Tag Archives: _FAN

_FANalysis – Struggles in Waco

Defensive Focus: Alignment, Exectution, and Personnel.

Speed.  Once again the Cats faced an offense with more speed than we have, and once again that offense gouged us for big plays.  Unlike the Nebraska game, we got some offense and special teams plays to sort of make it interesting, but all three phases came up short in the end and the Cats came home from Waco with a disappointing loss.  This week will look at some specifics, but overall this is a big picture look at K-State’s defense and many of the problems we have seen this season.

When I look at a game like this and the number of breakdowns we had defensively, I look at 3 things.  1st, are we aligned soundly.  2nd, did we execute the scheme.  And 3rd, do we have the players to execute the scheme.

As hard as it is to believe at times, most of the time in the 1st area (alignment) we weren’t terrible.  Granted, there are always times you could be another 3-5 yards in one direction or another with your safeties and LBs, but against spread teams that is going to happen.  Especially against and offense like Baylor’s, even more so than against Nebraska.  K-State continues to use a 4-2-5 look, mostly trying to have 2 high safeties and covering up the WRs with a 3rd safety, an inside backer, and the corners.  The spread, and especially Baylor’s frequent use of bubble screens, quick outs, and quick slants forced us to play our safeties wide to help.  Plus, more often than not Baylor stayed balanced by formation; utilizing doubles (4 WR to each side) or twin WRs to one side, a single split to the other, and then a FB with 2 RB looks or a TE, mostly to the split side.  Overall in watching the replay, we had what most would consider sound alignments, though clearly not 100% of the time.

IMHO, much of our problem comes in area #2, execution of the scheme.  We have way too many instances of players taking poor angles and/or fitting up against the run too wide or too tight.  This is especially true of our ILBs and Ss.  This was compounded in the passing game this week by the fact that against Baylor we played man coverage (or a man-zone mix of sorts) on more snaps than I can remember in the last several years.  I didn’t chart the exact number, but we were in man well over 50% of the time, and it would be safe to say we were in man for 2/3 of Baylor’s offensive snaps.  Baylor schemed against this well, both in the passing game and the running game.  In the running game we would often have an ILB in man on Baylor’s FB or TE; Baylor would run a quick out with either of those players instead of using them as a blocker and essentially remove an ILB from being part of the play.  Plus, Baylor was effective in using crossing routes and underneath routes to pick defenders off, namely on their first score.  They used a trips bunch set and the inside receiver essentially picked off the defender allowing Baylor’s WR to be wide open over the middle leading to the score.  On Baylor’s 3rd drive, Baylor picked up a big play by running the inside WR in a trips set on a slant; in this set the high safety had him man and was 15 yards off of the WR at the snap making it nearly impossible to cover him without ILB help.  And our ILB help, especially from Childs, is not what it needs to be.  Many times against doubles formations, the ILB would cover flats to help, getting underneath Baylor’squick out/slant passing game.  The problem was too often our ILB was late getting to his flat, or too wide allowing the Baylor defender to get behind/under neither his pass drop.  And finally we have our safeties continuing to struggle in our run fits and angles; this allowed Finley to turn several runs that should’vebeen knocked down at around 10 yard gains into 30+ yard runs, including the 80+ yard run/fumble.

Then you have the 3rd area, andwhether or not we have the players to consistently make plays.  Last weekend really showed that this is a big problem as well.  K-State had many, many opportunities where you simply need a player to make a play where we failed to do so.  On Baylor’s 3rd drive, we had Griffin defended well on zone read, but a missed tackle allowed Griffin to get to the edge allowing an impromptu reverse making what should’ve been a 5 yard loss become a big gain inside the 5 yard line.  On Baylor’s 4th drive, Garrett was in position for an INT on a sideline route but it fell out of his hands.  Later on that drive Walker bit terribly on  little curl move, allowing his WR to get open for a 50+ yard TD catch and run.  On Baylor’s final drive of the half, Baylor has a 3rd and 15, and we have a safety step forward initially allowing a WR to get wide open on a seam route for the first down.  A couple plays later Harold had  free shot at Griffin, but he slowed down to contain, allowing  the QB to step up and complete the pass down-field for another 1st down.  Later in the same drive we had first Harrison, then Hrbec in position inside the 5 to make INTs that would’ve prevented Baylor’s FG.  It was more of the same in the 2nd half.

