Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cats have hands full with TCU defense

A year ago, Kansas State’s 23-10 win over TCU ensured its path to the No. 1 national ranking.

But it was the events in that game that junior center B.J. Finney remembers more, an offensive performance that disgusted him.

Behind Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, the Wildcats rushed for 115 yards and passed for 145, 62 of which came on one play. Klein was held to 50 rushing yards and John Hubert finished with 23.

The Wildcats led 23-0 through three quarters, but it was still unsatisfying to the offensive unit.

“The offense obviously didn’t play well,” Finney said after last year’s game. “The defense had to stand up and answer and pick up the slack. They did a great job.”

Flash forward to this season and the circumstances of the game are wildly different. Neither team is bowl eligible yet, as they were last season, and both have gone through their struggles this season.

K-State opened the season losing four of its first six. But with three straight wins, the Wildcats are a win away from bowl eligibility. A loss for TCU would end its quest for a bowl.

The Horned Frogs have been hurt by injuries and suspensions since before the season started. Yet, they’ve still managed to develop the same tough, hard-nosed defensive mentality that they seem to have year after year.

With 28 sacks and 17 interceptions, TCU is on pace to become the first school to lead the Big 12 in sacks and interceptions since Nebraska in 1996.

Finney said he knows it will be just as physical as it was a year ago.

“I expect the same thing,” he said. “(Last year) they were beating us off the ball and beating us at the point of attack. They were doing a very good job at making sure that they controlled the line of scrimmage, and as an offensive lineman, it’s hard to swallow that pill when someone is doing that.

“Even though they don’t have the same record as last year, these guys are still the same team and very good athletes.”

TCU has one of the best defenses, not only in the Big 12, but nationally. The Horned Frogs’ 17 interceptions rank fourth and their tackles for loss also rank fourth nationally. TCU ranks 21st in total defense and 19th against the run.

K-State coach Bill Snyder said TCU presents a challenge for any offense.

“If you look back over a period of time, (defense) is TCU’s stronghold,” he said. “They play well against the pass, all their stats defensively are in the top echelon of the nation, as well as the conference. It’s (run defense) presents a problem. We didn’t knock them out of the box last year running the football.

“They are extremely sound. What they do they do well, they are a physical football team up front, they run well in the back end. I know they have some injury problems back there, but I have not seen any drop off in how they cover. No one has had great success throwing the ball against them. They are just good at what they do.”

TCU has had 14 players lead the way sacking the QB — Sam Carter and Terrell Lathan have four apiece. Carter is also tied for a team-high three interceptions, joined by Chris Hackett and Kevin White. The Horned Frogs’ leading tackler, Paul Dawson, has 75 tackles and nine tackles for loss.

The TCU defensive line averages more than 285 pounds and has accounted for 17 of the Horned Frogs’ 28 sacks.

Finney said the war in the trenches will tell a lot about K-State’s offensive line.

“It will be a battle,” he said. “There is no way around it. It’s just going to be an all-out war. TCU has a great defense, and we’re going to be tested just to see what kind of offensive line we have.”

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