Bill Young is familiar with Bill Snyder’s offense. Young, who spent time as a defensive coordinator at both Oklahoma and Kansas during Snyder’s first stint as head coach at Kansas State and now Oklahoma State in his second, also knows the challenge ahead of the Cowboys in stopping Collin Klein.
After last year’s game essentially came down to the last drive, the Cowboys got about all they could handle out of the K-State quarterback.
But this year’s version of Klein is a little different. The 2012 version of Klein is more dual-threat than ever before, succeeding in both the run and the pass.
Young said it’s hard to plan for him.
“I don’t know how you simulate him in practice, we don’t have anyone that looks like him, throws like him or runs like him,” he said. “We’ll do our best there. The big thing about him is, I don’t know if you can really stop him — you just try to contain him as best as you can — you try to minimize the offensive plays and yardage he gets.”
The blueprint for the Oklahoma State defense’s performance against a dual-threat passer has already been laid out this season. In just the second game of the year, Arizona quarterback Matt Scott threw for 320 yards and rushed for 55 and three total touchdowns in a 59-38 win.
But the Cowboys’ defense has improved since then, especially in the last three games, holding opponents to 14 or less in each game.
Of course, those performances came against Kansas, Iowa State and TCU, all three of which are ranked in the bottom three in the Big 12 in scoring offense and total offense.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said the defense has been gaining confidence through those performances.
“We’re more sound and defending the deep ball better which will be really big in a game like this,” he said. “Kansas State is going to run the ball and run it with the quarterback which gives them the extra player. They’re going to try to throw the ball over your head down the field with a double post and switch routes. Defensively we’re gaining some momentum.”
On the season, the Cowboys rank as the fifth best defense in the Big 12, ranked 42nd in college football. Oklahoma State is allowing 23.1 points per game compared to 26.8 through seven games last season.
But still, the Cowboys face the challenge of stopping the Heisman Trophy frontrunner in Klein, a guy even Gundy admitted he would vote for.
Oklahoma State defensive end Cooper Bassett echoed Young’s belief that it isn’t about slowing Klein, but containing him — keeping him from scoring four or more total touchdowns.
“He’s a guy that isn’t going to try to slide, he wants to run over you and through you,” he said. “He doesn’t wow you with his arm, but he gets the job done. You know that he’s going to be resilient and all of his teammates are going to have his back. We’ve got to really bow up and be strong. Hopefully we can keep him contained as much as possible.”
Gundy said the challenge in beating K-State is getting an offense that doesn’t make mistakes, to become uncharacteristic of itself and make a few.
The Cowboys have struggled with injuries on the defensive side of the ball this year, getting healthy for the first time last week.
Now the challenge will fall on the front seven as they look to stop the best scoring offense in the conference.
“We’re getting good play inside and we just have a few other players that need to pick up their game,” Gundy said. “We’re getting effort and we’re tackling better. They’re starting to get adjusted and our coaches are doing a nice job.
“This will be a good challenge to face a team averaging 45 points a game. We’ll find out if we’ve gotten anywhere near where we need to be.”