The problem is really what can be done about this.  Some of the issues will only be solved with recruiting better players, but continued questions about this scheme are valid.  1st, I have mentioned several times K-State’s continued use of 2 high safeties, and the fact that we give the same pre-snap read most of the time.  In some ways this can be a benefit, but without the correct personnel, it continues to put a ton of pressure on certain positions, especially the safeties.  For a “check with me” offense like Baylor’s it makes things easily because they know the angles we have, and can attack specific spots on the field.  Even though we’ll disguise coverages and the movements we’ll make after the snap, the QB still has fairly easy reads andthey know where we’ll be, especially the players they want to attack when they think they have a match-up advantage.  The counter to this is to move around more and show different alignments pre-snap, then move after the snap.  IMHO, this can be more effective, especially against a “check with me” offense, because you can confuse the QB and OC making the calls from the booth.  Plus, to run this scheme well you need at least one very good DT, one very good ILB, and one very good safety.  Right now we don’t have any of those.  We have a bunch of guys that would be really solid college players playing along-side dominant players, but a lot of bad college defenses have those.  With spread offenses and zone blocking, you have to have some guys that will defeat blocks and make plays at the point of attack, and we simply don’t have that consistently right now.

At the end of the day, with our current personnel there is not a defensive scheme we can run that is going to shut down most of the opposing offenses we’ll see in the Big 12.  But in the current scheme, and others, there are plenty of ways to limit the big plays, and create more big plays of our own.  Obviously the current staff is not getting everything done to make this happen as we’ve seen too often this season.  We did lose a couple pretty important players from last year’s defense, but to go from giving up 105 yards per game and 3.5 YPC rushing to 230 and 5.6 YPC this year is not acceptable.  Most good college defenses are founded on stopping the run, and this is a big reason this defense is struggling, especially against teams with dual thread QBs.  Until we can figure out a way to limit big plays, we’ll see more of the same, even though this team will still probably be a 7-8 win team.  But K-State fan’s expectations are for more than that, and those expectations aren’t unreasonable.

_FANalysis – KU Offensive Explosion and Defending Baylor

Typical KU FanOffensive Focus: Power, Play-action, Quick Passing Game and Formation

It was good to get the Sunflower Showdown back to what K-State fans came to enjoy throughout most of the 90s and early 00s before Kansas decided to hire, and then get rid of, the best football coach they ever had.  Once again an over-matched Jayhawk team took a beating, and Bill Snyder showed why he can be one of the best play callers in college football.  In his most well called game of the year, Snyder’s mix of power running game with short passing and play action put the Jayhawk defense on its heels.

The first two drives of the game only netted a FG, but the pattern was set that would eventually put the KU defense in a bind and lead to six consecutive touchdown drives.  As always, K-State came out with multiple formations and personnel groups, using 5 different looks in the first 10 plays, opening the game with a play-action boot pass, several quick pass routes to the sideline and on bubble routes, and mixing in a few 3 step drops.  Then in the running game some power and zone-lead mixed with a couple poorly executed speed option runs.

The first touchdown drive of the game featured more power and zone-lead football, running right at the Jayhawk defense.  But blended in well was another naked boot pass, a couple 3 step drop routes, triple option zone read, and finally a well executed option on a huge 4th down play at the goal-line.  The highlight on the TD run by Coffman was excellent blocking by McDonald at the point of attack as the big TE (the previous speed options were run to the TE as well) was able to finish off two blocks on the edge, leaving Wilson no one to block as Coffman finished the 8 yard run.  The play was set up well because we executed much better against KU’s scheme compared to the first two speed option runs that were both negative plays.  KU was sending a defender quickly to take away Thomas and the pitch, but this time K-State blocked the QB defender, leaving a big lane for Coffman.

