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Kansas State defense knows stopping OU’s Jones is a challenge

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Sep. 20, 2012, at 3:21 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, at 7:31 a.m.

No. 15 Kansas State at No. 6 Oklahoma

When: 6:50 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.

Records: KSU 3-0, 0-0 Big 12; OU 2-0, 0-0

Radio: KLIO, 1070-AM; KWLS, 107.9-FM

TV: KSAS, Ch. 4

Three things about Oklahoma

1. Bob Stoops, who used to work as an assistant coach for Bill Snyder at K-State, has had plenty of success against his old boss. Stoops is 7-1 against Snyder with the only loss coming in the 2003 Big 12 championship game.

2. OU running back Damien Williams has played in two games for the Sooners since transferring from junior college, but he is already one of the team’s best playmakers. He has rushed for 259 yards in two games and is averaging 12.95 yards per carry.

3. When the Sooners approach the goal line, they like to use backup quarterback Blake Bell, from Wichita, as a runner in the “Belldozer” formation. Stoops decided to use Bell as a short-yardage specialist after watching Collin Klein run well last season. Bell scored his first touchdown on a short run against K-State last year.

Key matchup

K-State’s secondary vs. Landry Jones. Jones is going to complete plenty of passes, but the Wildcats defensive backs need to make him work for them. K-State’s pass rush must move him out of the pocket and force him to make lower-percentage throws on the run.

Kellis Robinett’s pick: Oklahoma, 41-24

It will be closer than last year, but unless the Wildcats defend the pass more effectively than they have in their first three games, winning at Oklahoma seems unlikely.

The series: Oklahoma leads 71-17-4

The line: Oklahoma by 14

What’s at stake

K-State can move into the top 10 and establish themselves as legitimate contenders for a Big 12 championship with a win. Oklahoma can make its first statement of the season with a victory.

Cheers if ...

The Wildcats are leading at the end of the first quarter. If K-State is playing from ahead, its offense will have a lot more freedom.

Jeers if ...

Jones goes another four quarters without being sacked. As former safety Tysyn Hartman said of Jones after last year’s loss to Oklahoma: “When he doesn’t get pressure in his face, he’s a surgeon back there. He can really pick apart coverages.”

— Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones didn’t just play well against Kansas State last season, he had the game of his life.

Jones threw for 505 yards and five touchdowns in the Sooners’ 58-17 victory at Snyder Family Stadium, shattering school records along the way. By comparison, he has thrown for 474 yards and three touchdowns after two games against UTEP and Florida A&M this season.

“A lot of people talk about last year’s game and how we didn’t do so well,” K-State safety Jarard Milo said. “It’s a big game for us … Last year was a blowout game. This year, there is a fire in all of us. We want to go down there and get the win.”

Milo was talking about the entire K-State football team heading to Norman on Saturday for a matchup of top 15 teams, but he might as well have been talking only about its defense, which was no match for Oklahoma a year ago. Behind Jones, the Sooners churned out 690 yards and handed K-State its first loss.

Jones completed 35 of 47 passes and amassed huge numbers despite throwing two interceptions. Former receiver Ryan Broyles caught 14 passes for 171 yards. And Oklahoma’s offensive line owned the line of scrimmage, preventing K-State from sacking Jones and giving him time to calmly survey the field each time he dropped back.

Nigel Malone, Ty Zimmerman and Allen Chapman — who were not available for interviews this week — were all starters in the secondary for that game. They are hoping for redemption along with Randall Evans and Milo.

“We want to come out and stop the deep ball,” Milo said.

Jones hasn’t looked as good as he did last year when he could throw to Broyles. So the opportunity is there. But it won’t be easy.

“Landry Jones is a great quarterback, probably one of the best in the Big 12,” Milo said. “There really isn’t too much you can do about it, we are just coming out with the best gameplan we can come out with and trying to execute it.”

K-State’s defense has been solid — 14 points per game, 19th nationally against the run at 93 yards per game. The pass rush has been strong behind defensive end Adam Davis, who has three sacks, and they have made 22 tackles for loss while creating six turnovers.

But K-State is allowing 251 passing yards per game and surrendering big plays across the middle.

Something will need to change against Oklahoma.

“For us, it’s really going to be about disguising our defenses so Landry Jones doesn’t know what defense we are in,” backup cornerback Dante Barnett said. “We want to try and trick him.”

K-State coach Bill Snyder hopes experience will help.

“The secondary, with the exception of David Garrett (and Tysyn Hartman) is virtually the same,” Snyder said. “That’s the good news. The bad news is they got torched a year ago. Hopefully the experience has worked in their favor. So many things have to happen.

“Landry Jones is a very, very talented young quarterback with great experience. You have to get pressure on him. We’ve been better the first couple ballgames than we were perhaps a year ago. But this is a level up in regards to how they protect him and how quickly he can get the ball off and move around in the pocket and avoid the rush … It’s all got to work together.”

That’s always a difficult task at Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium, where the Sooners are 78-3 under Bob Stoops and 14-0 against ranked opponents. The last team to defeat them in Norman was Texas Tech, when it upset the Sooners 41-38 to end a 39-game home winning streak last season.

Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville can explain the victory with one word: defense. Though Jones threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns, he only completed 30 of 55 passes, with many of his missed throws leading to punts.

“Defense is a priority when you are playing on somebody’s home turf,” Tuberville said. “We didn’t play too many good defensive games last year, and we still gave up 38 points, but that was our best defensive game of the year. We were able to win on third-down conversations more than we had all year long and were able to get our offense back on the field.”

It’s a recipe K-State will try to follow. The defense has its challenge.

“Our secondary is capable of stepping up and stopping Jones and getting a couple interceptions,” Barnett said. “We have a lot of experienced players who have been around the conference for a while. They know what they are doing. We should be able to execute.”

Check Kellis Robinett’s K-State blog at blogs.kansas.com/kstated. Reach him at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com.

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