Chris Klieman said watching Bowling Green’s offense is akin to looking into a mirror. The things the Falcons do — run the ball early and often, use the tight ends and wide receivers as blockers downfield and lining up and running plays out of multiple formations — are exactly what Kansas State’s offense is trying to hang its hat on in Year 1 of the Klieman era.
After Bowling Green routed Morgan State 46-3 last week, it’s now K-State’s job to try to slow down the Mid-American Conference school Saturday.
“There are so many multitudes of formations and (and they) run some similar plays, but they’re doing it out of a lot of different formations, whether it is a shift or a motion or trying to change your eyes.” Klieman said of the Falcons, who have a first-year coach of their own in Scot Loeffler. “Our eyes on defense have to be right this week. We can’t look at some of the eye candy that is motion and cross in front of us. We have to focus on our keys.”
Klieman admitted preparing for Bowling Green isn’t as easy as it will be for some of K-State’s other opponents this season. That’s because the Wildcats only have one game of film to look at from the Falcons. To try to combat this lack of information, Klieman and his staff have looked at film from three other schools: Boston College, where Loeffler spent the past three seasons; Western Michigan, where Bowling Green offensive coordinator Terry Malone worked last year as running backs coach; and Louisville, Bowling Green defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s most recent coaching stop, where he also guided the Cardinals’ defense for one season.
That the Falcons won their opener so convincingly only adds to the unknown.
“In a blowout win like they had, it’s kind of difficult to say, ‘Well, this is what they do,” Klieman said. “There is some carryover from what we’ve seen from the coordinators at their other schools. It’ll be a work in progress.”
But the similarities Klieman noted between the two offenses should help K-State’s defense, Scottie Hazelton said. In his first year as the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator, Hazelton’s unit has seen what the Falcons may bring to Bill Snyder Family Stadium for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff.
Among other things, that includes toughness. And physicality.
“I think their O-line is good,” said Hazelton, whose group allowed only 14 points and 276 total yards in last week’s 49-14 victory over Nicholls. “You watch some Boston College tape too, those guys pound it all the time.”
Again, that’s where the repping against the Wildcats’ offense at practice comes in handy.
“We’ve seen a little bit more big people in the game before where they condense sets or want to get into two tight end sets and those kinds of things,” Hazelton said. “We’ve seen that, which is helpful for us. It’s not like we’re learning it from Day 1, where some teams, if all they see is 10-personnel and spread all day, it’s hard to make that transition.”
Defensively, VanGorder likes to try to rattle opposing quarterbacks. After not permitting a sack last week, K-State offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham hopes that continues.
“That is one of the things we have to do a good job this week of: We have to keep pressure off the quarterback,” he said. “If we can do a nice job there protecting, I think we’ll have opportunities. But they’re going to try to bring more than just four to the quarterback.”
Messingham’s chief objective Saturday — other than ensuring the Wildcats start 2-0 for the seventh time since 2010 — is making sure the offense knows everything it did last week means nothing, from the 300-plus rushing yards to the 573 total yards, a K-State record for an opener.
“We’ve got to get better each day,” he said. “To this point, I think that we’ve worked hard this week, and hopefully we’ll be ready to play at 11 a.m. It’s more just continuous improvement, a want to get better, better at the steps I take, better at my aiming points, better at shooting my hands, better at creating space as a wide receiver or a tight end or a running back. I think our guys are starting to understand that every day you go out there you have to work hard and try to improve, because once that day’s gone, it doesn’t come back.”
It’s a mentality starting quarterback Skylar Thompson already has taken to heart.
“We played well and we won,” he said. “That’s great, but that’s in the past now and as Coach Messingham said, ‘Our first game is Chapter 1 and we played Nicholls. How do we want to write this chapter? This (week) is Chapter 2, and there are different sections in the book of our season this year. We just have to be prepared and can’t be satisfied.”