The 3 drives to finish the half all featured aggressive opening plays after gaining a huge field position advantage; first off the Brown caused fumble and the Zimmerman return, the 2nd after stopping KU on downs near mid-field, and the 3rd after pinning KU deep and forcing a 3 and out, setting the Wildcat offense up at midfield.  For the first drive Snyder dialed up a reverse off of speed option, narrowly missing out on a huge play for Quarles on the left edge.  The 2nd and 3rd drives both opened with vertical routes by Harper off of zone-lead play action, resulting in a deep post with a great catch by Harper and a wise decision by Coffman on the 2nd not to force a throw; eventually tucking the ball for positive yards on a scramble.  All 3 drives resulted in TDs for the Cats, again using a variety of play calls and personnel groups to score.  Coffman runs on QB power leads and zone read, inside zone featuring Thomas, and to end the half a lot of power and zone-lead football right at KU’s defense.  This lead to a big play action pass off zone-lead to a wide-open Tannahill for the score.

The opening drive of the 2nd half would feature more of the same, utilizing essentually every effective play we saw in the first half; power running, quick passing game to the edge with bubble, inside zone, and finally a naked boot pass to another wide open TE, this time McDonald.  At this point the route was on.

One of the interesting wrinkles I noticed was the alignment of the FB from the 3rd through the 7th drives.  While we often align Wilson various places, on the 14 of the 34 plays we lined Wilson up as a wing, behind the TE, and used various motions to set up the power and zone-lead running game, and the play action off of that.  Again, it may not seem like a big deal, but the offensive staff definitely saw something KU gave with this alignment, and we utilized it frequently to take advantage of a weakness in their defense.  I also really liked the mix of passing game, but Snyder did a great job of setting Coffman up to be successful.  Quick routes to the edge or bubble, 3 step drops that Coffman made great decisions and reads with, and a mix of zone-lead and boot play action passes.  All of these put a ton of pressure on the defense because they are forced to stop Thomas, but all of them also are pretty simple reads for the QB, and as long as he makes good throws (and he did) you are going to get a lot of positive plays.

What this means for Baylor

This should bode very well for our game in Waco.  Like KU, Baylor utilizes a 4-3 defensive look, though they appear to be much more aggressive.  Baylor’s biggest play-makers on defense are an undersized weak-side LB and an aggressive strong safety.  They have 2 huge defensive tackles as well.  But CU, though a much different team than us personnel-wise, did have quite a bit of success on things we like to do also; power running game, inside zone, short passing game, and play action.  We don’t need Coffman to be nearly perfect like he was against KU; but we do need him to make the good decisions and reads he made in Lawrence, but as I said, a lot of that will be set up by Snyder’s play-calling.  If we do this and avoid costly mistakes, especially turnovers, our offense should be able to put up points against a decent (but far from great) Baylor defense.

The Big Concern in Waco

The biggest problem (as we all know) will be defending a very fast Baylor offense.  The thing Baylor’s offense does the best is spreading you out andthen making you defend from side-line to side-line.  They really don’t look to throw down the field a bunch (at least they didn’t against CU), but they do a great job of attacking creases in the defense.  In the passing game look for Baylor to throw bubble routes, slip screens, and quick slants, out of mainly 3 and 4 wide formations, at least 15 to 20 times.  Then they will run zone read, mostly the triple option look with a receiver running bubble for pitch.  Against CU’s 4-3 look, their zone read sent the RB Finley off tackle, and Griffin up the middle, often pulling a guard around the center to add an extra blocker on the inside LB for CU.  This led to a ton of big runs for the Bears as they averaged nearly 9 yards per carry.  Finally, they mix in a bit of power running game, empty, and play action off of zone read; but if you don’t at least contain the quick bubble/slip routes and zone read, those other things really don’t matter.   Though their schemes are much different, personnel-wise Baylor is similar to the CFU offense.  Griffin is an explosive runner, Finley is a solid back, and they have quality recievers with speed.  Their skill set and scheme will provide a big test for our defense this week.

Reading that probably doesn’t fill Wildcat fans with confidence, and given our defensive problems this will be a stiff test.  We did handle KU’s offense very well, but they are completely different.  Even though they ran zone read a ton, the QB was never a threat and Webb didn’t run the ball one time.  We handled KU’s edge plays well, bubbles and jet sweeps, but again, they didn’t put as much pressure on us from the QB spot.  KU tried to go vertical in the passing game much more than I expect Baylor to, especially since we defended it very well in Lawrence. 

