/pass option, but in looking at the 3 plays the concepts behind them were sound; they just were defended well by OSU and not executed well enough by K-State.
The first play featured a standard K-State formation; trips to the tight end. Here Harper is lined up to the top of the screen, Lockett inside in the slot, with Tannahill at tight end. Thompson is at the bottom of the screen. The play is a pretty typical (but effective) play against man defense at the goalline with a rub crossing route between Harper and Lockett. You get Lockett matched up with a safety or the bigger Harper matched up on a corner, either being advantageous for K-State (in theory). You also have Tannahill matched up with the inside safety nearly assuring that the two outside guys get single coverage.
As the receivers reach the goalline they stem their routes to cross. At this point the defenders are in good position that Lockett’s could get picked. Harper’s defender is dropping a bit deeper, which good defensive backs are taught in these situations. You can see Tannahill has effectively pulled his defender (purple circle) to the inside, freeing up the outside 1/3 of the field for Harper and Lockett to work. The only free defensive back is still to the middle of the field (on the “A” on STATE) keeping him out of the play as well.
The rub isn’t quite tight enough for Lockett’s man to be picked (red arrow) and you can see the separation between Lockett and Harper (purple line). Granted, Harper has to be careful to not make the pick obvious, but it seems to me he could have made his cut a bit tighter to create more separation for Lockett. At this point instead of the rub creating clear separation and an easy read to the corner for Klein, it now makes the play essentially a fade to Lockett which is a much tougher play for the smaller receiver, especially against a bigger safety. #10 for OSU (red arrow) is a 6-1, 200# SR safety against the 5-11, 170# Lockett; he also did a nice job avoiding contact with Harper on the rub route. I’m sure the plan was to have our biggest receiver make contact on the rub, it just didn’t happen.
Lockett does have the defender pinned behind him, but that’s a tough throw even for a QB with better accuracy than Klein. To magnify, its clear each of the first two routes were intended to be quick, 1 read routes so the Cats used less time. At the back of the endzone you can see Harper has position on his man (red arrow, purple circle) with no underneath help (the safety on the “A” is following Tannahill). It seemingly would’ve been an easy throw and catch for the score.
Klein makes the throw to the corner, but there simply isn’t enough space for Lockett to make seperation. The bigger safety for OSU is able to make a play on the ball and break up the pass to the corner.
After the incomplete pass on first down and timeout, K-State came out in an unconventional version of the same formation. With the ball on the left hash, the Cats had 2 receivers (Thompson and Lockett) to the top of the formation plus a tight end. The tight end (purple 1) was covered by the outside receiver though, so the TE was ineligible to run a route. This allowed Harper (purple 2) to line up off the line of scrimmage on the bottom of the formation with an eligible offensive tackle) which allowed him to go in motion on the 2nd play. OSU came out in man coverage, indicated by the red lines. However, this is where its fair to accuse the coaches of over-thinking on the formation and play calls. Because the TE is ineligible, OSU essentially had 2 free defensive backs. The saftey circled toward the top of the screen and the other circled safety (red 2) could help on both sides of the formation. This gave the corner (red 1) lined up on Harper help underneath on the fade, which was the first play call.
As the play develops, its clear the fade was called from the start leaving no read or progression for Klein. You can see the corner and safety eyeing up Harper immediately (bottom of frame), while the two safties to the top of the formation eye up the inside receiver. It appears to me the plan was to get Harper lined up in a more advantageous coverage to the short side of the field for a quick throw. The best route would’ve probably been a fade to the top receiver because he was the only one in true single coverage. The quicker throw was the best to still get two plays in with the limited time left on the clock though.
As the ball is thrown, the window that’s left is very tight between OSU’s two defenders. Klein actually makes a pretty good throw considering the size of the window. Again, all of this was compacted by the short time needed to get the play off; Harper didn’t have as much time to push through his defender more to the back of the endzone and try to make the window larger for the throw.
Harper is able to get his hands on the ball and tries to use his size to get position, the OSU defensive back is just able to get up and make a play on the ball, knocking it away for the incompletion.
The final play, K-State came out in the exact same formation and OSU gave the same defensive alignment. However, as Harper motioned across the formation, OSU bumped their man coverage. The biggest switch was that the defender lined up on Lockett (red 2) and the safety that was free the previous play (red 1) both picked up Harper. Meanwhile the backside safety crossed the formation and picked up Lockett leaving the outside corner locked up on Thompson.
As the routes start to develop, both Lockett and Thompson run straight up the field from their alignments in the formation as Harper starts his flat route to the outside. Both #1 and #2 below are locking on.
#1 immediately meets Harper in the backfield to knock him off his route and #2 breaks to the outside to defend the outside route. Both Lockett and Thompson are seemingly running the same route within 5 yards of each other. There had to be a mistake somewhere, there is a large gap in the defense where the question mark is on the field below. I have to think Thompson was supposed to break his route out to that area after he saw #2 break on Harper. If you look he already has his defender well behind him. The inside linebacker (red circle) would be able to help defend underneath, but it looks like a quick break would’ve resulted in an open window outside the safeties man coverage on Thompson especially with the space Thompson created on his curl cut at the goalline.
Again, you can see Thompson and Lockett still within 5 yards of one another and both making the same out cut off the curl at the goalline. Thompson’s defender has recovered and now is in position to make a play. Its clear from the throw that this the read that Klein made. Still Harper is even with is man at the 2 yard line, so a lofted throw over to the outside middle of the endzone would’ve been a good decision as well.
Though Klein was disciplined in staying with the pass and his read, I do wish he had looked backside, or given that as an option. You can see a wide running lane open up with a free blocker to the backside of the play as all of OSU’s defenders have pursued to the roll out side of the play.
In the end Klein’s throw falls to the open corner of the endzone and Thompson is unable to make a play on the ball. You can see that both Thompson and Harper are past their men with a lot of space to make a play on the ball. Unfortunately one (likely Thompson) was not on the same page with Klein and the end result was Wildcat disappointment.
These two plays were the final two of a failed opportunity to get a big road win and maintain a chance at a Big 12 title, but there were plenty of other opportunities lost during the game. The early two turnovers allowing OSU 5 total yards to score 2 touchdowns and then the defensive mistakes allowing OSU to score quickly to tie the game after K-State took a one point lead, then again to quickly respond after K-State tied the game stand out, but there were many more. What it ultimately showed was though K-State has showed steady improvement under Snyder, there are still steps to take to be a legitimate league or national title contending team. Nobody would’ve expected that to have even been a thought going into the season, but after a 7-0 start with some nice wins it was hard for K-State fans not to get their hopes up. Now it becomes about how this team finishes, with 3 winnable games left on the schedule.
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