One way for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein to win the Heisman Trophy, aside from his dominance on the field, is for the Wildcats’ defense to stop other top players in their tracks.
K-State already disposed of a trio of quarterbacks in West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Texas Tech’s Seth Doege this season, making all three look quite average.
This last Saturday it was Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle who joined the list of casualties, as he fell victim to a K-State defense ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed.
The Wichita native, who entered the game ranked ninth nationally and first in the Big 12 with 127 rushing yards per game, was gobbled up for just 43 yards on 15 carries, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry with a long rush of 9 yards.
“They had a couple runs at the beginning, so we knew if we could stop the run and make them into a one-dimensional team then we’d be OK,” K-State linebacker Jarell Childs said.
Randle, who rushed for 73 yards and two scores against the Wildcats a year ago in Stillwater, also cost his team a possession when he fumbled the ball early in the second quarter. The fumble was forced by freshman defensive tackle Travis Britz at the Oklahoma State 32-yard line and recovered by junior safety Ty Zimmerman.
“I was just doing my job and luckily he went in my gap, and I just tried to make the tackle,” said Britz, who also had a pass breakup in the Wildcats’ 44-30 victory. “He’s a great runner and I think he’s going to do great wherever he goes in the future. He’s a great runner and he knows how to read his blocks and find the holes, but I think our key was just doing what we do as a defensive line and doing what we were taught to do.”
The Wildcats’ effort against Randle was a little reminiscent of what K-State did to Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams in 1998. The Texas running back was the frontrunner that day, just a couple months before Wildcat quarterback Michael Bishop would be making a push for the same award, eventually finishing second.
On that day in September, K-State’s defense corralled Williams for just 43 yards on 25 carries in the Wildcats’ 48-7 win at KSU Stadium.
“We never touched (Bishop),” Brown said during Big 12 media days this past July. “He ran up and down the field, he was a great player and they were great on defense. I think Ricky Williams had about 43 rushing yards that day. It was a long day… Not that I remember, but we got beat, 48-7. It wasn’t that close.”
Those kinds of performances have become common practice for the Wildcats this season, though, as the underappreciated K-State defense manhandled OU’s Jones in the Big 12 opener this past September. Zimmerman intercepted Jones, had another bounce off his chest, and Justin Tuggle forced a fumble by the former Heisman hopeful that was recovered for a touchdown by Childs.
K-State saved its best performance, though, for the Mountaineers’ Smith, who was the Heisman frontrunner at the time. Last month in Morgantown, W.Va., the Wildcats limited Smith to just 143 yards and snapped his record 274 passes without an interception by nabbing two that night, much like they did a year ago against Baylor’s Robert Griffin III.
The Wildcats also clamped down on West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin, who ripped through defenses in the first half of the season, but was limited to just six catches for 34 yards.
Against Texas Tech, even though Doege finished with 331 yards, he completed just 50 percent of his passes, threw a costly interception and fumbled the ball on a blindside hit from defensive end Meshak Williams that was recovered by Childs to set up a Wildcat touchdown.
K-State’s secret for defensive success against some of the nation’s best has seemed to work week in and week out and in a league that features some of the country’s most explosive offenses.
The recipe for success last weekend against Randle seemed simple, though.
“Basically, our coaches gave us some great plays,” Childs said. “We just had to stay in our gaps and not let them get any open gaps, especially with that up-tempo. And we knew if we did that and took the run away, we’d be successful.”
The one drawback last Saturday was that the Wildcats allowed a season-high 504 yards to the Cowboys. Oklahoma State did enter the game as the most prolific offense in the country, but K-State can’t afford another slipup this Saturday when the Wildcats travel to Fort Worth to face TCU in a 6 p.m. kickoff on FOX.
“That’s a lot of yards,” linebacker Arthur Brown said. “As a defense, we always talk about how we need to eliminate the run and control the pass, so we have to balance out that and that’s something we’re going to have to go back and make adjustments on, really see what we like and what we can improve.”