I will also say that Colorado did some stupid defensive alignments, being far too aggressive at times considering their personnel, and often Baylor exploited this for big plays.  IMHO the key in Waco, as much as we hate to say it, is stay patient with a bend but don’t break philosophy.  One of Baylor’s biggest weaknesses is that they are prone to mistakes; penalties, poor read by Griffin, and several of their skill guys (especially Griffin) carry the ball very loosely and are prone to fumbles.  If we can keep their speed in front of us, I think we can eventually force a mistake and limit their offense.  Baylor will have plenty of yards, I fully expect them to put up 400+, but we can keep this team in the 20s, similar to UCLA, ISU and CFU, if we stay patient on defense.  Do that, and it really comes down to the offense taking advantage of every opportunity and consistently putting points on the board.

This game will probably come down to the last few possessions.  With bowl elgibility on the line for both teams, its unfortunate this game won’t be on TV.  It will be interesting to see if the Cats can get their 2nd true road win in a season for the first time since 2003.

_FANalysis – Central Florida

Offensive focus; Game Planning, Establishing the Line of Scrimmage, and Handling Speed

This week’s focus from the close win over Central Florida will look at how Saturday’s storm delayed game really showed us what happens when teams are able to win the battle of the line of scrimmage against K-State’s offense.  It certainly makes for an ugly performance, but fortunately for us Central Florida made enough mistakes and the Wildcats finally made enough plays to pull out a victory.  You never apologize for a victory, even this ugly, but the lessons taken away will be huge for the rest of this season.

It appeared to me the K-State coaching staff game planned as you would expect against a speed team; run right at it with the power running game (pulling backside offensive linemen) and inside zone, utilize the quick passing game, try to exploit over pursuit with option and misdirection, and eventually try to get the ball vertical in the passing game.  All of this is to create vertical creases somewhere in the defense.  You must hit these creases quickly because while speed teams will often get themselves out of position, when those creases close without being exploited it can lead to a long game for the offense. Granted, coming into this game UCF had done a very good job not allowing this by their opponents, but we thought we had the size up front and athletes at the skill positions to get it done.  Unfortunately outside of a few plays (that we badly needed) we failed to create much of this.

Throughout the game our formation of choice for the running game seemed to be 1 back, 1 tight end, 3 receiver sets, usually a trips formation.  This allowed us to isolate CFU’s stud DE against our TE and OT on the short side of the field.  The mentality was that we could run right at him, getting a push with a double team, and then handle their 2 young DTs one on one, allowing us to pull backside offensive linemen and get numbers at the point of attack.  Unfortunately this rarely worked because the DE blew up the double team, the young DTs defeated one on one blocks and got penetration, or we missed blocks out in space on the LBs and safety.  Simply put, for nearly three quarters of the game we got whipped up front, especially by CFU’s two DTs, and I don’t think we saw this coming.  As the game progressed we tried to utilize Wilson a bit to provide an extra blocker in the backfield so we could double team the DTs more, but still we struggled to find creases and maintain blocks.  This also created problems in the passing game, as early in the game UCF’s DTs created a bunch of pressure, and then as the game went along the DEs made some plays as well, specifically batting down several passes and getting pressure on Coffman several times flushing from the pocket or making him throw sooner than he wanted.  This was then compounded by some poor play in the passing game by Coffman in the first half and early in the 2nd, namely a couple misses to Smith and the interception off of play action.  The interesting thing about the INT is that earlier that same series we ran the same play; play action off of lead zone to Thomas, and after looking deep to the TE, Coffman checked off underneath to Wilson for a nice gain.  I’m fairly certain on the 2nd throw when Coffman went deep that he anticipated the safety to help double on Smith, leaving the one on one match-up with a TE on a LB, which is likely what happened on the first throw.  The check down throw to Wilson also wasn’t there the 2nd time as a CFU defender picked him up out of the backfield.

We eventually did get some offense going, gaining 213 yards on 23 plays on the last 4 possessions leading to our 17 points.  Granted, we again saw Thomas’ biggest weakness when we really didn’t need to; a propensity to not keep the ball protected in traffic.  Fortunately the defense held to a FG leading to the Coffman-led game winning drive.  The success started initially by getting enough protection to find those vertical creases in the passing game.  Both the big throw to Thompson to set up the FG, and the Quarles touchdown to tie the game, were set up only because the offensive line gave Coffman enough time to find the open vertical route. These looks were likely there all game considering the numbers UCF kept committing to the box to stop Thomas, but only when we got protection and Coffman made the correct throw and read could we take advantage.  Then finally the last drive saw us play the type of football we likely expected the entire game, some nice running lanes for Thomas utilizing the game plan we had the entire game, power run game and inside zone.  Add to that the two nice throws on 3rd down by Coffman, first the throw back to the TE that exploited UCF’s over pursuit of the roll out passing game, and then the bootleg pass, with Coffman showing incredible patience in the face of great pursuit to get the ball to Smith.  Finally we ended the game with a well executed version of the “modern era triple option”; utilizing a great Coffman decision to not throw the shovel pass to Thomas, nor throw the pitch/bubble to Thompson, but to keep the ball himself for the score.

Overall there is a lot for the offense to learn, namely to not underestimate or handle UCF’s defensive tackles.  Not doing that really created a ton of problems for us, as it was apparent that was the game plan for Saturday’s game.  Perhaps some of this was caused because we gave CFU’s two DEs too much respect, and thus not effectively accounting for what their young DTs could do.  Fortunately the defense did enough to avoid an insurmountable deficit which allowed the offense to make enough plays to win the game.  And that’s good enough to get the Cats to 4-0, in what was likely one of the toughest ( if not the toughest) opening 4 game stretches to open a season for any Bill Snyder coached team.

_FANalysis (Farmageddon)

Once again Farmageddon featured two evenly matched teams and once again the Cats won a game that came down to the fourth quarter. Both teams showed strengths and weaknesses, but at the end of the day K-State was the better team. Each team had its fair share of mistakes; if K-State had eliminated mistakes they may have won by 14-17 points and if ISU had eliminated mistakes they may have won by 3-7 points. In the end, IMHO the better team won the game with a solid, but far from complete performance. My focus for this week is breaking down what both teams do to put pressure on opposing defenses; both feature the running game as their strength, but attack in very different ways.

K-State Defense

While far from perfect, the Wildcat defense was able to get enough stops when needed, holding ISU’s offense to 13 points and less than 300 yards. At times it seemed ISU was moving the ball at will, and they did some things to cause problems, especially with their zone read running game and trips formations.

First, ISU’s offense puts a ton of pressure on defenses because they do an excellent job spreading the field by formation. On nearly half of their snaps, ISU had 4 WRs to spread the field using a variety of formations, mainly trips open (trips to one side, isolated split WR opposite) and doubles (2 WRS to each side) formations. The other half of the snaps ISU had 3 wide; on only a couple of snaps did ISU have only 2 players split out. Plus, they have a very good tight end, both blocking and in the run game, and he still puts pressure on a defense in 3 wide formations. Granted, some of these utilized the fullback in a slot position, but even then defenses have to treat the formation as a 3 wide or 4 wide set. This caused K-State to have to spread the field, usually leaving only 6 in the box to defend ISU’s running game.

ISU’s offensive strength is the zone read running game, and over half their play calls are zone reads, run plays off of zone read, and play action passes off zone read. They then mix in some speed option, some power running game (meaning they pull offensive linemen to get more bodies at the point of attack), and a few counter plays. The rest of their offense is mainly quick drop back passing game, usually looking for quick outs, curls, or slants. Then a few deep looks, including the RB follow route that they nearly scored on late to Robinson. This was a great play call because the leaked the RB late, after Hrebec had turned to help on the inside WR to the wide side of the field, leaving Robinson open down the middle which Arnaud fortunately missed. ISU gave us the biggest problems with zone read in trips formations because of the bubble threat to the trips side and the use of the fullback as an extra blocker at the slot position. This puts a ton of pressure on the safeties and linebackers because they have to pursue when the bubble is thrown, but still get run fits on both the RB and QB in the zone read scheme, which ISU runs very well. With the fullback the defense is still spread to defend the trips look, but ISU adds a better blocker, and utilized some motion, to add an extra body at the point of attack.

Considering our limitations in depth and talent on defense, we did a good job defending ISU’s scheme. Our DEs did a nice job keeping contain on zone read runs and our LBs did a nice job filling and getting off blocks. Granted, we had plenty of missed tackles and too often we are making first contact 2-4 yards down field, but some of that is because ISU’s big offensive line did a good job blocking our smaller front one on one allowing offensive linemen to get down field and get bodies on our LBs. And as I addressed on the message board Sunday, we definitely game planned to keep Arnaud in the pocket and force him to beat us with his arm. Most of the game in obvious passing situations we only rushed 3 and dropped a defensive lineman in attempt to have someone to account for Arnaud when he broke contain. We were very sound with this plan, unfortunately we missed some tackles when Arnaud did get out and run. On the last possession we finally started bringing more pressure, and several times flushed Arnaud from the pocket and got one sack. One time Arnaud did break contain and was able to find an open wide receiver down the sideline for a first down. In the end we were able to pressure enough to keep ISU from scoring a potentially game tying touchdown.

One final thought on our defense is the look we present to the opposing offense. Cosh’s philosophy is to present essentially the same presnap look to the offense, 2 high safeties, 4 down linemen, 2 inside LBs, and then covering up the split WRs in the formation. Given that look, we rarely run a zone or man coverage that utilizes 2 high safeties, most often our coverages are some sort of mix; zone on one side man on the other, man with 1 or 2 free, man outside and zone inside, etc. This often requires a tough match-up for our safeties, coming from their high safety spot 12-15 yards off the LOS to cover an underneath WR in man coverage. This contributed to ISU’s first score, a well designed route out of a doubles formation. The inside WR to the play side ran an outside route, turning our inside defender outside so he couldn’t help under the post route which Hartman was a little late getting to from his safety spot. I think this has been Hartman’s main issue this year, it is a tough adjustment for our safeties to make.

K-State Offense

K-State does some of the same things as ISU, but our running attack and use of formations is much more diverse than ISU. Instead of having one main strength in the run game like ISU’s zone read, we run a very wide variety of formations and a very wide variety of running plays to attack a defense. This puts a ton of pressure on personnel and requires defenses to put in a ton of prep to get ready to defend us. Against ISU we ran 2 TE sets over 20% of the time, 3 WR sets around 40% of the time, and 4 WR sets a little under 20% of the time. We ran out of the I formation about 20% of the time as well. We ran out of the Wildcat a little under 20% of the time. The schemes we use vary widely as well; we come out and run leads, counter leads, power O, tosses, and speed option, all out of the I formation. From the shotgun we run speed option, zone read, zone read leads, and reverses. Then we’ll come out in power sets with 2 TEs and 2 backs, and even 3 backs Saturday, and run power football at the goal line. In the passing game we run various play action off our running game, in addition to some quick and intermediate passing routes, against ISU trying to find holes in their zone coverages. Out of the Wildcat our most successful play was a simple lead with Wilson leading for Thomas on a simple delay draw. We did try the option and a pass route, neither of which was very successful. In any case you can see a very diverse attack that will make it difficult for opponents to stop our running attack, even when they know its coming. You simply can’t completely be prepared for everything we can bring in our offense. After that, its up to execution and I believe our offensive line is solid enough to handle most of the teams we face.

Much of the time with our offense Saturday we gave Iowa State all kinds of issues. Even on the drives where we went three and out, we had some good play calls, but missed blocks or didn’t sustain blocks to allow for running lanes. And we did have a few miscues in the passing game that kept this game from being a comfortable win. Coffman had the miss to Smith on the sideline route between the squat corner and safety in cover two, but we overcame that mistake. Two stood out the most. The first was the miss on the seem route to McDonald. There was slight pressure, but when throwing to a target that big, that has to be completed. And then on the interception returned for the TD, Coffman actually did a nice job looking off the route initially, he just made a poor throw into a very tight coverage spot. But to be fair to Coffman, he made a great play before the McDonald miss by buying time outside the pocket and then lofting a perfect throw to Quarles that the ISU defender came in to knock away at the last moment. He also made several tight throws into coverage spots on slants. The deep throw off play action was mostly a great play by Smith.

We all know we are going to face more talented, faster defenses than we saw from the Cyclones Saturday. But what we did see was a very disciplined defensive scheme that we were able to find plenty of success against. It will be interesting to see how we prepare when we face some tougher opponents, but I think we have a system, even with our limitations, that will allow for success against nearly anyone on our schedule as long as we make good decisions and minimize mistakes.

Overall I’d give the defense a B- and the offense a B for Farmageddon. We had a solid plan on both sides of the ball, though a couple ISU wrinkles did cause our defense some problems and mainly our own mistakes on offense prevented us from putting up an additional 14-17 points. For the first league game a solid performance overall.